Of all the backhanded compliments I’ve received in my life, one continues to recur. “You’re cute / hot / attractive … for a ginger.” The dangling qualifier always gets me. I don’t know how to respond to it—don’t know if I should be offended or if I should just say “thank you” and maybe try to get the woman uttering it to have sex with me.
I share this in common with my new hero, by default—Greg Rutherford, Olympic gold medalist and self-proclaimed Ginger Wizard (move over Rupert Grint). Rutherford has been on the receiving end of these backhanded compliments as well. A Twitter search indicates that lots of people believe that Rutherford is hot … for a ginger. For a normal person he’d be something else. It’s impossible for Rutherford or the other gingers who hope to ride his coattails to know whether they’d be considered attractive when stacked against non-gingers. Is Greg Rutherford “hot” when Ryan Lochte enters the picture?
We also have Buzzfeed, a prominent website, playing into this. “He’s a really handsome ginger,” they write, after comparing the gold medalist to actor Neil Patrick Harris. We don’t have to deconstruct that sentence too much to understand what Buzzfeed is saying. It’s hard to think of another group of people that share a common physical trait being talked about in such relative terms. As Rosamund Urwin writes at The London Evening Standard, ‘gingerism’ is “one of the last socially accepted forms of discrimination”. And at Slate, Josh Levin’s headline blares “Man Who Looks Like Tintin Wins Olympic Long Jump.” Yeah, that seems like the most noteworthy thing about Rutherford. He looks like a pre-war cartoon character that only a Slate writer would reference.
All in all, I am OK with Rutherford’s prominence and the watered-down attention he’ll be receiving for being a Golden redhead. Ron Weasley and Prince Harry have done a lot for the gingers (doing a bunch of re-work on the scars left behind by Carrot Top, South Park, and Little Ronny Howard aka Opie); it can’t hurt to have an Olympic gold medalist carry the flame.