Monday, July 11, 2016

Red Haired Sea Nymph

Emanuela also brought to my attention the following picture of a red-haired sea nymph by the artist Edward Coley Burne-Jones.

And she drew my attention to the following blog displaying works by the photographer Oleg Oprisco, some of which feature red-haired models. The third picture down is especially beautiful.

Red Hair in Adverts: Update

Back in April I made a post about the seeming surge in redheads that were appearing in TV advertising. Since then I've noticed a few more instances of it. I'll share what I've noticed below.

First up we've had this alterna-punk McDonald's advert on TV where a ginger guy (who looks a little like the actor Corey Haim) gets served by an attractive alternative female employee while at a drive-thru with a guy who I'm guessing is his dad.

Being a vegetarian I feel slightly uncomfortable giving free advertising to McDonalds, so I urge anyone who now has the urge to visit to get the vegetarian option.

I also spotted this quite cute advert for Milkybars featuring two children (one red-haired) who use the static from balloons to make their hair stand on end.

And I noticed the following advert on YouTube for a sports knee strap featuring an athletic red-haired woman.

It does seem there's something of a trend for redheads in advertising at the moment - I certainly don't recall seeing so many redheads featured in ads in the past. We'll see if it continues.

Avoiding the Cycle of Division

In my last post I discussed the possibility that by putting so much focus on red hair I may be heightening the division between redheads and non-redheads - even though my original focus on red hair began because of my frustration that redheads were being treated differently.

In the article I described it in a nutshell like this;

They called me redhead - so I then chose to see myself as a redhead.

In this article I want to further elaborate on the potential problems that can arise from this. One big potential problem for me would be the politicisation of red hair.

The idea that people may create formal groups based around the fact that its members all have red hair is something that has always concerned me. Joining or forming groups for redheads is something that I've always been very uncomfortable with - even if those groups have been formed in jest. Or have been formed to highlight the abuse and bullying that redheads sometimes suffer from.

Like organised religions, formal groups based upon things that differentiate people can be used in ways that can at times actually make things worse. Formal groups, particularly ones with political aims, should be formed only around universal ideals that are open to everyone. Even if such "interest group" organisations are formed with the best intentions, or under circumstances where such groups seem necessary, there's always the danger the groups may do harm as well as good.

A good example is feminism. Obviously the abuse and repression that women experienced and often continue to experience is very real, however the problem at its essence is that the universal human rights of these women are being transgressed. Now I'm not stating that feminist organisations haven't had lots of success in tackling these issues, they obviously have. However, there has also been an accidental downside as a consequence of their work - and that is that the focus on female has often led to further divisions between men and women, with the idea that men are somehow fundamentally bad and women fundamentally good sometimes coming to fruition. Of course, this then only serves to reinforce the views of those men that already hold misogynistic views, and then the divisions become even greater.

A focus on universal human rights, and on how the human rights of many woman aren't been respected, would be much more productive than a limited focus on women's rights alone.

It's not hard to imagine how a focus on the travails of redheads - even if that focus originally came as a response to the negativity aimed at them - could eventually lead to an attitude that redheads are better than non-redheads, or that redheads are somehow fundamentally different to non-redheads.

It's always good to bear this in mind.

Now in someways it may sound silly to talk about potential divisions between redheads and non-redheads, after all, red hair isn't really much of a problem in any real major way. However, I feel my experience with red hair, and the semi-promotion of it, has given me an insight into the reinforcement of division in general.

In my last article I mentioned the division between Jewish people and non-Jewish people that can sometimes be seen in the world.

It seems clear to me that the politicisation of Jewishness has heightened things rather than pacified them. And I think Zionism is the politicisation of Jewishness.

Now I should make it clear that I'm not saying that I don't believe in the state of Israel. Whatever the history (and it's a history I don't fully understand) the fact remains that history has happened and we can't change that. So, just as I believe that the USA has a right to exist in spite of the apparent history regarding the native Americans, or that white Australians have a right to be in Australia whatever views people may hold on the historic treatment of the Aborigines, I believe that Israelis have a right to be in Israel whatever the previous history may be.

No country on earth is without its historic failings and today's generation shouldn't be held responsible for the actions of previous generations.

However, I do believe that Israel should start focusing on becoming a truly secular country and should start separating itself from notions of race and religion. I'm sure Zionism, like women's rights and other movements created to defend the rights of maligned people, started out with the best intentions. However, the unintentional repercussion has at times been heightened division.

Now I should state that I believe that all states and countries should be secular. It's maybe unfair to focus on one country, however my focus on Israel in this article stems from my feelings that no-one is really tackling this issue in a balanced way at the moment.

From my experience it seems the dislike of Jewish people is on the rise - at least on-line anyway. However, this is in part a consequence of the unquestioned Zionism that is professed by all the major media and political organisations. This endless politicisation of Jewishness is reinforcing the idea, in both Jews and non-Jews alike, that Jewish people are somehow fundamentally different from all other people. Again, I'm sure this is an unintentional consequence on the part of most people involved ..just as I have no intention of elevating redheads above non-redheads by taking an interest in red hair.

However, these consequences need to be recognised if we're ever to escape the cycles of division we find ourselves caught up in.

Red Hair and Accidental Segregation

Over the course of researching red hair and writing this blog I've realised something quite profound - and that is the dangers and problems that can develop from obsessions about race and ethnicity.

I mentioned this briefly in the Introduction to the draft book I published on here, but would now like to reflect a little further.

Looking back I guess I originally approached the topic of red hair with something of a victim mentality - albeit a victim mentally with a bit more spirit and verve than is usual. As a child I had red hair myself and felt different because of it. I also experienced a fair bit of teasing and a little bit of mild bullying too.

So, when I started taking a wider interest in red hair I think I was looking, subconsciously to some extent, for an origin story for red hair. I sensed that red hair didn't quite belong and therefore speculated that maybe it came from somewhere else. From some ancient red-haired tribe or nation. Some exclusively red-haired branch of the human race that at some point had been subsumed into the wider human population.

I guess I wanted a homeland for redheads.

I didn't quite fit in, so I wanted a place where I did fit in. In fact, this very blog and its accompanying website can in some ways be seen as a little island for redheads. A nation-state where redheads can feel a little bit more self-assured and a little less alien.

However, I've since lost the need for this homeland. Whereas I once felt red hair to be an intrinsic and important part of who I am - a defining feature of me as an individual - I now feel this much less so. I don't feel it defines me as much as it used to. My opinions on red hair are now almost completely detached from the emotional baggage that used to come with it. I'm much more objective and any personal bias that once may have coloured my judgements on it is diminishing by the day.

I now appreciate red hair much more aesthetically as an observer. I think this can be seen in the way this blog has slowly moved from history and more towards art (although I'm still very much fascinated by the history of it).

It also seems that redheads are getting much fairer treatment in the media and in public life now (it's sometimes even considered cool!!) - so I now feel much less of a need to defend and promote it.

Of course, I was always intelligent enough to understand the superficiality of focusing so much attention on what is in many ways just a physical trait, however my personal feelings nevertheless still crept through - as a redhead I was obviously looking for the good things about red hair. I wanted a positive identity for red hair, as opposed to the negative one I was given by society.

Having come through this process I'm now very aware of how easy it is to create or foster a sense of separate identify. Even with something as simple as red hair it's easy to create a common culture for those that possess it - one in which people can belong or not belong for this reason alone.

This is not so much of a problem with red hair, as redheads are so uncommon, and pop-up so randomly amidst the non-redhead population that a genuinely separate culture could never really take shape. However, there are other things - such as religion, or more clearly separated ethnic or genetic traits -  that can become points around which separate groups can form. Or that pre-existing groups can focus upon to isolate themselves or others further and heighten divisions.

The obvious one is Jewishness. I've mentioned the often common links between Jewishness and red hair on this blog and elsewhere before, and it's something I've developed a little bit of an interest in. However, just as I've noticed how easy it's been for myself to carve out a separate "redhead" identity, I've also noticed how the separateness of Jewish people has been heightened - often completely accidentally, in a similar, but much larger way.

It's easy to see how a sense of persecution can lead one to rally around the reason for that persecution - and in turn express even greater pride and personal attachment to those things which caused this sense of separateness in the first place. Just as I've done with my once maligned red hair. They called me redhead - so I then chose to see myself as a redhead. This is a perfectly natural thing to do, but it's hard to step back and see the larger potential consequences of it.

This has been on my mind a lot recently, especially with all that's happening in the world, and I now feel it may be time to start using my experience as a redhead to start emphasising the reasons for division, rather than the division itself.