Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Proud to be...

At the very end of February I had a great weekend "representing", one way or the other.

On the Saturday I met with a group of UK-based members of the Lazy, Stupid & Godless (LSG or lsg if you want to live up to the lazy bit) group on Ravelry. The group was founded on 1 February 2008 - I am pleased to say I was there on day 1 - and so first birthday celebrations took place worldwide during February (taking the whole month Jack Daniels style). We lazily managed it on the last possible day.

For those not members, the group was founded after an argument on the main boards of Ravelry about swearing. Two camps quickly became apparent - those who think that four-letter words show the user to be a stupid moron sitting around scratching their pubes and drooling (but funny how using asterisks makes it all OK, isn't it, hmm?), versus those who consider the judicious use of solid and venerable Anglo-Saxon words to be an augmentation of the vocabulary. And why the fuck not? You know which side I was on, of course. We agreed to pander to the delicate sensibilities of the objectors, refrain from swearing on the "Big 6", and decamped to our own group to be as filthy as we liked. It remains one of the most fun, supportive and kind groups on the whole internet, let alone Ravelry. These really are my kind of people.

We decided to meet up at Prick Your Finger, a yarn shop in Bethnal Green, east London, which is sufficiently quirky for such purposes. Additionally, LSG-member Kirsty was performing an art installation there anyway, so it worked out very well. We arrived in dribs and drabs over the course of a couple of hours, and took over the whole floor for a knit-in, whilst owner Rachael Matthews made us many cups of tea.

We watched Kirsty's Pin Ritual. Her pin-based art is amazing - here's a close-up of one of her hanging pieces:

And the trail of pins she leaves wherever she goes (wear shoes):

Some fab stuff from around the shop:

We then decamped to the nearby pub for pies, alcohol, ice-cream, knitting and good conversation - it is called The Camel but was re-christened The Camel-Toe:

You're all awesome, twatweasels!

The next day I celebrated not my sweariness but my gingerness, at a photographic exhibition called Root Ginger, devoted to redheads. I'd seen something about this before but it was somewhere up north, Wolverhampton I think (yes, as far as I'm concerned that's north, way north), so I was thrilled to see it come to London.

It was fairly small, and consisted of large close-up portraits of redheads, all taken against a white background as if a scientific study. I think they're beautiful, but then I would!

There was also some video and printed interviews about the experiences of the participants with respect to having red hair - inevitably the bullying and teasing, the unthinking slights in folklore (the warning about tea-pouring and the threat of bearing ginger twins, the proverbially unwelcome "redheaded step-child", to name but two), but also the admiring comments from old ladies about children - that used to happen a lot to me too. What was particularly interesting was the number of gingers there. If I'd been manning the front desk, I'd have kept a tally of the redheaded visitors as a proportion of all visitors, and I bet it would have been far higher than the general population. Certainly there were plenty of us on the streets of Shoreditch, headed towards or away from the exhibition. I was able to direct a few people who looked lost, because their hair told me exactly what they were looking for.

Particularly nice to see were the number of ginger children there, and I say that as someone who would normally rather be anywhere but in a gallery full of kids. It is rather isolating - especially if you're the only one in the family like I was - and I thought it was great that they could see other people, celebrating their hair colour, particularly for the little boys who have a hard time of it. I like redheaded men but I know I'm in the minority there. I feel they're often forced to become extroverted to survive school, and to an extent that applies to us girls to in having to live up to our "fiesty" reputation. I'm not complaining, I love my hair as my screen-name suggests, and I wouldn't change it for the world. But it does get a little tiring when people casually say they'd hate to have a ginger child, or when my brother says on his Myspace page he'd do any member of Girls Aloud except for the ginger one because gingers are minging, or even family holidays spent hiding miserably under an umbrella wearing SPF 50 total sun block whilst my quick-tanning family basked on the sand. So of course I loved the exhibition.

Lots of people were having their photo taken with the big sign, so I got the boyfriend to do it for me. It's not a great photo as I have my eyes shut, but it turns out I'm inadvertently mimicing the pose of the child on the programme.

Gingers rule!


stash haus said...

How I wish I was with you for this weekend. Prick looks like a very interesting shop and I would like to see that exhibit.

I wonder if the remarks/teasing/bullying are universal? I don't remember any redheads being bullied at school or even teased. At that age, we were separated by gender (boys have cooties, no girls allowed in the clubhouse, etc.).

When I think of redheads, what comes to mind is art, (The Birth of Venus), and characters in famous children's books (Anne of Green Gables, the Weasley family in the Harry Potter series and Pippi Longstocking), and history (Elizabeth I). I'm sure I could think of more if I put my mind to it.

Why is ginger such a derogatory term yet in your part of the world?

Ginger Lucy said...

I thought I should reply to this properly here rather than coming over to your blog to do it.

I suspect it's because children pick up on anything different as an excuse, and whilst it's not rare, it's not as common as any other hair colour. And it's not anything that can be hidden.

Anne of Green Gables isn't exactly well-treated by her Canadian classmates at first - I remember the "carrots" scene.

For some reason it's then carried into adulthood in a way that certain other things children might have picked up on aren't - I have nobody calling me a swot these days at least, but still plenty of "Oi, Ginger!" if I'm walking alone (unless they're shouting something about my tits of course - or both). Amusingly, this was replaced by "Hey, Red!" when I was living in New York - so it does happen there.

I did get laughed at by plenty of children in Vietnam too who hadn't seen red hair that often.

At least this isn't the 17th Century when we were more likely to be burned at the stake as witches, despite the admiration of painters. Red hair = sexiness = the devil.

I was most pleased though when at one of the R.E.M. gigs I went to last summer, Michael Stipe dedicated a song, "Walk Unafraid", to the beautiful redheads, "or gingers as you call them here". So I gathered he was aware of the potential for teasing even if the term "ginger" isn't specifically used in the States.

I'm not therefore convinced that it's a UK thing. I think it might be that you don't notice it unless it's directed at you - much the same as the boyfriend finds it difficult to believe the number of lewd comments I get on a weekly basis when I'm out, because it never happens when he's with me. But then he's a vegetarian and has long hair so he's used to being mocked in a "friendly" way for that which just gets tiring and unfunny - it's much the same.

I'm used to it, and probably "character building" is the right term to use. I'm not a shrinking violet and I have no idea whether that's because it was never in my nature to be so, or because I became that way through having to defend myself (or field admiring remarks) and because society thinks I should be extroverted with a short temper.

Nowadays I just buy all the yarn I find which is named after anything to do with gingerness. Got some gorgeous Malabrigo Sock in Botticelli Red the other day, mmm...

Ginger Lucy said...

I should also add that the name "Ginger Lucy" comes from a friend at university who had me listed in his mobile phone address book as that, to differentiate me from the several other Lucys he knew. He initially had me as "Lucy Big Tits" but then changed it as he thought I might take offence. He didn't mean either of them as an insult.