Gingers, nerds and fat people – the ‘new prejudice’?

Picking on people for their appearance may be unpleasant, but it's hardly akin to racism.

Patrick West

Patrick West

Topics Politics

Prejudice is a hydra-headed adversary, judging by some of the top news stories of recent days. ‘Prejudice against fat people as bad as racism’, announced a headline in The Times, after a report claimed that overweight people who felt they were discriminated against put on almost 1kg over four years, while those who did not actually lost weight. ‘There is no justification for discriminating against people because of their weight’, said Sarah Jackson of University College London, who led the study. ‘People think it’s one of the last socially acceptable forms of prejudice.’

Meanwhile, David Harding, who built one of Britain’s most successful hedge funds, has declared the terms ‘geek’ and ‘nerd’ to be as offensive as racist slurs: ‘I find these words are as insulting as n*****.’ Elsewhere in The Times, we read that a social worker in Edinburgh has established a workshop to promote ‘ginger pride’, in order to reduce bullying of redheads in schools. ‘The ginger-pride movement is all about promoting positive qualities and reclaiming the word “ginger”‘, says Donna Strachan, founder of the ‘Ingingerness’ programme. ‘It’s to give the next generation of gingers a bit of resilience.’

Is unfair discrimination against gingers, nerds and the obese akin to racism? Have the above ever been subjected to slavery or genocide or had the vote or a job or civil rights denied to them explicitly on account of their appearance or demeanour? Of course not. Where will it end? I can’t help but think of Chris Morris’s 1997 spoof news programme, Brass Eye, in which a self-confessed paedophile complains about anti-pederast name-calling. ‘It’s just another form of racism’, he protests.

This is not to deny that if you are ginger or overweight, life can be cruel and upsetting. My five-year-old niece is a redhead, and it is hurtful to hear jokes about gingers. I can’t even bring myself to think about her being bullied at school later in life on account of this. But humans can be cruel, children especially so – à la Lord of the Flies. I was ostracised for a year at school as a 16-year-old for being gay, even though I’m not. Yet life’s adversities needn’t have to damage you irrevocably. This experience taught me a valuable lesson: never trust the consensus. What the majority thinks is often wrong.

Older people will tell you that anti-ginger malice is a strange and new thing in Britain, or that in Italy, for instance, having red hair is considered rather attractive. Perhaps it’s because the prejudices of older generations – racism and sexism – have become unfashionable and strictly penalised that these new ‘prejudices’ have emerged. Teasing gingers is possibly the new means of establishing a pecking order in schools, of establishing group cohesion among bullies. Unfair prejudice is indeed hydra-headed.

Yet shouldn’t we take all forms of unkind discrimination seriously? After all, as a Breitbart report disclosed last week, British redheads are far more likely to be drawn to radical Islam as a response to, and revenge for, playground persecution. But bullying is what children do. And, alas, we will always have losers and outcasts, those emos who fantasise or actually carry out gun attacks in American schools, or, more recently, go on the rampage on account of being a self-pitying virgin and woman-hater.

The problem with ‘progressives’ who seek to abolish all forms of discrimination is that, as their name indicates, they have an inherent distrust of stasis. The maintenance of the status quo is something associated with conservatism. So now that racism and sexism are a shadow of the monsters they once were, progressives feel they must turn their attention to other perceived injustices. Hence the rise of the animal-rights movement and the clamour for giving votes to 16-year-olds. Western Christians and atheists have also become adept at bleating ‘discrimination’, when what they usually mean is ‘disagreement’.

This process is demeaning. Sure, receiving nasty comments on account of your appearance or lifestyle is unpleasant, but it’s not equivalent to a skinhead pushing dogshit through your letterbox or the planting of bombs in Old Compton Street, let alone the Atlantic slave trade or the Holocaust.

Patrick West is a columnist for spiked.

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Topics Politics


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