In February of 2015, the Concourse published an article about redheads that has had Jezebel’s Ellie Shechet and Madeleine Davies steamed ever since. They’re using Gawker Media’s Senior Week to finally respond.
Madeleine: One of the first things my coworker Ellie and I bonded over was an article posted to Deadspin that we both hated. “Red Hair Is the Most Contentious Hair” proclaimed the post authored by a man named Ross Benes, who I have never met or cannot remember meeting. In it, Benes wrote, “If you are average- to below-average-looking and have average to below-average red hair, it will tarnish your image more than any other hair color. Unflattering red hair produces such a ghastly sight, people will write off the attractiveness of others solely based off their red hair.”
Maybe Benes is right or maybe he’s wrong. Either way, the article was more rude than it was daring or brave and Ellie and I—two adorable redheads—were annoyed that Deadspin, a website that typically publishes highbrow content like dick pics and shovel fights, would stoop to this level.
The next week, former Deadspin writer Kyle Wagner confused Ellie for me as he followed her up the office stairs. Please note that Kyle and I have been friends for years. Also, I am 5'7" with a bob and Ellie is 5'2" with long flowing locks. This is just a small taste of the bullshit we get as a couple of reds.
Ellie: Although that article came out over a year and a half ago, and I still have not completely nailed down the author’s identity, I think about it so, so often. “This girl could have significant cuteness without the tangled red locks and freckles, but the red hair prevents her from reaching peak prettiness potential,” Ross Benes wrote, above a picture of a redheaded girl who looks kind of like an alien but also kind of like me. Who do you think you are, Ross Benes? is something I have said to Ross Benes in my head several times. He had extremely exacting ideas about what a “good” redhead looks like: “a light complexion, penetrating pupils, and a touch of ruby to tie it altogether. The hair is also usually flowing and not incredibly curly.” This particular exchange was a problem for me as well:
Does it, Ross? But I think it’s true that people tend to have very strong opinions about how a redhead should and should not present herself (good: Joan from Mad Men! Bad: everyone else?), not excluding my mom, who loves me as I am but does have very particular ideas about which colors I am allowed to wear.
Madeleine: For the sake of honesty, I’ll tell you now that (unlike Ellie) I am not a natural redhead. I’ve been dyeing it regularly and convincingly for the last decade, though, which gives me a lot of insight into the way people treat redheads vs. the way they treat non redheads. When you have red hair, people make a lot of assumptions about your character—that you must be funny (another thing we have in common with clowns), that you’re fiery, or that you are soulless demon. To be fair, Ellie and I are all of these things, but that is not true for redheads in general.
Another thing that happens when you have red hair is that men are somehow more terrible than usual with you. Once, when I was at a bar in the East Village, a very drunk Australian stumbled up and told me that he would probably try to fuck me if it wasn’t for my “ginger box.” The bartender shut the drunk down—not by telling him that his comment was rude or inappropriate, but by telling him that he LIKES ginger pubes (diff’rent strokes!). Most offensive of all was that neither of them bought me a drink to make this interaction mildly worth my time. Their loss, though: My pubes are actually albino white.
Ellie: Wow, same re: pubes, except mine are bright blue and shaped like a Star of David. I have been asked about this on a near-constant basis since the 6th grade, and I find it really dehumanizing and weird and it kind of makes me feel like a circus monster. It is truly a marvel—when certain types of people see red hair, they immediately become 5 years old and say wildly offensive things. Anyway, I would say that a solid rule to go by if you ever want to date or be friends with a redhead is to not ever ask them what their pubes look like. Tough, I know!
In the vein of what Madeleine was saying, men, particularly on dating apps, have a tendency to be grossed out or—more often—way, way too interested. I recently revisited my very inactive OkCupid profile, which reminded me how many messages like this I’ve received:
We’re married now!
Madeleine: Taking Ellie’s suggestion one step further, I’d also say that you should avoid asking a redhead about their pubes even if you DON’T want to date them or be their friends because that is not appropriate human behavior. In fact, maybe don’t ask anyone about their pubes ever.
Everyone has their sexual preferences and it’s okay for you to be attracted or not attracted to redheads, but when you feel the need to verbalize those preferences (often loudly and crudely), you become a creep. In a way, we should thank you because it reminds us that we do not want to sleep with you. But in another way, go fuck yourself? I mean, I’m not particularly attracted to weak-armed bloggers who look like they’ve never exercised or eaten a vegetable, but you don’t hear me screaming about it.
Ellie: Another thing that often accompanies red hair is horrible nicknames. “Redhead,” an inelegant and hateful term that I personally resent, is bad enough; you do not need to call me “red,” as my high school gym teacher really loved doing, or the aforementioned “ginger.” On a related and very exciting note, Scott Baio recently retweeted a fan who called me a “fire crotch” (it’s one word, Misty!). Having grown up in a southern state, I’ve found that this is a term that Republicans in particular seem to love.
On the flip side, you also don’t need to compliment me on my hair. This happens to me nearly every day, often from strangers, and while it is so nice, I honestly don’t always believe it. Does the world really love red hair that much? I don’t think so; people often just feel an urgent need to comment on things that are glaring and obvious, and the most polite way to do this is via an “I love your hair!” I love my hair too, but I can’t help but think you’re lying!
Madeleine: Please redirect the compliments you’re offering to Ellie to me, because I spent a lot of money to look this way and my poor financial choices need validation.
Ellie: Okay so this isn’t in reference to you, Madeleine—you’ve been red for so long that it feels natural??—but I have found that many, many people seem to believe they are redheads who do not in fact have red hair. The number of full-on brunettes and blondes who have attempted to claim their spot in the family is frankly astonishing.
I understand wanting to be part of something, but if your hair contains a tiny, nearly undetectable hint of auburn, you and your effortlessly tan body don’t get to write “Proud Redhead <3” in your Instagram bio (also, no one should do that). It is my belief that a person shouldn’t be allowed to benefit from the uniqueness points of red hair while experiencing none of the light social marginalization that comes with actually looking like a traffic cone.
Madeleine: I reached out to Deadspin’s Patrick Redford, an Adequate Man who also happens to have red hair, to see if he had anything to add and he brought up some interesting social pet peeves that, while looked over by Ellie and I, are none the less true.
“The thing I like the least is when two reddies are together and then someone inevitably is like ‘Well, you know redheads are going extinct—maybe you two should breed,’” he says, offering up a brilliant-like-the-coppery-shine-of-his-hair reminder that you probably shouldn’t tell two people of any similar coloring or ethnic background that they should “breed,” like, ever.
Another interesting point by Patrick that I couldn’t possibly leave out:
“Do you remember in one of the Harry Potters when either a werewolf or a bad guy is staring down Ron before they do some magic and he growls ‘Ginnnngerrr!’ and Ron gets all mad? That was a high water mark.”
Dang, so true.
A thing I’ll add is that redheads are one of the only kinds of people who, when gathered in a group of more than one, are automatically subject to outside commentary. I once ran into two other redheaded friends at a bar and no less than five strangers commented on the fact that we were sitting at the same table talking. The table of brunettes next to us—bless ‘em—were lucky enough to be ignored.
Ellie: I have to agree with Patrick on the breeding note, but would like to add that the prospect of redheads becoming extinct isn’t really much of a motivator. I honestly don’t really care. We evolved to thrive in places like Siberia and, like, ice caves, for weather conditions that probably won’t exist in most parts of the world a few hundred years from now. Personally, I would like my children to be able to withstand the sun and heat and not have to wear embarrassing long-sleeved t-shirts at the beach, which is possibly why I have never been attracted to my own kind.
That said, I still admire couples like Brandi and Bryan Redmond from The Real Housewives of Dallas. Brandi and Bryan both have red hair, their young and somewhat feral daughters both have red hair, and their last name is Redmond. They also hate each other and are both dead inside in different ways, but, you know.
Madeleine: For those of you unfamiliar with RHoD, think of Brandi and Bryan as the aforementioned Weasleys, but without the morals, kindness, and other redeeming qualities.
I’ll add that—despite my earlier point that you should keep your sexual preferences to yourself—I actually am attracted to a handful of redheads (when the D’s right, it’s right!) and really hope that reds continue to flourish as a people. :)
Madeleine Davies and Ellie Shechet are writers for Jezebel and have very nice hair (but even better personalities).
This is Gawker Media’s last week as an independent media operation, and while that shouldn’t affect you much one way or the other as a reader, we’re still going to take advantage of a pretext to run some especially fun and stupid posts. If you have any ideas for such posts, hit us at firstname.lastname@example.org.