Hunting the MC1R Recessive Variant Gene


ah yes, the rare "hot redhead"

I thought I’d take a break from all the art posts to get  little serious. And yes, it turns out that hair is serious enough to have its own post. (Isn’t everything more political under the surface?)


So I grew up with red hair. I guess I still have it, but I’ve kept my hair short enough the past three years that it doesn’t look red most of the time. Even as I write this I can hear all the reasons why this is silly to talk about: I’m still very much a member of a privileged Anglo-Caucasian class. A few red haired feminists have tried (inappropriately) to compare their experience to racial oppression (and in my opinion, generally end up sounding stupid). Basically, if I really think my hair color was an influence on my upbringing and my character today, then I probably just have a very weak personality.*

But just for kicks, I’ll continue with a little self disclosure.

I have this memory of third grade, I think, of sitting in the hallway with the rest of my grade, all waiting to be picked up by our parents. A group of U.P.G.’s (Ubiquitous Popular Girls) down the hall call over to me, telling me to stand up. I turn deep red (due partly to the fact that these girls never spoke to me and partly to early unrecognized lesbian crushes) and I stammer a bit, and ask why. They laugh and tell me again. So, uneasily playing along, I stood up. (Why? I don’t know). The U.P.G.’s continue to laugh, and then they tell me to turn around in a circle. I wonder if my fly is down, if there’s a hole in the seam of my pants, if my body is really ugly enough to laugh at, and (here is where the logic goes totally out the window), I obey them, and turn around in a circle.

I’m actually not sure what the original purpose of this prepubescent ceremony was (maybe my seam really was ripped), but I did overhear one comment that has been amplified in memory– somebody was laughing about how my hair clashed with my tie dye shirt (shut up– this was the early 90’s and their clothing was just as bad). Even in memory, I give them full permission to laugh at my clothes, but I can’t seem to shake the feeling of being pushed onto a stage, being rotated and exhibited for a laugh Scarlet Letter. The comment about the hair, and the unfortunate fact that the spiral tie-dye pattern happened to center on my ass, all sort of culminates in a general feeling of freakish exhibition.

So, middle school. Not a good time for anyone, and I won’t dwell. To make a long story short, I sell my soul to have a social life, and a few boys begin talking to me. And one day C.P., an outgoing Italian kid with braces, asks me “if the drapes match the curtains.” I am unable to hide my confusion, and the boy standing next to him explains: they want to know if my pubic hair is the same color as my [head]hair. The worst part is, I didn’t know which was the “right” answer: “yes” (“oh, that’s totally bizarre and disgusting!”), or “No” (“oh, I guess you’re not as fiery and sexually adventurous as we thought”).

Amazingly, this is not the only time that I receive this question over the next few years. Clearly, I went to school with some tactful kids.


So my red hair became sort of inseparable from my own sexuality– yet I wasn’t sure if having red hair meant that I was sexual (and therefore desirable), or freakish (and therefore totally undesirable). Adults fawned over it, and constantly touched my hair without asking me. At the same time, boys my own age told me straight up that blondes were the hottest, and then brunettes, and then maybe red hair could be hot, but only if she’s tan (…wtf at that genetic combination).

Which brings me to a series of memorable moments that have all sort of blended together into a general feeling of humiliation. I’m at a pool party, and when I come outside from changing into my bathing suit, the entire group of kids laugh and fake-scream at me to put on clothes– because my pale skin is blinding them (highlight: a boy that I have a pseudo-crush on pretends to fall off the diving board) (I’m also the only girl wearing a one-piece bathing suit, but that’s just icing on the adolescent cake). As a result, I go out in public far too many time with orange knees and muddy brown ankles after yet another experiment with self tanner. I repeatedly get asked if I’m related to that girl from the Parent Trap (ironically, another young red-haired pre-lesbian, Lindsay Lohan) even though we look nothing alike.

And on, and on…

In high school, a long-term boyfriend (that I’m for serious in love with) tells me I won’t be attractive if I cut my hair. I respond by asking my guy friends for second opinions… they back him up.

So two weeks after graduation, I cut my hair. But that, dear readers, is a whole different story: about hair, gender, and the shithead clerk at the tobacconist who took one look at my old license photo and told me I made a mistake in cutting my hair.

450px-Redhead_close_upALL OF THIS IS TO SAY…

Maybe that’s why I was so fascinated when I read about a waitress who was awarded £18,000 (almost $30,000, I think) for workplace harassment over her red hair. And I was even more bemused by the comments:

“This is just the kind of banter that you get when working in places like this, bars, cafe’s, hotels, take-aways, etc, etc. …. Questions about hair colour, body parts, and sexuality arise because generally the type of person to take a front line job in the industry has the type of personality that is outgoing and confident enough to take this as a joke.”

So, if a person is “outgoing and confident,” that means she shouldn’t speak up about inappropriate comments! Right, totally understandable. And apparently, there are a hell of a lot of places that a woman can’t work if she’s going to stand up for her own privacy and wellbeing: bars, cafes, hotels, takeaways, etc, etc.? Damn.

“Why the case was ever brought is ridiculous. Think back to the days of wolf whistles and lewd remarks when females walked by building sites – did they receive any payouts, no, of course not.”

So, I’m not sure I quite understand– is this commenter saying that because women have been mistreated and their complaints suppressed in the past, that they should be mistreated and suppressed now?

You get the point. I do, however, agree with some of the commenter’s critiques that the monetary award is skewed, to say the least. It’s not that Ms. Primmer doesn’t deserve the money; it’s that she’s most certainly benefiting from white privilege in this case, while thousands of complaints from black, latina and asian women go ignored and unresolved. (See? And you thought this was going to be a redhead pity post).

One of the redhaired commenters is a good example, deeming her own experience “racial abuse.” Oh my. The fact is, redheads are not considered by any general party to be a “race,” and therefore it is impossible for a redhead to suffer “racial abuse.”** It’s also highly unlikely that redheads experience any form of discrimination: a potential employer might harass you about your hair, but he’s not likely to block you from the job position. Redheads can, however, be subject to bigotry and harassment, which can (and does) exacerbate other forms of oppression such as sexual harassment and class inequality.

And that sucks. Now, who’s up for a martini?


* Just to be clear: I don’t know why my hair has always felt like such a defining feature of my life. Maybe it’s just a metaphor for more abstract difficulties I was facing. And frankly, between court cases, bankruptcy, mom’s cancer, and having sex wayy to early, having red hair was a mild and underlying influence at best. Hair color isn’t predominant; it’s just defining, in a strange sort of way.
** While the Irish have suffered intense and violent racism in both the US and England, redheads still make up only 10% of Ireland’s population (at least according to Wikipedia), so red hair was by no means a primary catalyst or marker for their oppression.

37 Responses to “Hunting the MC1R Recessive Variant Gene”

  1. 1 Lykamo January 8, 2010 at 10:35 pm

    Hey…that was some serious post about RedHeads…i wasnt expecting that, well in my opinion, Red Head an pale skin its beauty made flesh, nothing as inspiring as that sight, yet i didnt imagined all that you describe here, a race??? and discrimination about red head?, well i think in the adult world its the oposite, all men likes red hair, natural or not, and sexual harrasment its about anything, you can be brunnete readhead or ugly blonde, and nothing will save you from those kind of men…
    whoever….GREAT post!!! THX 🙂

  2. 2 dieter brock February 12, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    I loved that you shared your personal and insightful story and how your hair color has been a major factor in your life.

  3. 3 Josh Patterson April 21, 2010 at 8:53 pm

    “Hair color isn’t predominant; it’s just defining, in a strange sort of way.”

    I’m a dude, I am blonde, and I get comments about my red beard all the time. I sometimes get called a viking for it haha, or just the occasional “Red Beard”

    It really doesn’t bother me much at all, but has created some sort of stigma.

    The part that stuck out to me the most, is around people and the ways we treat each other. We are all so beautiful in our own ways, (cliche and society doesn’t demonstrate this) yet we tear those unlike us down.

    I wish people would see there is something more, to heal and mend our broken relationships with each other, the world, and God.

  4. 4 Allison April 29, 2010 at 12:15 am

    I’m a natural redhead too, and I know what you mean about it defining you in some ways. I’ve always felt that growing up a redhead and having my hair be the first thing acknowledged by adults and other children made the separation between my hair color and personality that much smaller.

  5. 5 Alexandria May 9, 2010 at 12:30 am

    I’m going to have to say that I have a serious attraction toward redheads. I have no idea what it is but show me a girl with red hair and I go gaga over her maybe it’s because I’m attracted to things and people who are a little bit rare and there aren’t many red heads around… I also feel like maybe red heads have a bit more of a spark then blondes or brunettes. Red heads are fun and amazingly beautiful end of story. 🙂 Don’t feel ashamed of your red hairedness lol.

  6. 6 Amanda May 15, 2010 at 6:08 pm

    I love my red hair- and to the curtains and drapes question- yes… They do match. So what? My brunette friend fights a mustache.. My blond friend has no eyebrows – me, I get the benefits of light body hair, but still can go without makeup if I like. I do tan as good as the next girl, and in HS I was one of those popular girls. My red hair has helped me in many situations- because I am described as “rare.”I don’t mind the evaluations because I am secure in my firey “furious” sexuality, and the fact that I stood out my entire life because of my long red hair. My red hair is a big part of me, and many people have tried (unsuccesfully) to duplicate my locks on their own head. Do I feel discriminated against, no. I feel envied. ❤

  7. 7 Malik May 21, 2010 at 9:38 pm

    The trick of the trade is the life i have made. Gone is the sensitive, come with them order. Their meaning? They will get. My complexion, soon forget. I’m ready!

  8. 8 Murphy May 22, 2010 at 1:07 pm

    See, I never understood the stigma attached to red hair. I always liked redheads and brunettes better than blonds anyway. Tall, Irish or Scottish blooded redheads are the best!

  9. 9 Dakini May 29, 2010 at 4:12 am

    I find redheaded women more attractive than just about anyone really, but the ranga look doesn’t really work for boys

  10. 10 Max Hollywood May 31, 2010 at 7:21 am

    I’ve got too much to say, so I’ll leave a reply with the last post here, and say that I’m a decent looking guy with straight, deep red hair. And yes, it works for me. I’m in a relationship with another red, and I’m excited our kids are gonna be red as well. (We will rule the world again one day!)

  11. 11 Red June 13, 2010 at 6:08 pm

    As a redhead it’s amazing how much it defines who we are especially in the dating world. If a guy has a bad experience with a redhead he is less likely to date one again yet that would never happen after a bad date with a blonde or brunette

  12. 12 mark June 25, 2010 at 6:06 am

    ah the memories of being teased for having red hair in grade school and beyond. I also had old ladies who seemed memorized by my red hair at the sametime. cruel cruel world:)

  13. 13 aj July 22, 2010 at 7:01 am

    I’m a natural readheaded bloke, well more strawberry blonde due to a lot of sun, and went to an all boys school.
    Now for those of you who don’t know, that’s putting youself up for some serious flak. Especially when all the (older) female teachers want to touch and oggle your hair…
    Nicknames included copper-top, carrot, vlam (flame), flame balls…need I go on.
    I also got the curtains carpet thing a lot, but as I got older I realised that being a redhead makes you unique and in some weird way girls found it attractive.
    So now I am engaged to a varsity beauty queen winner, and she’s much hotter than any of my other mates girls…
    So, as I am not a particularly good looking bloke-it must be the red hair…
    And by the way, as motivation for all other redheads…my fiancee keeps getting asked what are redheads like sexually and the curtains carpet thing…
    Her response: date one and find out…

  14. 14 Naomi July 27, 2010 at 12:13 am

    Great post! Apparently in the UK, there is discrimination against the “gingers” – dunno, just what I heard.

    In my life, I started out blonde, and as I got older turned into a coppery red, dark brown with red, and now just a lot of grey. For me, it wasn’t the red hair – it was the curly hair that made my life miserable! Ah well.

  15. 15 Hannah August 27, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    Well, I dont know what anyone else thinks and I do think that everyone Has different opinions. But, I think redheads are hot. And its the prettiest hair color. Which is why I have had the biggest crush on Lindsey Lohan, until she went off the deep end. I’m dying my hair red before the school year starts actually, because I love it so much. But, i dunno. Embrace the red I guess 🙂

  16. 16 DarkBrady September 21, 2010 at 7:35 pm

    I don’t think she deserved money for abuse because of hair colour; it’s not even close to as bad as what people go through about other issues that are far more serious.

    But then again, that may jus’ be because I think anyone who makes fun of redheads is retarded…redheads are hotter than blondes any day.

  17. 17 C October 11, 2010 at 8:27 am

    As a redhead (um excuse me, strawberry blonde :)) I have to say that my hair color has indeed been a defining factor in who I am and definitely has for other redheads I’ve talked to, real or fake. Blondes have the typical ditz stereotype but aren’t often asked if the curtains match the carpet within an hour of meeting the questioner. I cannot tell you how many times I have had that happen with strangers. For some reason people seem to think that they can have open lewd conversations with me because I am a redhead (and must obviously be a freak in bed and love that kind of talk). People think it’s okay to call me captain firecrotch or other similar names and when I was younger I thought it was a norm but I’ve started to realize that my other female friends do NOT get names that correspond with the assumed “carpet” color.
    After that being said I have to say I would not trade my hair color for the world. I love the compliments I’ve received since I can remember, I love being able to tell strawberry blonde little girls that they have beautiful hair knowing that they hear it all the time from grown ups but it’s nice to hear it from a teenager (or at least I still look kinda like one.) Point is, no I don’t consider myself to be in a different race but I do consider myself to be treated differently because of the color of my hair.
    What I’m trying to say is redheads (in my opinion) lead a semi abnormal life from birth on unless they dye their hair or shave it off. I am also very proud of my red hair and don’t give two rats butts about people who say it’s anything but gorgeous and amazing.

  18. 18 Padilla October 13, 2010 at 5:06 am

    Redheads are the the most beautiful women in this planet… their pale, most of the times freckled skin, is one of the more desirable things to touch and kiss… you should be very proud for that virtue… 😉

    Here in Costa Rica is hard to find a redhead, thats why I overvalue them… but the most of them looks soo beauty… green eyes, freckled skins, pale, and with pink mouth-lips, simply drive me crazy…

  19. 19 Zeke October 14, 2010 at 3:13 am

    Hey i am here to either make your day or make you laugh. im colorblind, and i cant see red hair. just looks brown or blonde. hi5!

  20. 20 Angelina October 30, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    I enjoyed your post. I am a Scottish redhead (my genealogy goes back to Rob Roy). My red hair always made me stand out in a room from the time I could remember. Old men to baby girls would always want to come talk to me about my hair or even just touch it (the babies not the old men). It made me kind of HAVE to be outgoing and now I can talk to anyone. Which I now appreciate. However, the attention I got made the natural jealousy in High School between girls was difficult. I found that my friends had to be very confident in themselves. Now, once again I am glad, since I am surrounded by only strong women. In the end, my husband says that he dreamed of marrying a little redheaded woman when he was young. So, I agree, it is crazy how being a redhead can totally define your life and shape you. FYI (fun fact) Ican never get numb during dental things or minor surgeries and I found a dentist who said that redheads actually are resistant to numbing agents (novocaine, spinal blocks, etc). Just an interesting fact!

  21. 21 Julia October 30, 2010 at 10:53 pm

    I’m a redhead too. And I’ve been through several of the things you mention. From a very young age I was asked about the color of my pubic hair, once from a police officer when I was 15, unbelievable really. And as weird as it may seem I have met people who don’t consider redheads people… I have a friend that has even told me that she loves me EVEN THOUGH I’m a redhead as if that was some kind of flaw.
    I’m very glad that you are bringing this to attention, because even though it’s not a very big problem for society it’s not nice either.

  22. 22 Jason October 31, 2010 at 9:59 am

    Irish discriminated against in the US? First I’ve heard of it and I live in Georgia, right next to the racial hotspots of Alabama and Mississippi.

  23. 23 Akym November 7, 2010 at 4:40 am

    I can sort of see where the waitress is coming from. I’m a naturally red haired woman and I constantly get wolf whistles and questions about my “fire crotch” at work.
    It’s disgusting and downright rude, and if anyone who actually worked with me did that you bet your ass I would file harassment. But that’s sexual harassment, not racial discrimination.
    It;’s just something you get messed with for. I suppose I should be grateful that I didn’t have a giant curly mass or crazy freckles. Being a ginger is annoying enough. I’ve actually dyed my hair quite a few times just so people will leave me alone.

  24. 24 Greg November 8, 2010 at 2:45 am

    Shame you used a fake redhead for your post!

  25. 25 Chris November 12, 2010 at 9:38 am

    This may be primarily a British thing since I’m unaware of any prejudice against redheads in the USA. The Encyclopedia of Superstitions, edited and revised by Christina Hole, has this to say about redheads:

    “A curious prejudice against red hair is found in many parts of Britain, and was once far stronger than it is now. A reason often given for it is that Judas Iscariot was red-haired. There is no evidence for this tradition, but Shakespeare refers to it in As You Like It (Act III, Scene 4)… Another theory is that the Danes, those dreaded invaders of the ninth and tenth centuries, were often of red hair and beard. It is quite likely that the prejudice springs from latent racial memories of fair or auburn invaders, though probably these were much farther back in time than the Danes.

    “Red hair, whether ‘ginger’, auburn, or copper-hued, is supposed to be a sign of a fiery and ungovernable temper, or of a passionate disposition in love. … In Cornwall, people with red hair cannot make good butter. Dumbartonshire people say that a red-headed man will be an unfaithful husband. A red beard was formerly supposed to denote a cruel nature…”

  26. 26 prufrock December 14, 2010 at 12:14 am

    I’m just going to say that I have always, and I continue to deem red-haired women unendingly sexy. I melt, and then I do the opposite. I also find a wisp of grey or silver as potent as Dior or Arpege of the same era. But the thought of smooth, alabaster skin accented by soft tufts of red is to me as lovely as anything on earth. Delicious.

  27. 27 Smokey December 20, 2010 at 1:20 am

    Your post and the following comments are very interesting. My sister was a very beautiful redhead though her hair is now silver because sh’s close to 80. She still has skin like alabaster and is still most attractive. My granddaughter is a goregeous 16 year old redhead. Despite a great deal of teasing in their younger years, they soon learned that their beautiful hair became one of their strongest assets. Neither of them can walk into a room without turning heads. Their red hair is a marvellous framework for their beautiful features. The website posted is my granddaughter’s if you want to see her beauty.

  28. 28 Sara December 21, 2010 at 4:47 am

    I am a daywalker (another term from south park, a red-haired person who actually tans, doesn’t have that many freckles, and in my case, has dark eyes and darker red hair). People still call me a ginger though, but not to an extent. I am not really offended when people call me this and if you have red-hair, you shouldn’t too. It defines oneself and sets one apart from the crowd. I usually get compliments on it, but I have to admit I am going to high school next year and I am a little afraid about what the upperclassmen might say to me. I try to brush off any mean comments that I get or say a comeback or a joke. Don’t worry, we all have souls haha. It strange because I am not even irish too. I’m 100% hispanic or latina. People at my school usually joke about my spanish last name than my hair. It’s amusing to me because they make up nicknames. The only problem I have is that some of the girls (apparently my friends) think its funny to call me fire-crotch. Oh god…hahaha. It’s weird because none of the boys have said anything mean to me about my hair…? Maybe other girls are just jealous of our red-hair, right guys? Haha well anyway, love yourself the way you are, and remember we’re unique in a good way 🙂

  29. 29 Drake January 4, 2011 at 11:24 pm

    A very thoughtful and honest post, also one which brings up something that has always baffled me – why is there so much hate out there for redheads? I guess I will never understand it, I have always found the fair skinned, freckled redhead to be more attractive than any blond or brunette. The only thing that comes close is another uncommon mix – natural black hair and fair skin, something about the way it contrasts. My order of preference goes Natural Black/Red Hair with fair complexion > Brunettes > Dyed Red or tanning Red > Blondes. So yeah, in my book redheads are the best, bar none.

  30. 30 Leo January 21, 2011 at 4:27 am

    Dear Redhead,

    First of all, I’ll spare myself from explaining how I found this post. Anyway, I just want to say that blonde usually doesn’t quite do it for me, and I don’t think I can ever have a rule that says I’d prefer brunette or redhead. But I do want to mention that a glimpse of redhead always makes my head turn. I like the the way it looks under the afternoon sun…

    Aside from that, I do agree with you on those prejudice comments ridiculous but understandable. Even if everyone in the world all have very similar appearances, people will still somehow manage to make fun of other people for looking different.


  31. 31 Sed January 26, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    I must say I used to think brunettes were the most attractive, then redheads, then blondes. I never had a preference as to pale or tan skin, except I hate seeing bleach blonde and dark tan. Fakeness is ugly. These days, I quite simply have no preference. Hair color doesn’t matter, skin tone doesn’t matter, so long as they both match, that is. Hair length doesn’t even matter. If I am attracted to a woman and she has a nice personality, then on the off chance that I do get into a relationship with her, I’m going to enjoy being with her.

    FYI, people are prejudiced against redheads because of age old prejudices against the Irish. It’s those damn Brits’ faults. I’m Irish myself, and my hair is a bit coppery, and red hair does come out in my facial hair sometimes. Anyone that holds something against someone for hair color or skin color is a ridiculous person.

  32. 32 Julio February 12, 2011 at 3:37 pm

    Natural redheads are hot and sexy! Especially according to us men, redheads are attractive and sexy! Don’t forget to wear makeup and style your hair as blondes and brunettes would do, use a self tanner instead of exposing yourself to the sun. A styled redhead is the hottest thing on earth!

  33. 33 Evald February 22, 2011 at 10:43 pm

    I love women with red hair. For some reason when I see an attractive girl with red hair my heart beats faster. If i see blondes or brunettes i seem to be quite calm, but redheads makes my heart race. I cannot understand why would anyone ridicule something so natural as red hair.

  34. 34 Lia February 24, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    The comments in this post are a perfect example of how redheads are discriminated against.

    Someone’s coloring is not an appropriate reason to start speculating about their sexuality, yet redheads get this treatment every day.

    If a popular television show had an entire episode focusing on black people, Jewish people, any other kind of people group, and proceeded to make fun of them and claim they had no souls, there would be outrage.

    The fact that people think they have a right to start asking strangers about their pubic hair because of the color of the hair on their head is unacceptable.

    Redheads might not technically be a ‘race’, but they face discrimination all the time. This isn’t a joke, it isn’t acceptable, and what certainly doesn’t help is people responding with sexual comments about how they love to touch redheads so why are redheads complaining?

    Redheads are human beings with the same rights as everyone else. We are not fetish objects. We are not monsters. We are not targets for sick speculation and comments.

  35. 35 Studman June 26, 2011 at 1:03 am

    I married a redhead. Love her more than life itself. She is smart, vibrant, funny, volatile, sensitive, inquisitive, thoughtful, caring, exciting, unpredictable, passionate, and just so god damn sexy it is scary. She hates being a redhead and even if we stay together another 21 years I still won’t convince her otherwise. It’s sort of balances out, fantastically wonderful people must have a chink in the armor to make then human. So to all you redheads out there I say the same as I do my wife. It’s not your fault your slightly nuts, it’s god’s way of leveling the playing field.

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