OI, GINGER!

Photographic Evidence from Laura
This is a post about ginger hair.  If you have redheaded characters, I hope you've avoided the stereotypes I'm about to list, otherwise my fellow gingers and I will roll our eyes and put your book aside.

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...

Comments

  1. I don't think I've ever written a red-headed character into any story before. I guess you write what you know, and I know very very few natural gingers.

    On the note of characters resembling the author...I rarely pay attention to what the author looks like so I never notice. Unless the author's picture is on the back of the book I don't know what the author looks like, so I don't have to worry about whether the author could be writing themselves into the story. I'm just not that invested in the author. But, I could be weird in that way. :)

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  2. Wow. Other than the "red heads have anger issues" one, I don't think I've ever heard of any of these. A difference between England and America, maybe? Red headed women especially have a positive reputation for being beautiful and fiery.

    I'm not red headed myself, but my husband and one of our daughters are. (And she is the most beautiful little thing, we call her our fairy child.) He says he never suffered any stereotyping at any point in his life. He does have an awful temper though and our daughter is definitely on the fiery side. Red hair or Irish blood? ;)

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  3. 2 of the most awesome women in the world are redheads. Felicia Day and Isla Fisher.

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  4. Wow, Miss Cole, your hair IS awesome! As someone who has poo-brown coloured hair, I am insane with jealousy! I have to admit I have used the red hair - green eyes for a character before, but only because I find it such a beautiful combination. I've heard the red hair-fiery thing before, but never used it because, well, everyone should be fiery regardless of hair colour!

    I hadn't heard the other stereotypes. Wow. Redheads are evil? I never knew! It's a shame you have to put up with so much ignorant sh*t from people. Maybe they all have poo-brown hair like me and and are just jealous.

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  5. Jessica: Not paying attention to the author is a really good thing! It should all be about the story.

    Sarah: I think it's *definitely* a UK thing. Having red hair here means its still socially acceptable to be the butt of a lot of jokes. When I lived in the US, I never had a single problem. Then again, most people were more distracted by my accent ;)

    Jaffa: I do believe there's someone missing from your list, brother.

    Jen: Thank you! Hah, I've definitely dealt with jealousy, like a girl teasing me relentlessly and then dyeing her hair red. I pointed it out and she never said anything to me again ;)

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  6. Can we say Florence Welch? I adore her and I adore red hair. I wish I had it myself, sometimes. The protag of my YA urban fantasy is a red head, and while she does have a temper, it's not related to her ginger-ness.
    Your blog is not cluttered, but is fun and spunky. Thanks for the comment and I can't wait to read more of your "hectic brain space." :)

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  7. Kris: OH MY GOD I LOVE HER! Need her new album right about now too omg. What's your favourite song by her? And ooh, a red-head in an urban fantasy? Sounds right up my alley! Thanks for stopping by :D

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  8. Currently my favorite song is ... probably Howl. I only have Lungs which was released in 2009, I believe? I listen to it on repeat. Which is yours? Did you see her on The Colbert Report? She's got such a cute personality.

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  9. Ooh, Howl is good. My favourite is Rabbit Heart. I definitely have it on repeat! Lungs did come out in '09, which is why I really want the next album! ^_^

    I did see her on the Colbert Report, and on So You Think You Can Dance. She's lovely.

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  10. Loved this! My cousin is a red head and a fellow fantasy fan/reader, so she keeps me clear of any stereotypes. :)

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  11. Nicole: Hooray for your cousin!

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  12. Rabbit Heart is my second favorite, probably. Now I must have that album too!

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  13. Great post! I have a couple redhaired characters in the WIPs...and they're both really mild-mannered, actually! The brunette is the tempermental one (umm, like me, I guess...) I love red hair--and while I love my hair, in an alternate-hair-universe I'd have deep red waves :) I have really dark curly hair--and am asked all the time if I'm Jewish. This isn't offensive to me but it amazes me what people will assume about a person based on their appearance alone!

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  14. Rowenna: It's crazy how people make assumptions based on appearance. Shame we don't take the time to get to know someone before making judgements.

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