Teenagers Struggling to Grow Up with ‘Different’ Hair
“Ginger Nut”, “Carrot Top”, “Ginger Minger” and “Fred the Red”, are all names derogatorily given to people who have ginger hair. Whilst a ginger, who is now in their 40s, may have accepted their hair color
as God’s way of making them “stand out from the crowd”, try telling a teenager that it is “good to be different” and that their hair is representative of their uniqueness.
Teenagers live and thrive on being considered as being ‘trendy’ and ‘cool’ and any physical attribute which is considered ‘different’ can often mean growing up is a struggle, not only because of the bullying
that the more ‘unusual’ teenager is often forced to endure, but also because teenagers, generally speaking, like to look the same as their friends.
Hair is an integral feature of this ‘general teenage rule’,
and adolescents who have ‘different’ or ‘unusual’ hair are an easy target for the bullies and can be subjected to years of torment, causing them to desperately grapple for a means to mask the source of their misery.
Mild Taunts to Grim Persecution
Most people can remember a ginger kid in their year at school. Was the kid the ‘year ruler’, the one the guys were queuing up to date and who the girls all wanted as their best friend? Unlikely! “Gingers’
or redheads are more likely to be the butt of the classroom joke, who are persistently taunted for possessing a ‘brighter’ head of hair.
Schools vary tremendously, and whilst many redheaded pupils are subjected
to mild taunts of affection, which they have accepted and perhaps have even grown to like, others can be forced to tolerate years of dour hounding and discrimination solely because of the color of their hair.
Michele Eliot, the American director of the children’s charity, Kidscape, often deals with teenagers, who have red hair and are therefore the victims of bullying and abuse at school, and admitted that it was
mostly teenage boys who were the biggest sufferers of such prejudice.
Although teenage girls are far from void of falling prey to similar victimization, in later life women with red and ginger hair are often
considered as sensual and sexy, whilst men possessing a similar shade of hair color rarely reach similar realms of ‘sexiness’ and sensuality. A boy who has been a victim of taunts regarding the color of his
hair whilst he was a teenager is likely to endure similar taunts all throughout his life. British photographer Charlotte Rushton, who has red hair, believes the phenomenon of abusing redheads is largely a
British one. According to Rushton:
“In other countries redheads will get teased at school but it stops when they become adults. If you are a woman you are fiery, alluring and sexy.”
Many intelligent and equally as sensitive teenagers, who would never regard themselves as a ‘bully’, join in the name-calling and mild taunting of the kid with ginger hair. Whilst subjecting a teenager of an
ethnic minority or a youngster who is over weight to similar taunts, would be unthinkable for many teenagers. This is because victimizing adolescents, and often adults for the color of their hair, has become
somehow socially acceptable.
Journalist Sharon Jaffa is also a redhead, and believes that society must put an end to this ‘ginger baiting’ which usually starts in the classroom, with vulnerable and sensitive
teenagers. Jaffa commented:
“Growing up as a redhead I was lucky enough to escape with the occasional name calling. But attacking someone on the basis of their hair color can be every bit as damaging as persecuting someone for their
race or religion, and therefore, in some cases, needs to be taken as seriously.”
“Curly Tops” and Teenagers
Of course having ginger hair is not the only ‘unusual’ hair that makes its teenage owner fall victim to classroom jokes and seemingly endless years of torment. Teenagers possessing curly or unruly hair are
also considered to be ‘different’ and therefore in the eyes of ones so young are reasonably open to abuse. “Curly Top”, “Curly Wurly”, “Fozzy”. “Afro”, or even “Scary Spice” are some of the popular names
hurled at teenagers genetically predisposed to have hair that grows curly instead of straight.
Teenagers can be the most bizarrely erratic and stubbornly illogical of creatures and I have first-hand knowledge
of such illogicalness within regards to teenagers and curly hair. My best friend had lusciously long locks of beautiful curls, which bounced each time she moved and I was infinitely envious of her unusually
stunning curly head of hair – until we reached high school. As soon as we turned teenagers and moved from Primary to the “big” school, my best friend’s hair suddenly became the school joke, which earned her
the nickname “Afro”. Ironically this was in the 1980s when girls were taking on paper rounds, desperate to be able to afford to have a perm in the local salon.