An Irish university student has carried out a survey showing the potential psychological damage that can be caused by the bullying of ginger haired people.
Kevin O’Regan, a redhead himself, is studying psychology at Cork University. He decided to carry out the survey of 1,742 people from 20 different countries after he attended the Red Head Convention last year and heard stories from fellow gingers about the trauma they had suffered at school.
He told BBC Northern Ireland: “I didn’t personally face any negative experiences as a child because of my hair colour, but it was soon clear others have. Others who faced difficulties have grown up with confidence issues and hang-ups as a result of being a victim.”
‘The last socially acceptable form of prejudice’
O’Regan says his study has proven that the “bullying of gingers is one of the last socially accepted forms of prejudice against people for a trait they were born with.”
His study revealed that 60% of males and 47% of females claimed they had been discriminated against in some way in the past because of their hair colour.
For most it was taken as a bit of fun, but there were some cases of severe cruelty and violence. One red head that took part in the survey revealed that he had been attacked by an intoxicated man in a nightclub because of the colour of his hair: “I had a beer bottle thrown at my head for being a redhead. The guy was drunk, but he said the bathroom wasn’t for gingers, a bottle broke on the wall next to my head a moment later.”
Another comment said: “I had a teacher look right at me the first day of class and say ‘I don’t like redheads, so don’t expect things to be easy in this class for you’ in front of the whole class.”
X Factor star suffered online abuse
Irish singer Janet Devlin was subjected to online abuse when she died her hair form blond to red for a performance on the 2011 series of the X Factor. The Tyrone-born star explained: “It was a culture shock, I had never experienced such abuse for my appearance. I’m here to sing, I never claimed to be a model or for people to judge my looks.”
However, she went on to say that she was also pleased that her star status was able to ease the suffering of one red haired schoolgirl: “One little girl aged seven said I helped her believe in herself. She used to be bullied, but now in a positive way, people compared her to me.”
O’Regan says that he has been affected by red hair discrimination himself on one occasion when a girl he was dancing with in a nightclub immediately rejected him when the lights were turned on and she realised he was ginger.
Unfortunately his experience was not an uncommon one for ginger men, with many claiming their hair had had a “detrimental effect on their romantic lives”.
‘There’s a strong camaraderie between redheads’
The Redhead Convention is an event that provides fun and entertaining activities, whilst offering red heads a chance to swap stories and share experiences.
Organiser and co-founder Joleen Cronin explained: “There are so many stories of young kids with insecurities coming away feeling positive from the vibe of the festival,” she said.
“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.”