And Other Lines from: An Interview With a Ginger Man
Gingers are beautiful, we are kissed by fire.
— Tormund Giantsbane
The League of Extraordinary Red Heads Founder Duncan Crary was recently interviewed by MEL Magazine for the article “There’s Never Been a Better Time to Be a Redheaded Man.” MEL is a men’s magazine, connected to Unilever-owned Dollar Shave Club.
Although he was quoted throughout the piece, most of the interview did not make the final cut, naturally. Here, for those interested, are Crary’s full responses to the questions posed to him by journalist Andrew Fiouzi on being a ginger man.
QUESTION: Why did you start this community?
The League of Extraordinary Red Heads started out as a running joke between my friends because there happen to be so many of us redheads living in the small city of Troy, N.Y. After a while, I started thinking The League might as well be a real thing. So, back in 2013, I sent out a very official sounding press release announcing the inaugural meeting of The League of Extraordinary Red Heads and it just kind of took off from there.
I’ve always made sure that The League of Extraordinary Red Heads doesn’t take itself too seriously. The goal is to be funny and at the same time keep non-gingers on their toes. So the slogan on our very first poster was “These Gingers Kick Back.” That’s a callback to the South Park “kick a ginger” episode but since our group was meeting at a bar it also refers to us just kicking back and enjoying a few beers. We’re chill, but we could be dangerous, you never know.
Along the way, we’ve developed a whole tongue-in-cheek lingo — i.e. if a redhead doesn’t like other redheads, we say that person is in “gingenial;” or whenever three or more redheads are together we call that a “quorum.” Our annual meeting in October is called “Night of the Walking Red,” which is a play on the term “daywalker” (a redhead who can be exposed to the sun) as well as The Walking Dead. Likewise we refer to those without red hair as “The Unred.”
We also have our infamous “Agenda” that we display at meetings, which has the official logo of The League of Extraordinary Red Heads followed by the words “Agenda: 1) Us 2) Them”. Notice, it doesn’t say “Us v. Them.” This is not an “Us v. Them” group. Those are simply the topics up for discussion.
I’m acutely aware of redheads getting picked on or otherwise harassed, especially when growing up. But there’s sort of a trend these days in the U.S. where people are trying to wear “victimhood” like a fashion accessory, which dilutes the experience of those who are genuinely oppressed. I didn’t found The League to be a support group for people who feel sorry about themselves.
We’re a wild bunch from a variety of backgrounds — we have biker dudes, farmers, police women, authors, and politicians of all stripes in our group. We have the shared experience of being naturally ginger and that’s something you have to grow up with to really understand why that sets us apart. Sure, you can dye your hair and try on being a ginger and maybe get a small taste of what it’s like. But you have to have lived it as a kid to be a true ginger. It’s not just a hair color, it’s a worldview and a way of life that lasts long after your hair has gone white.
QUESTION: What have you learned based on some of your feedback from male members of the redhead community?
I’m amazed by how many redheads think that redheads should never date other redheads — that it’s somehow verboten or just weird. At the beginning of his amazing Being Ginger documentary, Scott P. Harris says “Redheads don’t date redheads,” And man was he wrong about that. It’s really a shame that anyone would deny themselves the chance to tangle with a redhead… especially another redhead!
I’ve have had some beautiful red-haired girlfriends over the years and it was always a blast until we crashed and burned. Gingecest is the best c’est!
QUESTION: Do you think there’s a difference between male and female redheads’ experience with regard to some of the stigmas associated with being a redhead?
All redheads share one experience: our appearance makes us stand out and we are treated differently because of that. People tend to view us as either extremely attractive or hideous. They either love us or hate us, but few feel indifferent about us.
Generally speaking, red-haired women are stereotyped to be hyper sexual (think: Jessica Rabbit) and are often harassed with the “Do the carpets match the drapes?” line. Public service announcement: you are not going to score with a firefox using that line.
Red-haired men, in general, are stereotyped as either dorks (Ferguson Darling in Clarissa Explains it All ), or evil (Junior Healy in Problem Child, Chucky), or bullies (Farkus in A Christmas Story) or drunken leprechaun-y “Irish,” or berserker vikings.
QUESTION: Do you think things have gotten better in recent times for male redheads or worse?
That South Park “Ginger Kids” episode provoked real violence against redheaded boys that would qualify as a hate crime if it were directed against an officially protected class, so that’s something to consider.
But since then, there have been a number of totally bad ass red-haired men rise in pop culture profile who have helped make ginger men hot in mainstream culture — Damien Lewis as Sgt. Brodie in Homeland; Prince Harry; and Tormund Giantsbane in Game of Thrones (played by Kristofer Hivju) is an all around great guy who you don’t want to mess with.
At the same time, there’s this situation where Americans — particularly young people — are desperately trying to present themselves as “different” by doing things like covering themselves in tattoos … and they usually just end up looking the same as everyone else. But redheads don’t have to try to be different, we have a naturally unique look that’s #authentic.
QUESTION: What’s most common societal misrepresentation about redheads that you’ve noticed based in your experience?
The biggest misrepresentation concerning redheads is that we’re going extinct. That was a bogus news story spread by a company that makes red hair dye. We may never be in the majority, but we’re not endangered.
Perhaps more of a misunderstanding than a misrepresentation is that redheads are “known” for having fiery tempers and for being “overly sensitive.” (Part of what makes us snarky is that we’ve heard the same dumb jokes over a lifetime and we’re not going to pretend to be amused by them — “Does the carpet match the drapes?” )
But I have to wonder how much of our personalities are the result of nature vs. nurture — in other words how much of the way we are is the result of the way we are treated.
Because redheads always stand out, we can never hide in a crowd or at the back of the classroom. So we learn to have our fun under scrutiny. That may be the reason why there are a disproportionately high number of prominent redheads in history in spite of our small numbers.
QUESTION: One thing I forgot to ask you is why you think that bullying gingers still seems to remain as one of the last socially accepted forms of prejudice against people for a trait they were born with?
I can understand how it might feel, to a red head especially, that people “get away with” saying horrible things about us.
[For a taste, watch this deleted scene from the documentary film Being Ginger, featuring the thoughts of a “dirty blonde” on red headed males.]But I have no interest in appealing to the social justice warrior mob to defend us. When I was a little kid, the most empathy I ever got from my father — who is not a red head — about any ginger bullying was “They’re just jealous.”
He’s actually gotten a lot softer over the years. But you know what? That’s about all there is to it. Or more specifically, they’re just insecure.
Only someone who is deeply insecure about their own self-worth would try to make someone else feel bad about their natural looks, whether it’s hair color, nose shape, breast size, height…
As a red head, I’m on alert when someone spews out “red-haired” as an insulting qualifier. Like, why’d you have to go there with the red hair?
If you think a guy with red hair is an asshole, just call him an asshole.
I’m sure people who are shorter or taller than the average get the same crap, too. Or people who have more body hair. Or women with less traditionally “feminine” features… name it.
Let’s face it: even if everyone had red hair, people would create hierarchies along the spectrum from deep auburn to Cheez Doodle orange, and between those with the fewest freckles to those with the most, and so on.
People can be pretty mean.
I still wouldn’t want to see red heads become a so-called protected class in the U.S. We can take care of ourselves, thanks but no thanks.
The best way that I can think of to counter all that ginger-bullying b.s. is to throw rockin’ parties with The League of Extraordinary Red Heads. The red-headed kids who come with their parents are one of the best parts about our parties. Most of the older gingers agree that we would have loved to have been able to come to redheaded gatherings when we were growing up. Some of us don’t even have other red heads in our families.
When we’re together, we are all in on the joke and it’s our joke — we are in control of how we have fun with the way people are freaked out / obsessed with / envious of us. A couple years ago, on League party nights, we started replacing the bathroom symbols at the bar with ginger versions — where the people on the signs have ginger hair up top and down below. That’s our joking response to it all: Yes, our pubes are red. And they are amazing!
I’m always surprised at how many people without red hair tell me they wish they did have red hair so that they could be in The League of Extraordinary Red Heads. Like we’re suddenly the popular exclusive cool kids now or something. Some people even complain to me that it’s “not fair” that we have a drinking club that excludes them, which is not actually true because we invite everyone to come enjoy the spectacle of 200 red heads all in one place. But I’d be wiling to bet the same people who complain to me now about being left out probably bullied their red-headed classmates growing up and did everything they could to to exclude and alienate them.
When LoERH members give a new recruit one of our official “Member” cards, they are supposed to say: “There are no dues to belong to this league, because you already paid them.”
One final point to make relating to all this is that:
A lot of people may be prejudiced toward red heads, but red hair itself does not discriminate. Naturally red hair presents itself in every race, ethnic group, and nationality.
ABOUT THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY RED HEADS
Headquartered in Troy, N.Y., The League of Extraordinary Red Heads formed on Jan. 30, 2013 and meets annually in October for its Night of The Walking Red event and at other times for special occasions. Gatherings of The League have attracted more than 200 gingers at a time.
Though this highly visible group assembles suddenly in public spaces, not much is known of the inner workings or its true purpose. It purports to be “a social get-together for those with reddish hair and those who love them,” but some suspect it may be a drinking club with vague plans for world domination.
The banner under which The League of Extraordinary Red Heads rallies consists of four squares (or rectangles) of red, orange, strawberry-ginger and white.
Read Andrew Fiouzi’s article, “There’s Never Been a Better Time to Be a Redheaded Man” in MEL Magazine.