12YO picked on for being "ginger"

(35 Posts)
PreteenNightmares Wed 14-Dec-11 11:26:31

12YO son burst into tears last night when I affectionately (I thought) greeted him with, "Hiya, ginge" (we've called him ginger at home all his life as a term of affection and he's never reacted badly before...). Turns out that since shortly before half-term, classmates have been needling him with "anti-ginger" abuse (e.g. - Why is a redhead different from a shoe? Because a shoe has a sole. And other similarly unfunny stuff).

I'm sure that this has boiled over partly because it's the end of term and he's overtired, but there is absolutely no way I want it to get any worse. He's been really happy at the school up til now, and is a bright, sporty, well-liked boy otherwise.

I just don't get it myself - why is red hair something to pick on?? I think it's gorgeous.

Any advice for dealing with this specific kind of bullying? Much appreciated.

BlastOff Wed 14-Dec-11 19:25:20

I don't have any advice I'm afraid, but wanted to bump for you. Your poor ds sad - I think red hair is gorgeous too.

slug Wed 14-Dec-11 20:06:14
antshouse Thu 15-Dec-11 20:10:14

I know what you mean. My DD is 13 and had no problems with her red hair at primary school so it came as a shock when she started at secondary.
She copes with it now by making the anti redhead comments and jokes first so they fall a bit flat when someone else comes out with them later.

cakeismysaviour Wed 28-Dec-11 17:51:20

I have red hair and was bullied for it at school (as well as for being tall and skinny), I'm probably not much help because I was very badly bullied and didn't deal with it well. The school also failed to deal with it at all, even when I ran away from home because I was so distraught about it.

However, when I was in my final year and was waiting to go into an exam, a girl who had bullied me for years piped up with the insults again and something inside me snapped and I retaliated with a couple of choice comments about her own hair and she was so shocked that nobody bothered me again! Now I'm not saying that your DS should sink to their level, but perhaps he could make a comment that they are not so perfect themselves, and that he could just as easily make up his own jokes about them. Might make them think?

My own baby son has red hair too and I do hope this doesn't happen to him. sad

MamaMaiasaura Wed 28-Dec-11 17:55:50

I was bullied too for having red hair sad it was horrible. My mum always told me they were jealous and ignite them. It didn't help at all. Would have done better to fight back but it may not have helped either.

People shouldn't tease on people's skin colour and therefore why should they tease on hair colour??

cakeismysaviour Wed 28-Dec-11 18:03:31

Exactly Mama! One of the kids who bullied me was Afro-Caribbean and if I had bullied him for his colouring/appearance than I probably would have had the book thrown at me for racism (quite rightly), but it was ok for him to do it to me!

likelucklove Wed 28-Dec-11 18:10:57

Your poor DS sad

I was picked on for being ginger too (and was tall and overweight) and it went on for about 5 years but started in primary school. Schools tend to be so unhelpful and don't take it seriously enough as they think children are 'only joking'. It could well be the case here but it is no excuse to make him feel like that.

I snapped one day and ended up punching the ringleader bully in the nose. Don't advocate violence, mine was a long time, but he should try to answer back. Don't know if this would help but he can't just ignore it and let it carry on.

Hopefully he'll go back after holidays and it will have blown over smile not much help sorry.

Queenkongmerrilyonhigh Wed 28-Dec-11 18:18:43

I was picked on when little (primary school) - really nasty stuff. My mum once found me hacking at my legs with my dad's razor because girls had laughed at the ginger hairs on my legs and said I had ginger fleas. sad but i don't remember this incident at all! I started taking books/mags into school to read at break times so I would face the humiliation of no-one playing with me. And I just ignored people.

As i got older (secondary school) I still got the old 'ginger minge' comments. But I made new friends and the more I ignored the ginger stuff, the less it happened. When I reached about 15, I had a really solid group of mates and it stopped pretty much. So I'd say it's one of those things that gets easier as everyone matures. My only advice really is to ignore it and focus on building relationships with close friends. Easier said than done but rising to it only encourages bullies.

And there are always nice people who will hopefully stick up for your DS. I remember a couple of kids who were always very nice to me and told the others to shut up - including the class hunk who went on to become a premiership footballer. He said I had beautiful hair once in front of the class and it made my decade!

schilke Wed 04-Jan-12 08:52:09

Hi preteenNightmares. I can empathise. My 11 year old ds2 is in yr7. Last term he said he was getting teased about his ginger hair, but said he was dealing with it. However, just before the end of term he came home from school and burst in to tears. The bullying has escalated. A group of year 8s and year 10s seem to be persecuting him about his hair. He has been sworn at and shoved around a bit. I have been in touch with head of year who has spoken to my ds2. I am hoping he'll have a plan of action this term as the school is quite hot on clamping down on any bullying.

All these answers seem to suggest that you should put up with ginger hair "teasing", but no way. My son is being intimidated and sworn at by older children, not something he should just have to put up with. I get so cross when people think it's an acceptable form of bullying.

I would get in touch with the school. Your son knows who is doing it and it can be stopped. See I really disagree with Queenkongmerrilyonhigh - you are advocating not complaining about bullies as it'll just make it worse. I have told ds2 he is right to come to us for help and inform the school.

My ds2 has gone back to school this morning - I'm feeling really sick with worry.

JollyJinglyJoo Wed 04-Jan-12 08:58:42

sad I'm another one who took a lot of grief at school due to my red hair, and I'm really saddened that it still goes on all these years later. I actually prayed that none of my dc would have red hair- not because I don't like it, but because I knew how horrible it was to be singled out for it.

I agree it should be up there with racist bullying. It's not just "teasing" at all. Really hope people start realising this and it becomes as socially unacceptable to tease redheads as it does any other minority

QueenKong Wed 04-Jan-12 11:35:29

Hi Schikle.

So sorry to hear your son is being bullied. I definitely would agree that you should get the school involved. I'm sure they wouldn't tolerate it now. My own experience was that my school couldn't give a shiny one about my situation. But that was 30 years ago now! I'm sure schools are now much better at tackling this sort of thing. My post was only meant to reassure that, for me, things got better as everyone grew up a bit. I didn't mean to sound insensitive.

cakeismysaviour Wed 04-Jan-12 11:56:53

schilke - I absolutely did not 'suggest' that the Op's DS should put up with this bullying. As I stated in my post, I suffered very very badly from this type of bullying, to the extent that I ran away from home in an attempt to escape it, and would never suggest that a child should not do anything about it.

My reply reflected the fact that the bullying suffered by the OP's DS can hopefully be nipped in the bud now before it gets worse (like the bullying suffered by myself and your DS2).

Do agree that informing school is a good idea though even if it has now stopped, because the teachers can keep an eye out in case it happens again.

schilke Wed 04-Jan-12 12:40:33

Sorry cakeismysaviour and anyone else if I misquoted you. I read in a hurry and felt the gist was to ignore the teasing. I am highly sensitive on the subject at the moment!

Ds2 even had to put up with a ginger joke in the panto we went to the other day - silly billy suggests princess marries prince william, oh no he's taken ..what about prince harry, no way he's ginger - say all characters in unison. He has already said he's dreading the summer when his hair seems brighter and his freckles come out.

Someone even laughed at my 7 year old dd1 the other day - as we walked past boy laughed and said "God look at that ginger" I couldn't reply I was so shocked.

I do not have ginger hair myself, but 2 of my 4 children do. My mum's hair was ginger (now white!) and she had no problems at school, but that was in the 50s.

Mrsrobertduvall Wed 04-Jan-12 12:47:35

Definitely speak to the school but also arm your ds with strategies....next time anyone comes out with a comment, tell him to look really bored and say "Is that the best you can do?" "heard that one so many times before" "not very original are you?"
And say it loud and proud so others here...makes the other kid look stupid.

Although it hurts inside, try and get him to appear that he doesn't care, laugh it off, look positive. Bullies want a reaction...they will not expect someone standing up to them.

cakeismysaviour Wed 04-Jan-12 13:10:54

schilke - I wouldn't have been able to restrain myself from complaining to staff at the panto venue about that. Would they make a joke about someone who is black? No they wouldn't, so they shouldn't be able to get away with insulting people with ginger hair.

Mind you, one of my bullies got an insult about my ginger hair into our yearbook. sad

My baby has ginger hair too, and it upsets me already to think that he might have to deal with this.

JuliaScurr Wed 04-Jan-12 13:27:39

I never got teased at school etc, but this was 65-75 ish, so gits were picking on disabled/black/asian/gay. Now we're (meant to be) more civilised, ginger is one of the few things left. Size is fair game, too. It's not the same as racism; we never had seperate water fountains or back of the bus seats, but red hair does come from poorer areas of UK where people were historically oppressed, eg Scotland & Ireland. So I think it's one of the few characteristics left that are acceptable to pick on. Boys might like to know that red head men are really popular with women in USA.

cakeismysaviour Wed 04-Jan-12 13:46:36

Juila you make some really interesting points. smile

I think it needs to be made socially unacceptable to bully/victimise/discriminate against people because of their hair colour or size. It isn't the exactly same as racism, but it does share some of the characteristics of it, as it involves people being bullied for their appearance.

JuliaScurr Wed 04-Jan-12 14:42:01

cake smile
A lot of it boils down to 'acting like an arse' but we now have Jeremy Clarkson et al whittering about political correctness gone mad if we don't collapse with mirth at their hilarious comments. Which actually aren't hilarious if you're on the receiving end

schilke Wed 04-Jan-12 16:06:37

I have just written an email to the Pantomime production company complaining about the ginger "joke". Ds2 came home from school taunt free today - first day for ages.

Sixer Tue 07-Feb-12 00:16:43

My DS 1 has Beautiful red hair, he's 10. His take is.... that it's acceptable from very close 'mates', he is proud to be the 'Ginger ninja' whilst playing sport and proud of his colour and history. However if said out of spite/meaness/name calling, he knows this is wrong, very wrong... in his words "This is the colour I was born. It's the same if someone has another colour of skin." He's big, some will try...I just hope he's smart enough!

mamakemp Thu 09-Feb-12 09:39:30

It makes me really sad to see all these posts about bullying because someone has red hair. It seems that it's okay to make fun of ginger hair, and it's in mainstream comedy all the time. But it isn't okay. Why should one set of people be the permanent butt of everyone else's humour. It might be slightly different from racism, but it's a slippery slope, all part of disrespect for one another. So good on you for writing to the pantomime company. You've inspired me to complain next time I hear such a joke. And when we all start to complain, when we all stop laughing, then the taunts might stop. And by the way, my god daughter who is a stunner, and gets stopped in the street, asked if she is a model, has a huge mop of glorious red hair. She was teased as a child. But not now. So tell your son to love his gorgeous hair, and be proud of himself. And his mother!

Emmaroos Wed 15-Feb-12 01:38:57

The difficulty with "ginger" bullying is that the term crosses the boundary from affection (as used in your own family) to friendly teasing from genuine friends to harassment and abuse, which is what your son is experiencing. It is too easy for a teacher to take the lazy way out and conveniently assume that your son is over-reacting to "friendly" teasing and to not take any real action. The whole PC thing DOES irritate me, but I guess the system is what it is, so you might as well make it work for you. Inform the school of the harassment and play the race card because it is one of the few issues that scares the bejaysus out of school authorities and will force them to act. Point out that the bullying IS race related...people of certain Celtic ethnicities have red hair while others do not. Ask what their racial bullying policy is and what strategies they employ to deal with it and ask them to keep you informed of what actions they have taken. Any vaguely competent teacher will deal with it in such a way that your son is protected from any suggestion that he grassed the bullies up. If I were you I would also explain to your son that it isn't really about his hair colour. There is nothing right or wrong with having red hair any more than there is with being short or tall, or fair skinned or dark, but that anything a little less common gets noticed, and when people are young and insecure they big themselves up by trying to put other people down. Explain to him that many of the peripheral bullies probably feel quite bad about being mean to him, but they don't have the confidence to be individuals and are following the pack. It is horrible to see your child distressed, so I hope he has some strong friends around him for moral support and gets through this difficult time.

schilke Sun 11-Mar-12 11:06:18

Meant to add that i received a lovely email from pantomime company saying they were very sorry about the ginger joke and would remove it from next years productions. They seemed genuinely apologetic. Normally i would have let it go, but coming on top of a term of bullying it just seemed so wrong that adults were laughing about "can't go out with him because he's ginger".

For ds2 no bullying this term - not sure if school found the culprits or if, unfortunately, new term new victim.

mightymouth Wed 14-Mar-12 12:06:13

Your son deserves to be happy and feel safe at school and the school has a duty to keep him safe. They should be doing group work on how unacceptable it is to make remarks about anybody being different - difference should be celebrated. Ask the school what they are actively doing to prevent bullying. Name calling about appearance is the most common form of bullying in many schools.

Your son might find it helpful to practice some witty retorts at home so that he can appear cool and fend off the bullying. If bullies see that they have upset him they are more likely to keep at it. Try 'Yeah I'm ginger, your hair's a bit dull!' or what kind of colour is yours? or Yeah - at least my hair is a definite colour - or unique or special. or Yeah I'm ginger and proud of it,

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