Redheads in popular culture are often either glamourised or ridiculed for nothing other than the colour of their hair.
Females are sexualised, males are mocked, and it’s rare that these roles are reversed, it’s just the way that it works.
If you were to Google ‘redhead women in film‘, the top page which will pop up is titled ‘Sexy Fictional Redheads’ – not so for the male search.
There are also other stereotypes attached to the ginger, as is explored in one piece, there is actually a trend of portraying Gingers as aggressive people who pick on other people.
But in reality, the opposite is the case. Cast your minds back to the school playground and you won’t have to think hard to remember a ginger kid being ripped into for his freckles or his pale skin.
Even royalty aren’t exempt from the nastiness which bullies impart on their victims. Merely ten years ago, it was revealed that Prince Harry requested counselling because he was bullied for being ginger.
According to the Daily Mail, Prince Harry met Maxine Broadfoot at the Concert For Diana back in 2007. Maxine had just won the Diana award for counselling.
According to Maxine:
He asked if he could come and get some counselling because he gets bullied for being ginger. I don’t know what to say and I just laughed.
In fact, a study from the University College Cork claims that people with ginger hair are overwhelming the easy targets for bullies.
The study found that more than 90 per cent of men with red hair had been victimised because of their hair colour.
The study found that ‘bullying of gingers is one of the last socially accepted forms of prejudice against people for a trait they were born with’.
There are even festivals dedicated to promoting safe spaces for redheads to celebrate their pigmentation.
Founder and event organiser of the Irish Redhead Convention, Joleen Cronin, told the BBC that young people who attended the event in previous years revealed they were incredibly self-conscious about having ginger hair.
There are so many stories of young kids with insecurities coming away feeling positive from the vibe of the festival.
You can see a change in attitudes at the festival, within people who had negative feelings about themselves and others beginning to embrace a change in perceptions.
There’s a strong camaraderie between redheads, you’ll hear people asking each other ‘what were you called as a child’ and having the craic over the whole thing.
But this reveals a deeper, more systemic attitude of bullying towards redheads, and the links between bullying and mental health are well documented.
As documented by the Anti-Bullying Alliance, there is a strong link between mental health and bullying.
There is the question of causality among children who are bullied, namely, children who are socially anxious are more likely to be withdrawn and involved in bullying.
But research does show that bullying exacerbates this situation, and results in a vicious circle, where children who are already vulnerable suffer further.
Reviewing the present literature, the anti-bullying alliance found that effects of bullying on depression can be ‘long lasting’, and can be one of the main distinguishing factors of depression throughout adulthood.
The same can be said of anxiety:
Frequent victimisation led to participants being more likely to develop several anxiety related disorders, including generalised anxiety disorder, social and specific phobias, and panic disorder.
Overall, the experience of being victimised led to children being two to three times more likely to develop an anxiety disorder compared to those that had not been victimised.
The longterm impacts of bullying are clear. Compared with children who weren’t involved in bullying, victims were twice as likely to experience an anxiety disorder, and three times more likely to have a panic disorder.
Suicidal thoughts among males are also inflated among those who are victims of bullying, according to this report. Of course, this doesn’t just apply to gingers, but to bully victims in general.
Such is the impact of bullying on mental health, that a study from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children has found that the experience of being bullied can cause more devastation to mental health than any other form of child maltreatment.
So when you’re thinking about picking on that ‘ginger nut’ who sits next to you, just think again, because the impact of your words last much longer than you could ever realise.