Stop Bullying Redheads

There is some language in this article from an Australian ad campaign that may be offensive to American readers.

I am sick of the social norm that says its okay to bully redheads.

This “joke” is common in England.  Look at this list of common examples of the problem.  A family moves three times to avoid vandalism and abuse.  A man is stabbed because he is “ginger”.  A woman is repeatedly sexually harassed.  A sportsman is mocked by thousands at every game.

A South Park episode last year helped popularize the “joke” in America.  South Park is legitimately a satirical show.  Their use of the word “ginger” was more than likely to bring awareness to the fact that racist people are still spewing the anagram of ginger to black people across the country.  Take note of the recent verbal attacks from protesters of the health care bill.  The problem with South Park’s satire is that many of its viewers don’t understand satire, and in fact, hold Cartman up as a hero, mimicking his voice and actions.  The result is a set of ignorant young (and not so young) people spreading hate.  Hopefully not what the creators planned.  As most people who have been bullied know, names have power.  Just ask the mainstream media as they label the recently arrested terrorists in Michigan as “militia”.

Australians tend to get much of their humour from England and this case is no different.  It is my home state government that has finally made me write this article and I am embarrassed.  The VicRoads television campaign is famous for its shocking ads designed to reduce traffic accidents.  Over the last twenty years the campaign has shown graphic violence to reinforce how dangerous careless driving can be.  It has worked astoundingly well.  However, their newest campaign has missed the point on many levels.  Their “Don’t be a Dickhead” campaign is astonishingly bad.  It has been crafted to appeal to the young drivers.  As my ex-boss proved every day, when old people try to be cool, they always miss by a mile.

The first problem is the ads aren’t funny.  That’s excusable.  The second is that they are using bullying as a way to try to be cool.  That is not.  Redheads and “emos” are targeted in a number of the ads.  “Every time you use your mobile phone while driving, a redhead gets its wings.”  “Every time you use your mobile phone in the car, an emo is born.”  How is it that this kind of hateful garbage got the green light?  No doubt some social media expert wowed the government with their ability to “connect” with the  youth of today and make the message go “viral”.  Here is the state government’s definition of bullying.  You tell me if there’s a problem here.

“Bullying is when one or more people, deliberately upset or hurt another person, their property, reputation or social acceptance, and this action is repeated over time.”

How are the state’s teachers expected to curb bullying in schools when their own government legitimizes it on TV and the internet?  They’ve not only legitimized it, but have perpetrated it and asked it to be spread across the world.

The man behind the campaign is Dan Illic.  I tell you that because I’d love for you to let him know what you think.  His response when asked if the ads were offensive to redheads or emos was, ‘‘Not at all, I think they’re really funny.’’  He is typical of the ignorant response to bullying so common in our society.  It is seen as part of growing up.  It is seen as harmless.

If someone kills themselves over name-calling, then it cannot, by definition, be called harmless.  It’s time to look yourself in the mirror and ask if you’re okay with contributing to someone’s death.

A number of kids in Massachusetts are certainly facing that fact this week.  They bullied an Irish girl to death this year and have now been charged with felonies.  I couldn’t be more proud of Massachusetts.

Making fun of redheads is bullying.  Period.  Next time you hear someone making a joke, let them know.  The bystanders are the ones perpetuating the problem and I’ve been one for too long.  I’ve made my decision – time for you to make yours.

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” – Desmond Tutu.

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14 Responses to Stop Bullying Redheads

  1. Dave Ursillo March 30, 2010 at 10:51 pm #

    Bullying is becoming more and more of a serious problem, I’m realizing now and as a young adult, because what was once confined to teasing and harassment in the school yard has evolved to a level of perpetual anguish. The integration of communication tools and social networking in our lives has made harassment potentially endless and to a level of criminal stalking. The severity of modern bullying has been highlighted with the tragic case in Boston this year of a young woman who took her own life.

    More than ever, we need to emphasize and encourage kids to be heroes and stop this sort of bullying.

  2. Evie March 31, 2010 at 8:43 am #

    Absolutely brilliant article. I couldn’t agree more. It’s disgusting how redheads have become the people to hate, now that anti-discrimination laws (rightly) make racism publicly unacceptable. Apparently Illic claimed a redheaded friend of his thought the ad was ‘hilarious’… surely this is the 21st century version of “I’m not a racist, some of my best friends are black.”

  3. Matt March 31, 2010 at 11:13 am #

    Thanks for the comments guys. I felt really good after finishing this article.

    Evie, I did see the comment from Illic about his friend. I noticed that it was a very generic response with no specific identity attributed to the “friend”.

  4. Christopher Brown March 31, 2010 at 11:42 am #

    Matt, thanks for bringing this to my attention. I had no clue. My prior exposure to “ginger jokes” had been as you cited, South Park, and I treated it as another potty humor episode and moved on. I’m blown away that this is a real problem in other English speaking countries.

    • Matt March 31, 2010 at 12:07 pm #

      Thanks Chris. Yeah, the problem is its becoming common (and innocent???) in the States as well.

  5. Caroline April 1, 2010 at 10:47 pm #

    Thank you so much!!!!!!!

    I could just cry with relief having read your article! Thank you!

    I am a redhead, who has only just found a voice to say it’s not OK! I now lots of redheads who are too scared to say anything, or think they have to put up with it. It’s like battered wife syndrome, they’ve listened to it for so long they think they deserve it!

    My 2 yr old nephew is a redhead, and he’s just adorable, full of love and he thinks he is terrific!

    He has no idea that in his state the Government have just sanctioned bullying for him.

    I thank you for me, and I thank you for him! You’re my hero!

    • Matt April 2, 2010 at 5:13 pm #

      Carline, thanks for the comment. I’m really humbled to get such a response.

    • Dianne Williamson June 24, 2010 at 6:18 am #

      Hi please see /join my facebook group
      Raise awareness of discrimination, bullying or hatred against red heads

      for positive action 🙂

  6. Ed April 1, 2010 at 11:16 pm #

    Well said

  7. Aaron May 7, 2010 at 8:28 am #

    Thanks for this article Matt. I’ve just received a reply to my complaint to the Advertising Standards Bureau over this appalling ad. It appears that there were many complaints made and the complaints have been formally dimissed. What a disgrace that this highly bigoted and offensive ad can be sanctioned by government and a so called “watchdog” can further endorse it. I have noticed in recent times that there seems to be a growing number of derogatory references to redheads in the media which will no doubt be compounding the bullying redheads already suffer. I am glad you highlight the seriousness of this issue in your article because too often bullying is dismissed to easily as “harmless” teasing.

    • Matt May 7, 2010 at 8:35 am #

      Thanks Aaron. I saw in The Age yesterday that the complaints had been dismissed because the ads couldn’t be taken seriously. I took them seriously…

  8. Gigi B. May 16, 2010 at 6:12 pm #

    Thank you, as a redhead myself, i am subjected to “oh, it’s just because you’re a ginger,” almost everyday of my life. This means a lot to me that other people realize it is very hurtful to be called “ginger”, “carrot-top”, “fire-hair” and others.

  9. Dianne Williamson June 24, 2010 at 6:17 am #

    Thanks for your great article.
    Please join my facebook group “Raise Awareness of Discrimination, Bullying or Hatred Against Redheads”
    I’ve posted your article there 🙂
    As of today Australia has a new Prime Minister – also a red head. Will be interesting to see what sort of references appear in the media now.
    Watch this space 🙂

    • Matt Langdon June 24, 2010 at 10:12 am #

      I saw that – great news. I liked her quote about wondering whether being the nation’s first female or first redhead was less likely in today’s world.