Sunday, February 26, 2012

Red Hair; Rant, Advice, Contemplation

[Rant ahead.]

Dyed-red hair is not the same as naturally red hair. That's a pretty simple thing, I think.

But some people seem to think that a bottle of hairdye will let them buy into an identity.

Please don't do this. You want to dye your hair? Good for you! But don't claim you are now a 'fiery redhead.' Don't use redhead stereotypes to define yourself.

If you do that... You are in essence choosing to enter into a group, and then increasing or perpetuating stereotypes about that group. If you get sick of it, you can just stop dyeing your hair.

I can't.

My hair colour is the one I was born with. I am a redhead. Sometimes I like my hair. Sometimes I don't. But I should not have to change it to get away from stereotypes that have been increased by people who can escape them just like that.

Let me repeat that: I should not have to alter a fundamental part of my appearance to avoid being judged for a reputation that is affected by people who can easily stop having that reputation.

I have been insulted for my hair colour. I have been treated in less than sterling ways by people who thought it was somehow okay to pick on me for it. I have been called names by people... because I have red hair. Because I have a trait I didn't choose. Because how I look is somehow apparently open to the judgement of others. (And not just regarding my hair, but that's another post.)

And then I see people come along who think it is fun to be a redhead. Well, sure it is, for you! You didn't grow up with it. A dyed-red-haired person who uses the rep, to me, is someone who has come along once all the hard parts were over, to grab at whatever appeals to them. And who apparently has no compunctions about increasing the strength of that reputation, no matter what it involves for people who've been born with red hair.

And we are out there. There are plenty of us.

Not that certain haircare companies seem to know that, either. One company has a line of shampoos and conditioners designed for different hair colours. Each type does different things - the blonde one, for instance, is touted as improving brightness. It and the brunette one are specifically said to be for dyed or naturally-coloured hair. The redhead one? Oh, it's to prevent the colour from fading. As in, the dye. It's to rev up that red-dyed hair so that the dye does not fade away.

Well, I'm sorry, but my hair doesn't fade. It lightens a bit in the sun, and is darker when I've not been outside much, but it doesn't fade.

Yeah, sure, less redheads than brunettes, too small a target market yada yada. But why pretend, then? It's clearly only for dyed-redheads, and it's dishonest to pretend otherwise.

Also on the topic of non-redheads examining redheads; can people please stop writing their heroines with red hair as though this makes them Special Snowflakes? Your heroine will not be the only redhead in the world. People will not necessarily fall down and gasp in wonder.

I have a large extended family, and there are rather a lot of redheads in it. I've grown up considering it normal (because it is.) If I write a redhead, it's because I'm writing what I know. It's a trait that can be interesting, but it isn't the One True Specialness indicator.

By the way, a tip for if you do write redheads, especially pale-skinned ones: The redhead in green is a cliche because it works. Colours that also work include rust, jade, turquoise, burnt orange, yellow, brighter orange (this one, I think, works better for redheads with strongly-coloured hair) and peach. Cream works better than white. Reds should have orange undertones, not blue ones. Tan and gold work well, and warm browns - think autumn colours. On the paler side of things, clear colours are good.
Pink and purple? They frequently clash. Opinions may differ, but I personally think it does not suit redheads. *
A pale redhead in black will have the colour stripped from their complexion; if you want 'lively' and 'colour in their cheeks' this is not the way to go, but if you want stark and striking, it can work. Think the Goth aesthetic; pale, with strong contrast against the dark clothing. And it does make the hair show up very strongly.

Others, even other redheads, may disagree, but that's my opinion and my experiences in terms of colours that work.

[* Mothers of redheaded young girls? I really and sincerely suggest you go for yellow, orange and so on instead of pink. It's okay, your kid will be beautiful. 'Pink for girls' is the sort of generalisation that isn't necessary.]

To come back to the starting topic? If you want to dye your hair red, feel free. Hell, I'll even say that if it feels true to your identity in some way, hooray to you for finding something that does. But please, please keep in mind that there are redheads out there. If we get sick of being treated a certain way, we can't just stop buying the hairdye. It's one thing to choose a stereotype, but we can't choose it; we have it from the time we're born. We have it through childhood. And we have to carry it through the rest of our lives, or change something innate about us to avoid it.

If we fit that stereotype in some way, that's a little different to someone else choosing to. (I've grown to accept 'fiery redhead' for myself, even if I wonder whether or not the teasing and the expectation helped shape that goal. I do, however, categorically reject some of the other redhead stereotypes.)

You are walking upon something that is a part of the identities of others; walk lightly, please.

P.S: Redhead fetishists, it's nice that you find the colour attractive. It's not nice if you objectify us as a result. We are people, not just ambulatory bearers of the hair that floats your boat. Please treat us accordingly, as people, and respect our boundaries. You have a fetish, and that's okay, but it's not okay to treat people as things on account of it. Please try not to be creepy around redheads. (Yes, this includes the internet. You can't see the hair-colour of everyone who will read whatever comment you make, so please try to keep that in mind. Yes, it does feel uncomfortable to read your comments if you've blatantly regarded redheads as sex objects in them. Please don't do that.)


  1. Really, Darth Ember, is that a bit of..... TEMPER.... peeping through?

    What always really annoyed me as a teenager was that the whole cultural stereotype about gorgeous redheads was continually contradicted by my contemporaries saying red hair was weird.

    Plus there was the thing about being passionate and sexy, which as I have Issues was not helpful.

    Despite this, I always liked my hair colour. It was a slightly strange feeling to realise I'd moved to a place where it was much more common. I wasn't entirely pleased about that. (Shallow? Me?)

    Heinlein. O FSM, Heinlein. I can enjoy his work so much, if I just ignore half of what he says. I studied maths, too, which made it worse.

    Purple I love. My younger sister, who has the heightened end of the redhead complexion, has a wardrobe that is largely purple. I can get away with pink but it's not as good as green or orange.

    - julie paradox (via Slactiverse)

  2. It is truly amazing what stupid stuff people will create sterotypes from. Hair color, seriously?