I’ve had ginger hair for nearly 34 years and it took me a while to be comfortable with my hair colour. I had to grow into it, get to know it and appreciate it for what is was – a pretty big part of being me.
Throughout those 34 years I have heard my hair, and other similar hair colours, being referred to as so many different things – anything from auburn to titian to strawberry blonde. Yet, I have never heard a ginger person refer to themselves as auburn. I have heard ginger people jokingly say they’re strawberry blonde but most of the time ginger people will refer to themselves as ginger, someone with red hair, a redhead. When a form says ‘hair colour’ they wouldn’t write auburn or titian. They’d write ginger.
But, there have been so many times when people who aren’t ginger have referred to my hair or LP’s hair as auburn or titian – meaning brown with a hint of red or the very darkest reddy brown. Neither auburn or titian are right to describe actual ginger hair. Ginger hair is purely that – ginger.
So why don’t people just say ginger?
I shout ginger from the rooftops and maybe it comes down to that song about how only a ginger can call a ginger ginger. But, really I know it stems from the word ‘ginger’ historically being used as a derogatory term. I’ve heard my fair share of ‘oi ginge!’ shouts when walking down the street and having fellow pupils at secondary school almost spit the word ginger at me as if it was something to be ashamed of.
But ginger isn’t something bad. It’s not negative. It’s a fact. I have ginger hair, my daughter has ginger hair and a whopping 2% of the world’s population also have ginger hair. Ginger is as much a fact as blonde or brunette yet those words are said so often and heard all the time. Blonde or brunette are things to be proud of and they are a real characteristic – yet ginger is somehow seen as something to underplay, to be quiet about and to hide behind other names that make it sound less, well, ginger.
I am fed up of ginger being seen as something bad. I’m proud of my ginger hair and I am so glad I passed the gene down to LP – who adores being ginger and thinks she’s going to be Ariel when she grows up. We are living in an age where being ginger is not only accepted but is celebrated and embraced – so why is the word ginger so hard for people with hair of a different colour to use?
Ginger isn’t a swear word. Ginger people are long past getting offended by being described as ginger and until people start saying the word with conviction we will still get called auburn, titian and other colours that we just aren’t. We are ginger and if you want to tell us about your friend with beautiful red hair or your mum with the ginger hair that you didn’t inherit – then, please, call it ginger. Don’t gloss over it with an auburn or push it into the background with a titian or a strawberry blonde. Call a spade a spade – ginger is ginger, whether you are the one with the ginger hair or not.
So please, make the word ginger part of your vocabulary. Use it in the knowledge that, said in good will, it won’t offend the majority of people. It’s not something to be shied away from, glazed over or hidden. It’s a hair colour, a fact and part of life.
Blonde, brown or ginger – they can all be said with pride.