The topic of being bullied for having red hair has come up for us recently in a discussion on Facebook. There’s a lot of media attention on it with teenage suicides where the victim was bullied for being a redhead. This has lead many to ask whether it’s being taken seriously enough? Why is teasing people for having red hair ok, when a similar insult levied at someone who is a minority because of the colour of their skin or heritage would be illegal or taken seriously? With both Simon Walters and Kelsey Jade who committed suicide after being bullied for having red hair, their schools had been made aware that teasing was happening. You could argue that there is little that schools can do to help, but are they doing as much as they would if it were a racist taunt?

What’s in a wordbullied for having red hair

I don’t know how you feel about the word ‘Ginger’ but for many it has an inherent nastiness, even when used in descriptive language. I personally don’t mind it, but I can completely understand how others hate the word after being on the receiving end of it being spat at them as an insult. Such an experience would taint any word. I’d like to think that by using it ourselves we’re taking away the power that others have to use it against us. Do we have a choice over how damaging a word is? After all if someone shouts ‘Ginger’! at you, are they showing off their skills of observation? What an observant youth, their parents must be proud! Of course the intent to hurt is what makes the difference.

What is bullying anyway?

Is it possible that bullying is all down to interpretation? I have had experiences where I don’t like how someone has spoken to me, but had it classed as ‘banter’ by others. If YOU feel hurt by someone’s comments, and have made that clear, that is where the line may have to be drawn. Having a joke with each other is after all a fundamental part of human bonding. Once it’s at someone else’s expense however, the tables have turned. The same comment that is directed at two different people could have a very different effect, but even an a redhead with a thick skin needs a balance of support.

Is there a silver lining to bullying?

Making someone feel small is never ok, but facing teasing as a child can teach you to stand up for yourself as an adult, and build resilience in the face of life’s inevitable challenges. I know that as an adult I have been more sensitive to the subtle bullying that can happen in the workplace, and in personal relationships. The whole idea that redheads are quick to temper could really be that we are more sensitive to even the slightest hint of bullying. Do you feel more prepared to stand-up for yourself as an adult because you won’t allow anyone to make you feel small again?

What are your thoughts on being bullied for being a redhead?

I know opinions on this topic are many and varied, so I want to know what you feel about it. Whether you have experienced bullying or not, whether you’re a redhead or not. The following quiz has been created by students at the University College Cork Hair colour, experience and mental health. Share your opinion and help contribute to a formal study on the issue. Complete the Survey