London: It’s Not Easy Being Red


Illustration by Easton Self

Being a red head doesn’t get any easier across the pond.

Thomas Devlin, Staff Writer

When I was very young, old women would come up to me, tousle my hair and say, “Oh, I wish my hair looked like that.”

In middle school, an episode of “South Park” really impacted my fellow students, leading them to tell me that I didn’t have a soul.

That one YouTube kid did not help the situations with his video rant, “GINGERS DO HAVE SOULS!!”

I would have been a perfectly branded choice to play Ron Weasley.

Just a few years ago the Cryos International sperm bank stated it would no longer accept donations from redheads simply due to a lack of demand. And I can certainly attest that women aren’t clamoring over gingers in situations that aren’t artificial insemination, either.

In general, being ginger has always been a small burden, though it makes it easy to find me in a crowd. Of course, it’s not just the red hair that makes me stand out. It’s the pasty skin. And the freckles.

This may seem to have nothing to do with being in London for a semester, but there is a reason why I have been thinking about it more since I’ve gotten here.

In the past week alone, I have been yelled at by a performer on the street who exclaimed, “My! What an incredible amount of ginger”; Olivier-award winning actress Janie Dee came to a class and picked me out of a crowd to give my opinion on the play she was in; and I was called up on stage during a comedy performance. And of course I can’t forget about the random people on the street who call me “red” on a daily basis.

England seems to have a more pronounced preoccupation with gingers than other countries. Perhaps this is because it recently overtook Ireland to have the largest red-haired population in the world. In 2011, the British Equality Minister (soak in the irony) Harriet Harman called Treasury secretary Danny Alexander a “ginger rodent.”

It’s especially odd that this discrimination exists because a number of famous British people have been gingers, including Mary Queen of Scots, Prince Harry and David Bowie. One particularly notable figure was Winston Churchill, who was called “Copperknob” at school. This, of course, is a precursor to today’s far more eloquent “Firecrotch.”

I have a few theories as to why this distaste exists. Maybe it’s a remnant of the widespread discrimination against the Irish that occurred within the past century. Or the English could just be happy that they’ve found people that are paler than they are. There’s a chance everyone is really religious and knows that Judas was a redhead. And of course Judas became the first vampire, so vampires were thought to all have red hair. I do have sharp incisors.

But, at the very least, I’m sure I’ll do better in Dublin.

Email Thomas Devlin at [email protected].