Blondes may have more fun than brunettes, but can they compare to redheads? Red hair is one of the rarest physical occurrences in the world that has captivated people around the globe. The vivid, luscious tresses stand out in a sea of heads.
Redhead celebrity actors and actresses have captured our hearts because of this distinct feature. But have you ever wondered why redheads are called gingers?
Some may think it a cute way to describe the vibrant individuals, but the actual reasons are complex. These involve different historical facts and theories and even contemporary media and its influence. In this article, we discuss the reason why redheads are called gingers, sometimes affectionately and sometimes derogatively.
We also discuss the myths and facts that revolve around this interesting feature.
Why are Redheads Called Ginger?
Red hair is considered very rare as it is only found in about 2% of the world’s population. When we think about redheads, we usually imagine people of Scottish or Irish descent. But what is it with redheads being called gingers? There is no concrete reason why they are referred to as gingers, but here are the most common theories.
1. Connotation with Ginger Root
When you ask yourself why redheads are called gingers, the first thought is of the spice ginger. The common concept of comparison between the ginger root and the vibrant hair would be the spiciness.
Red ginger tastes fiery and pungent, delicious and spicey, just as redheads are perceived. And since redheads are often considered to be “hot-tempered,” the comparison stuck.
The culinary delights of ginger root are also included in the connotation. When used in various delicacies like gingerbread, ginger cake, and ginger snaps, the spice gives the food a reddish hue. That particular color is also often compared to the vibrant hair of redheads. For example, when ginger cookies come out of the oven, they are not fiery orange but have a subdued red shade.
If noticed historically, we see the British taking up residence in Malaysia in the late 1700s-1800s, where ginger was very common. Their vivid color and exotic taste captured the British imagination. So perhaps the spice enticed the British and made them compare it to a natural redhead’s undeniable attractiveness.
2. Gilligan’s Island Character, Ginger Grant
Another probable theory as to why redheads are called gingers can be because of media and television. Gilligan’s Island is an extremely popular American sitcom that made its debut in the 1960s. And in it, playing the irresistible gorgeous Ginger Grant is the redheaded actress Tina Louise. Her beautiful pale skin and luscious hair made her a fan favorite.
It can be said that due to Louise’s popularity, people started comparing other redheads around them to her. What started as an affectionate reference soon spread like wildfire and became a common name for redheads. We can say that this theory proves the media’s influence on how we perceive redheads.
3. South Park Reinforcement
Another popular theory behind using the term “ginger” to refer to redheads is based on the series South Park. Episode 11 in Season 9 of the series has become controversial because of its portrayal of redheads. And many believe that it is because of this episode the term is now being used derogatorily.
The word “ginger” associated with redheads may have a historical context, but the particular episode amplified its negativity. The episode faced serious criticism as it was responsible for a rise in bullying both online and offline. However, efforts have been made to rectify the situation and promote acceptance.
Popular Myths About Redheads
1. Redheads Have a Fiery Temper
One of the most infamous sayings about redheads is that they have a fiery personality. The notion has persisted for decades, if not centuries. But is it true that redheads are hot-tempered? The answer lies along the same lines as why redheads are called gingers. Not all redheads have the same fiery disposition that is often found in media.
It is quite silly to consider that hair color would have anything to do with a person’s personality. Like every other being on the planet, redheads, too, are people with a myriad of distinct dispositions.
2. Redheads Become Vampires After Death
The fact that this belief still perpetuates in the 21st century is quite ludicrous. But yes, once upon a time, the ancient Greeks believed that after death, redheads transform into vampires. There can be reason behind this belief, as we know that vampires are mythical beings. But one can say that this conviction came from the supposed shared nature of redheads and vampires.
Redheads tend to avoid stepping out directly into the sun as they tend to burn more. And according to lore, vampires, too, burn when they come into contact with sunlight. But other than this, there is no other reason for the Greek’s beliefs.
3. Redheads are Witches
Another wild theory that perpetuates discrimination against redheads is witchcraft. In ancient to medieval times, red hair signified an association with witchcraft. It is quite unfortunate that many women had to suffer tragically in the supposed witchhunts solely because they had red hair.
The practice continued from the 1400s to the 1700s, when it was considered that redheads stole the fires from hell. Red-haired women lived in fear of society and were often subjected to intrusive examinations. Their bodies were looked at quite publicly for any hint of the devil’s mark. The most horrifying times were during the Spanish Inquisition when it was believed that redheads were witches.
4. Redheads are Soulless
While the theory of redheads being soulless may not be as farfetched as vampires or witches, it is still perpetuated today. This concept is along the same mythical lines but has no actual support behind the claim. It is the same as questioning why redheads are called gingers because it is a bullying tactic.
South Park’s episode is also highly disliked by the redheaded community as it contributes to this assumption. While it is untrue, there are also more horrifying theories out there that claim redheads steal souls. The myth suggests that each freckle on their body symbolizes a stolen soul.
5. Redheads are Mutants
Red hair is quite uncommon, so a popular belief is that the pigment occurs only when a mutation happens. However, it is not quite on the level of the X-Men. There is a genetic anomaly to inheriting red hair, but you can be sure that they do not have any superpowers.
The misconception also arises from the number of redheaded female superheroes in the comics.
6. Redheads Might Go Extinct
A recent headline has been making the rounds that redheads are about to go extinct. This is not true, as the factor that makes the hair red is a genetic component. The claim had been a misinterpretation of a study done in 2007. In the study of the recessive gene, it was predicted that fewer redheads would be born in the future.
But that does not mean that the beautiful trait is to vanish from humanity anytime soon. Red hair is already rare, but redheaded people are sure to thrive in the future as they do now.
Real Facts About Redheads
1. Sensitivity to Pain
Many types of myths have been circulating for decades about redheads and their natures. But one of the truths is the fact that redheads are sensitive to pain. There has been a study conducted on red-haired women, and it was found that they require more anesthesia.
The journal Anesthesiology claims that redheaded women need 19% more anesthesia than dark-haired women to go under. Scientists believe that this low threshold of pain comes from the protein mutation. The same factor that makes them bruise easily and gives them that fair alabaster skin makes it hard.
2. Prone to Sunburn and Melanoma
Redheads have beautiful fair skin that is a stark contrast to their vibrant hair. But with such a complexion, the sun is never considered a friend to them. Among the myths surrounding why redheads are called gingers, it is known that they avoid sunlight.
That is because they burn easily and are more at risk of contracting melanoma.
3. Bees are More Attracted to Redheads
It is quite a popular myth that redheads often get stung by bees. This may seem arbitrary, but some redheads would swear that to be true. However, there is no correlation between bee stings and hair color.
Studies have been conducted, and it was seen that bees are naturally attracted to people with red hair. The reason behind that can be the resemblance of red hair to pretty vivid flowers. But it is still a fact that is unverified by science.
Why Never Call Redheaded People “Ginger”
Redheads have had to face discrimination since ancient times, and they are still bullied in this day and age. So, when you consider why redheads are called gingers, remember the negative connotations of the nickname. The name may seem harmless enough, but there are multiple reasons as to why it should be avoided.
- Perpetuating Stereotype: The most prominent reason why the term ginger should not be used for redheads as it stereotypes them. Like any other person, the color of their hair does not affect their personality. So, calling them ginger is like reducing them to their one distinctive physical trait.
- Objectifying: Referring to redheaded females as gingers can be especially objectifying due to the connotation of Ginger Grant. As you realize why redheads are called gingers, you understand the dehumanizing aspect it carries. Not every red-haired female will be like the comic versions of superheroes, and the ginger label fails to enforce that. It is necessary to understand and acknowledge the experiences, emotions, and aspirations of every person.
- Undermimes Self-Confidence: Redheads are often referred to as gingers derogatorily. And any term used sneering is sure to affect your self-confidence and how you see yourself. This bullying tactic may be subtle, but it is important to remember that words have power. And ridiculing redheads or making them face societal pressures for their features should never be condoned.
- Disregards Cultural Significance: If you look at history, you will find that red hair has a rich and varied heritage. The color has been significant across cultures and folklore. But referring to them as gingers negates all that rich cultural heritage for a cheap shot. It is important to honor this heritage and the iconic figures to make redheads feel proud of themselves.
- Perpetuating Discrimination And Bullying: Lastly, the most popular reason why redheads are called gingers is because of bullying. If you were to use the name, you would be contributing to excluding them solely because of their features.
Red hair is a beautiful trait to have, as it is unique and enchanting. But sometimes, this distinctive characteristic has made redheads the subject of lots of discrimination.
There are also many derogatory myths about redheads that have been propagated since ancient times. And while most of them are untrue, like redheads being soleless, they do have some distinctive features. For one, redheads are highly sensitive to pain, much more so than any other hair color.
But if you are wondering why redheads are called gingers, there is no one answer. It can be the cause of their perceived fiery personality, often compared to the spicey ginger root. Or it can be because of the character of Ginger Grant.
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