The boyfriend rang me yesterday and said, "Did you hear Dublin Zoo are letting redheads in for free cause it's orangutan week?" Me, in my naivety, thinking that stereotypes and resulting discrimination was reserved solely for the truly ignorant, said: "Why, 'cause we're both endangered species?" "Well, not necessarily", he said... a white hot wave of the rage ploughed through me - "No, don't tell me, because some of us share a hair colour..." A quiet "Possibly" was the response. He was invariably trying to get a rise out of me (for a change). Anyway, since then, I've been getting friendly emails from an array of people entitled "Going to the zoo, zoo, zoo, how about you, you, you? You can come too, too, too, 'cause you're orange like an orang-utan", and so on.
Now, before regular readers start thinking, "Bllleeeeh, Sheena's going to start harping on about 'the last acceptable form of racism' again", I'm going to let the good people at The Irish Times address it instead. They've run a story about the marketing faux pas, which, incidentally, is currently the most viewed article on their website:
"Marian Purdy, co-founder of the website redheadandproud.com, which seeks to counter discrimination against redheads, said she couldn’t see much harm in the campaign but some children would 'inevitably' use the association between redheads and orang-utans to taunt others. The move caused some controversy on Twitter yesterday, with many users claiming the promotion was insensitive and stigmatised red-haired children, with one user remarking 'Apes and Redheads? Connection?' In 2008, Adelaide zoo in Australia was forced to drop a similar ad campaign which offered free visits to all 'rangas' - a derogatory term for redheads - after the zoo received hundreds of complaints. Ciarán McMahon, the primate keeper at the zoo, defended the campaign (by clinging to the "endangered" angle), saying it was intended as a 'fun and quirky' way of raising awareness. 'The real point is raising awareness about these endangered animals that may be extinct in 10 years,' he said".
One can assume Ciaran isn't a redhead. Perhaps he can help organise raising Panda awareness by just letting Chinese children into the zoo for free. You know, 'cause Pandas are from China. How's that for "fun and quirky." What, it's wildly unimaginative and borderline racist?!
As for the ongoing "redheads being endangered" malarkey, its validity is questionable - spend an hour at the Farmer's Market in Dun Laoghaire's People Park of a Sunday and you'll know what I mean. We're eeeveeerywheeeree.