I also re-wrote the summary at the end as I felt I had to provide a little more context to the book.
I'll share it here so the entirety of the book can be found on this blog as well.
In this short summary I'm going to provide my final thoughts on the text itself, and then touch a little on the status of red hair in our wider culture as it stands today at the time of writing.
As for the book there is plenty of room for criticism and reflection. In the Introduction section I explained that my aim was to simply collect and compile all the interesting pieces of information I've found about red hair into one readable work. I feel I've achieved this aim, however, this process of simply "gathering" information together has come at the cost of genuine critical rigour. Much of the information contained within is selective and some of it is admittedly badly sourced.
In fact, this work is for the most part a product of what could be called "Internet research", and although the Internet has provided wonderful opportunities and access to information for people such as myself, there are also obvious failings when it comes to this type of research. Most notably the lack of hard source evidence, and the inherent temptation to take online statements on face value without genuine fact checking.
Sadly, I've never been in a position to travel the world researching red hair, or even devote full time hours and resources to the task. It's largely been the product of hobby and passion. So most of the information is garnered from books and online research. Another consequence of this is that the work is heavy on my own opinion and speculation, but not too concerned with the opinions of other modern commentators - be they experts or simply other people that possess red hair or have some experience or opinion to relate about it. However, I feel there are benefits to this approach as well, as I never set out to write a work about the modern cultural and emotional dimensions to having red hair. Nor was I especially interested in modern scientific thought on red hair and its related issues. That would be a completely different book. Maybe one for the future.
Another point I should address is that this book doesn't include a reference section. This is partly for practical reasons - it's such a short little book that an extensive reference section would seem slightly out of kilter. Plus, the addition of reference notations throughout the text would make the process of putting together a self-published work much more complicated than would otherwise be necessary. I've tried to include most of the important references within the text itself. If I haven't provided a reference for a statement it probably means that the information comes from a secondary source - i.e. a modern book or text, or worse still an on-line resource such as Wikipedia, etc.
For anyone interested in where I've sourced such information more detail can be found on my blog and my website, which I'll provide links for at the end of the book. I generally catalogue the information I come across in a journal/diary format on the blog, and I usually include details regarding the origin of the information. I'm also happy to answer any queries by email. Again I'll provide my email address at the end of the book.
Finally I'd like to address the status of red hair in popular culture at this current moment in time. Over the last decade or so there has been a huge change in the way red hair is depicted in our media. Red hair used to receive a largely negative press. However, this has changed massively in recent years. There are several possible reasons for why this may be. It may be in part due to the greater prominence of red-haired celebrities such as Ed Sheeran or Rupert Grint (AKA Harry Potter's Ron Weasley). It may also simply be part of a wider trend in society to celebrate minorities rather than victimise them. Another contributing factor could be the efforts of people such as myself that have tried to create a more positive mystique for red hair through online work.
It could be a combination of all these factors, or the product of something else entirely. Whatever the reason it probably goes beyond the scope of this short summary to explain it. However, the main point I'd like to address is the possible negative consequences of this rise in redhead affirmation.
Along with the rise of more positive press coverage for redheads there has also been a rise in the number of redhead "events" and pro-redhead groups and organisations out there. Events such as "redhead days" where red-haired people congregate to celebrate their hair and meet up with other redheads - though formed with the absolute best intentions by the people involved - are a slightly worrying trend I feel. "Group-think" and herd mentalities are never a good thing in any society, and can often lead to situations where individuals get swept away in a tide of emotion. Or in situations where a few loud voices or leaders can manipulate a very large group of people.
I feel a little bad finishing the book on such a seemingly negative note, and I'd hate to dampen the spirit of any redhead that may be reading. However, I've been helping this romanticisation of red hair online over the last decade or so, and I feel I have at least a duty to try and address the issue. I would hate for this book to push any of these negative trends along even further.
Now I'm not saying that people shouldn't attend or enjoy these redhead events, but we should always remember that red hair is just hair of a particular colour, not much different to hair of any other colour. Your hair colour and other such superficial things should never be what define you as an individual. What defines you should be your individual opinions and tastes. Your thoughts and feelings. The music you like. The things you love and hate. You should never allow yourself to be herded by hair colour or any other racial trait. The world has enough interest groups formed around race, religion, sex and other such things. We don't need another political dividing line in the sand between people.
If you've experienced bullying because of your red hair it may be tempting to join anti-redhead bullying groups, or to go out in the street protesting for redhead rights. However, the rights you're protesting for are the rights common to all humanity. Women's rights, the rights of ethnic minorities, the rights of gay and lesbian people, etc, etc - they're all just human rights. Rights we should all be universally entitled to - and they should never be considered unique to any one particular group. So, if you join any sort of political organisation or protest it should be because of what you think and believe - not because you're a particular colour, gender or type.
So in conclusion, it's good that redheads are starting to feel empowered, but a victim-mentality will only lead to redheads that fail to take responsible for wider society, and that sink into self pity and victimhood. One of the great benefits that has come from the rare distribution of redheads throughout society in the past is that redheads generally understand what it feels like to stand out in some way. An experience that generally leads to a greater empathy for all other people - not just other redheads. Celebrate your red hair, but celebrate your individuality first and foremost. A herd of redheads kind of defeats the purpose of what it usually means to be a redhead. Don't let anything in this book, or anywhere else for that matter, lead you to change that.
Thanks for reading.
Neil, October 2016.