Only a ginger…

By Legal Eagle

I’ve mentioned before that I used to have that kind of hair I think of as “Scots colour”, which is a mix of red, brown and blonde. My husband has reddish-brown hair too. When I fell pregnant with my daughter, suddenly all the red in my hair vanished. I knew exactly to whom it had gone. I have a daughter with the most beautiful red gold curls, red gold eyebrows, and dark russet eyelashes. My son is less ginger, but his hair still has a definite red colour.

For some reason, red hair is something people love to talk about. On my old blog, only a few posts still get comments – and they’re all on the subject of ginger hair.

Personally, I love red hair. I think it’s beautiful. I’ve always wanted hair the colour of my daughter’s hair. My grandmother had long auburn hair as a girl, and her hair has still mostly kept its colour even now. I hope mine is the same.

Anyway, Vicroads in my home state of Victoria has raised a furore by an ad which makes fun of people with ginger hair:

[It’s a bit of a failure from my point of view – if the premise of the ad were true, from a personal perspective, I’d hope more people use their mobile phones while driving…!]

For some reason, advertising people seem to think that it’s funny to make jokes about red hair (I’ve noted ads insulting red headed people before). Why is it that people feel like they can freely abuse people with red hair? They wouldn’t abuse someone with dark skin these days (and thank goodness for that).

I think I’ll leave the last word to Australian comic Tim Minchin. (We were supposed to see him a few weeks ago, but unfortunately that was the week we all came down with gastro). Please do watch this sketch, it’s one million billion trillion times funnier than the Vicroads ad. And remember Minchin’s message – “Only a ginger…”


Apparently there have been complaints to the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission and the Advertising Standards Bureau about the ads, which really doesn’t surprise me.

Human Rights Commissioner Helen Szoke said more than a dozen people had also complained to the commission because they were distressed at the portrayal of redheads.

”They are particularly concerned that the ads might encourage further bullying of people who are singled out because of the colour of their hair,” she said.

”It would be very unfortunate if an initiative designed to change irresponsible behaviour on the roads had the effect of encouraging bullying.”

Thank you, Ms Szoke, my thoughts exactly.

The ads are reportedly the brainchild of Dan Ilic, who is a presenter on ABC’s Hungry Beast. I’ve only ever watched Hungry Beast a couple of times, but had to turn it off after about 10 minutes on each occasion. It’s a really weird mix of mocking satire and serious stuff. Personally I found it so unfunny my teeth hurt. Just like the ads, really.


  1. Posted March 30, 2010 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

    LE, where’s the MInchin piece? You’ve neglected to include the link 🙂

  2. Tristan Callow
    Posted March 30, 2010 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

    Hi Legal Eagle,

    I was massively offended by these adverts and would like to see some kind of reaction to this in the way of sackings, apologies and possibly some kind of tax / financial settlement for red heads. (Got this idea from another red head, a refund on the TAC Premium for last year as this would have paid for the campaign). It would be great to get some advice on if this kind of this is possible, as it could be a great class action of defamation of character suit. What do you think?

  3. Posted March 30, 2010 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

    Just post the link in the relevant spot and then preview to make sure it’s okay. WordPress has got it into its head to strip out the embed code. It is very frustrating.

  4. Posted March 30, 2010 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

    The ginger-hatred has emerged because all other avenues of humorous stereotyping have been cut off by hate-speech and anti-discrimination laws. The solution is to let people say what they like, and for people on the receiving end to exercise their freedom of choice, and their right index finger, and turn the bloody thing off.

  5. Tristan Callow
    Posted March 30, 2010 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    Thanks LE, you are right MEGA FAIL on trying to get across a very real message and it will lost in the poor attempt at humour. But at the same time it is saying that it is ok to make fun of “gingers”! Now I am 28 years old and have gone threw the years of teasing at schools and it still continues at a lesser extent. What needs to happen is that there is a message goes out that shows that it is not ok to tease “gingers” in the same way that its not ok to tease anyone who is different. the best way for this to show as an effect is that someone needs to loose their job over this….and the public need to see it happen so they know that this behaviour is unacceptable.

  6. Miss Chelsea
    Posted March 30, 2010 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

    Apparently there is a distinct advantage to having red hair – your hair doesn’t carry any traces of opiates, the markers of which bond to melanin, which red hair lacks. So next time your boss asks you to give a hair sample for drug testing, feel free!

  7. HeathG
    Posted March 31, 2010 at 5:33 am | Permalink

    @SL6. I think you may be right here re: why ginger/redheads have become the new group to mock.

  8. HeathG
    Posted March 31, 2010 at 5:40 am | Permalink

    I’m going to out myself here and say I love red hair. I know I didn’t when I was a kid (school age) but from about the time I started uni I have come to appreciate the beauty of ginger./red hair.

    (I suspect the timing may have something to do with when I first really got in to the X-Files and how many other female sci-fi/fantasy characters are redheads (e.g. Lyta in Babylon 5, Leeloo in 5th Element.)

  9. Posted March 31, 2010 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    It’s a shame they included the unnecessary digs like that. It means the ad is being attacked for its inappropriateness on two fronts, and in relation to the other- calling dickheads dickheads- I feel nothing if not impressed with the Minister for use of clear, plain English to describe something as it is.

  10. Posted March 31, 2010 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    How to shoot one’s advertising campaign in the foot, parts # 3 and #17.

  11. HeathG
    Posted April 1, 2010 at 5:23 am | Permalink

    @LE 14. Oh… and to my list of kick-ass sci-fi redheads how could I forget “Major Kira” in Star-Trek DS9 and depending on the lighting you could argue even Capt. Janeway (ST:Voyager) has a touch of ginger. And of course Willow in BtVS!

  12. Posted April 1, 2010 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    When I fell pregnant with my daughter, suddenly all the red in my hair vanished. I knew exactly to whom it had gone

    You stole my hair! 🙂

    Why do people make fun of redheads. They hate us ’cause they ain’t us? Or is it just that we’re mutant freaks!

  13. Posted April 1, 2010 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    While both are true, Adrien, I’m sure it’s just the former.

  14. Posted April 1, 2010 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    One theory I’ve heard over here is that it is residual anti-Celtic prejudice, although that doesn’t explain the prejudice wending its way from the UK to Oz (I’m sure that’s the pattern of transmission).

    There have been a couple of civilisations that privileged red over blond in terms of attractiveness for both sexes. The Romans did, and so do modern Italians (as any redhead who has ever been to Rome can attest).

  15. Fleeced
    Posted April 3, 2010 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    The ad doesn’t really work here, and is just offensive for the sake of it… a large chunk of their target audience is getting ridiculed here – what in the hell were they thinking?!

    Of course, I laughed quite heartily at the South Park, “Ginger kids don’t have souls” episode.

  16. Posted April 4, 2010 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    All the fuss about red hair is relatively recent isn’t it? I can’t recall comments about pigmenatation being at such fever pitch until about five years ago when an opposition fielder remarked on two of our batsmen being red-haired and then wouldn’t shut up about it.

    I just thought he was a nutter but it seems to have been taken up by bogans at the same rate as tattoos & plasma TVs.

    And that’s why the ad campaign fails – it tries to tap into bogan mores which many bogans probably wouldn’t like to admit to.

    And will be as counter-productive as the :Jeff F*ckin’ Rules” ads for Kennett in the 1999 Vic state election.

  17. Posted April 5, 2010 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

    LE: I think calling redheads “Blue” or “Bluey” has a pretty long history.

    I know when I was in the Reserves that pretty much every (male) redhead seemed to be nicknamed Blue/Bluey. It wasn’t used in a negative/derogatory sense, just more a case of Aussie humour, the same way someone with black hair might get called ‘snowy’ as a joke.

  18. Bluey
    Posted April 20, 2010 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    So is there some sort of compensation I can get out of this?…….I need to pay a psychologist now for therapy to help me deal with anxiety and despression from the stress this ad has caused me. Can us redheads start some sort of class action?

  19. Posted April 20, 2010 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    bogan mores which many bogans probably wouldn’t like to admit to.
    Bogans don’t have mores. They have self-justifying rationalizations and bigotry.

  20. dan dan
    Posted April 20, 2010 at 6:04 pm | Permalink also interested to explore some type of class action. Feel quite distressed by these ads and now feel quite sick whenever I see anything resembling vicroads or their authority. Would be happy to make some $ out of the public servant bogans who approved this. They are a pretty ugly looking organisation if the appearance of their employees is anything to go by. Would rather have ginger hair anyday but still keen to explore if we can sue…

  21. Posted April 20, 2010 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

    [email protected]: bogans don’t have mores, they want mores.

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  1. […] Notes: Hat-tip to  the pair of blogging redheads with brains & beauty over at Skepticlawyer for the pointer to the VicRoads story. […]

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