This article originally appeared on VICE UK
Kiss a Ginger Day was yesterday. As a "ranger," if I met the dumbass ginger comedian who thought getting me sexually assaulted could help his career, kissing him is not what I would do. Set up as a "karmic counter-event" to the 2008 Kick a Ginger campaign, comedian Derek Forgie decided to put the world to rights through this awful social media campaign. Instead of violently attacking redheads why don't we just set up a day to sexually assault them? Yay Derek!
In Ireland—a country with the second highest percentage of redheads in the world—the day is taken as semi-legitimate, with serious newspapers setting up photoblogs to mark the day. Yesterday, as I meandered around Dublin I got, "Hey Foxy Box!" from one enthused cyclist, and the old classic, "Hey Fanta Pants!" from a 12-year-old in his uniform. Last year's Kick a Ginger Day resulted in attacks on school children, so it clearly has to be countered. But this year Kiss a Ginger Day got me bullied by a child, which I'm not convinced is the opposite.
I've always been really proud of my hair. In the true spirit of redhead unity, I think we're sexy rarities. In fact, I'm so into redheads I dated another redhead. Which you wouldn't think was worth mentioning, except that everyone else seemed to think it was. To this day I think if it wasn't for my ex's slightly menacing stature we would have endured much worse than the creepy shit that we had to put up with daily. It ranged from people stopping on busy pedestrian streets to stare at us slack-jawed to—I kid you not—a pervert asking if we were related while rubbing his thighs.
I'm from a country that's not very ethnically diverse, so I can imagine when black people first came to Ireland people might have stopped what they were doing to stare.
"Look Michael. A black man! And not on television!"
That must have been weird and alienating, but I get it. I don't get why me and my ginger boyfriend became such show stoppers in a country where the national stereotype is ginger.
It's all the more odd because I have a lot of red-haired female friends and being seen in public with them never caused anybody to stop and stare. I've come to the conclusion it says more about our societal attitudes to red-haired men than it does about our attitudes to redhead women. Ginger women can be "foxy" like Jessica Rabbit or Joan from Mad Men, but for guys, people think it's Mick Hucknall or bust.
Thomas Knight's "Red Hot" campaign tried to sort all this out and "rebrand the male stereotype" by showing us images of red-haired men who were—surprise!—not ugly, posing like fleshy mannequins. Everyone from the Guardian to the NY Times raved about it. The campaign eventually turned into a book called the Red Hot 100. I'm still trying to work out how this is all that different from the FHM Top 100.
I remember once I got with this guy who told me very tenderly, mid-embrace, "ah but you're not that ginger, not like a manky carrot top or anything." Somehow the stars weren't aligned correctly and it wasn't to be. I don't think Kiss a Ginger Day is the antidote to the silver-tongued Lothario who I sent packing. A public "day" provides a weird, socially approved infrastructure to reduce redheads to one-dimensional caricatures to be fetishized or slagged. Ginger appreciation—at least insincere public appreciation—is just the other side of the same patronizing coin.
Perhaps more importantly, it gives people the excuse to perve on me. It's not nice to go into your local Tesco and have some creep come over to tell you "your hair is lovely" while he inhales deeply. What's worse is this happening because of an unofficial "day" where people are encouraged to annoy me. So, even though I should be thankful for the attention and the fact that it's not the designated day for kicking me, I'm not. I'm guess just ungrateful like that.