Northern Ireland

Redheads 'easy targets for bullies', claims researcher

Girls with red hair Image copyright jam noorlander
Image caption A study by a University College Cork student claims "people with ginger hair are easy targets for bullies".

Redheads are "more likely to be bullied", a researcher has claimed.

The study by a University College Cork student claims "people with ginger hair are easy targets for bullies".

Psychology undergraduate Kevin O'Regan recorded that more than 90% of men with red hair had been victimised simply because of their hair colour.

He concluded "bullying of gingers" is "one of the last socially accepted forms of prejudice against people for a trait they were born with".

Mr O'Regan will be presenting his findings at the 5th annual Irish Redhead Convention in Crosshaven, County Cork, this weekend.

'Victimised'

Over 2,000 redheads are expected to attend.

The event will include the carrot tossing championships, the best red eyebrows competition and a prize for the most freckles per square inch.

Mr O'Regan, who has red hair, told the BBC he decided to carry out the study after attending the Irish Redhead Convention in 2013.

"I didn't personally face any negative experiences as a child because of my hair colour, but it was soon clear others have," he said.

"Others who faced difficulties have grown up with confidence issues and hang-ups as a result of being a victim."

He surveyed 1,742 people from 20 countries for the research called "Red hair in popular culture and the relationship with anxiety and depression".

'Discrimination'

The results showed 60.6% of males and 47.3% of females with red hair said that they had suffered "some kind of discrimination in the past due to their hair colour".

Some of those who took part in the study gave examples of the abuse they suffered: "I had a teacher look right at me the first day of class and say 'I don't like redheads, so don't expect things to be easy in this class for you' in front of the whole class."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Singer Janet Devlin suffered online abuse

Another comment said: "I had a beer bottle thrown at my head for being a redhead. The guy was drunk, but he said the bathroom wasn't for gingers, a bottle broke on the wall next to my head a moment later."

One contributor claimed to have left their job because of bullying in the workplace.

In response to the question "would you date someone with red/ginger hair?" only 9.2% of the overall sample said that red hair would definitely deter them from having a relationship with someone.

Red haired men in particular felt that "it was a detriment to them in their romantic lives".

'Horrible comments'

Mr O'Regan said on one occasion he himself had been rejected when the lights came on in a nightclub after dancing with a girl who thought he had blonde locks.

Singer Janet Devlin said she experienced "horrible comments" when she dyed her hair from blonde to red after she rose to fame on talent programme The X Factor.

"It was a culture shock, I had never experienced such abuse for my appearance. I'm here to sing, I never claimed to be a model or for people to judge my looks," she said.

"I was 16-years-old, people called me Fanta and wrote abusive comments on my YouTube page.

"At first I dyed my hair back to blonde, partly because I missed it, partly because of the online abuse."

Janet, who is from Gortin, County Tyrone, said younger children had thanked her for being a role model for redheads.

'Insecurities'

"One little girl aged seven said I helped her believe in herself. She used to be bullied, but now in a positive way, people compared her to me," she said.

Image copyright (C) British Broadcasting Corporation
Image caption UCC student Kevin O'Regan surveyed 1,742 people from 20 countries

BBC The Voice star and Belfast man Conor Scott said he had taken any comments about his red hair with a "pinch of salt".

"Lads will be lads and everyone takes the mick out of someone for something," he said.

"I mean any remarks would have been made in primary school more than anything else - but honestly - it has always been taken in good craic."

Founder and event organiser of the Irish Redhead Convention, Joleen Cronin, said young people who attended the event in previous years revealed they were self-conscious about having ginger hair.

"There are so many stories of young kids with insecurities coming away feeling positive from the vibe of the festival," she said.

"You can see a change in attitudes at the festival, within people who had negative feelings about themselves and others beginning to embrace a change in perceptions.

"There's a strong camaraderie between redheads, you'll hear people asking each other 'what were you called as a child' and having the craic over the whole thing."

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