|Photographic Evidence from Laura|
For as long as I can remember, I've had to deal with people finding my hair colour intimidating. Yeah, that's right, intimidating, because bullies are cowards. That's me on the left with my lovely, natural red hair. For some reason, having hair as awesome as mine upsets people. School was the worst, but I can walk down the street and deal with heckling and I've had to deal with ignorant, mouthy people in the workplace too. It's frustrating, annoying and, when you're younger, trapped in school and going through puberty, seriously upsetting. I used to have other kids kick me, shove all my stuff off the table and yell insults at me in the corridors and classrooms because I have red hair. Now I'm in my twenties, I can deal with people being idiotic. When I was a school girl, I wasn't so prepared.
Unfortunately, stereotypes about ginger hair are portrayed all over the place. Apparently it's totally acceptable to make people feel miserable because of their hair colour! And being told things like "you have red hair so you must have a fiery temper" is tiresome.
Here are some other really annoying stereotypes:
- Red hair = green eyes. They are not mutually exclusive Yes, some redheads have green eyes, but not every single one of us. Mine are a greyish blue.
- Redheaded people smell. ...I don't need to say more, do I?
- Redheaded people are evil.
- Redheaded people are ugly.
- Redheaded people are physically weak. I was once told "all you redheads bleed more" after I'd had an operation. Really? This, from a medical professional.
- Redheads are snobs. ...Well, it must be so dull to mix in with the crowds the way you non-gingers do...
I really could go on, but if you have any of those in your writing and relate it directly to red hair, change it right now. It's the same as having a blond who's "dumb". It's not good.
I decided to address stereotypes and fill the redhead void by creating awesome ginger people in my work. The lead character in my novel is a redhead. The concern I have is people will think my character is me because we both share an unusual hair colour.
Does the main character having any similarities to the author mean the author is creating an avatar? We all put parts of ourselves into our characters, but if there's something really obvious, is that bad? I created ginger characters because there aren't enough awesome ginger people in the literary universe.
What are your thoughts? Do you question authors who give characters appearances or interests similar to their own? Do you have to deal with discrimination because of a physical feature that isn't classified as racism? How do you deal with it?
And if you're a fellow redhead, don't worry. You're not alone. Bullies are insecure. Ginger hair is AWESOME and beautiful. Non-gingers are jealous of us ;)
EDIT: Actually, there is one stereotype I prove... Redheads do burn easily in the sun. Oh, I am so sunburnt. I need to go and put some cold flannels on my skin. How I get sunburnt in the UK but not in the US, I will never know...