Return of the ranga
People always tell me that my hair isn’t red, it’s strawberry blonde. It’s as if they are paying me a compliment, like having red hair is something to be ashamed of. Well ladies and gentlemen, not today. Thanks to our new prime minister, being a redhead doesn’t just mean you have two copies of a recessive gene on chromosome 16, it means you are a winner.
If you are one of the many people who followed the leadership challenge on Twitter, you would have noticed that references to Julia Gillard’s red hair were made almost as often as references to the fact that we have our first female prime minister. It’s clear that the red hair thing is an issue for us as a society.
Those of us blessed with a fiery red mop make up only 1-2% of the human population. As much as our struggle pales in comparison to that of racial minorities, homosexuals and many other oppressed groups, the fact is that we are a minority.
Redheads first walked the earth 50,000 years ago and ever since, we have been the subjects of suspicion and ridicule. It’s a common stereotype that redheads have short fuses and sharp tongues. Queen Elizabeth I, one of history’s most famous rangas, reinforced that stereotype by ruthlessly beheading any cocky blonde or brunette who she didn’t like the look of.
That brings us to the term ranga which, pleasantly enough, is derived from orangutan, the red-haired great ape. I suppose that we rangas can take solice in the fact that orangutans are among the most intelligent of primates, but certainly not as smart as our blonde and brown-haired human cousins.
Following confirmation that Julia was taking over from Kevin, the internet was full of misinformation regarding the past prominence of redheads in Australian politics. Many were convinced that our new prime minister not only represented our first female leader, but also the first ranga in charge of our sunburnt country. Altering history is another great tool of oppression.
Now the truth is out, thanks to media commentator Melissa Hoyer tweeting that Twitter user ‘kollektor’ tweeted (that’s how it works on the internet, as childish as it sounds) that our first red-headed prime minister was in fact James Scullin.
Whereas Julia Gillard has benefited from good timing in terms of the broad loss of faith in Rudd’s leadership coupled with the impending election, James Scullin’s political career was a victim of very bad timing. In 1929, two days after Scullin was sworn in as Australia’s 9th prime minister, the Wall Street Crash occurred and the great depression soon followed.
The dire economic times caused instability within Scullin’s government, who were voted out at the next election. Given that this was hardly an impressive performance from the first red-haired Australian prime minister, Scullin was quickly filed among history’s lesser known Australian prime ministers and that was that.
Is Julia Gillard destined to suffer the same fate? Will she march forward boldly with her hair of crimson, proudly leading Labor to a landslide victory against the brown-haired oppressor Tony Abbott? Or will her term as Prime Minister be asphyxiated by the smoke still rising from the smouldering ruins of the insulation scheme, emissions trading scheme and the Rudd government’s other famous blunders?
Whatever the prime minister’s office holds for Julia Gillard, two things are for certain: we have a new champion to replace Nicole Kidman as chief of the Australian redheads (she dyed her way out of that position a long time ago anyway), and rangas from Freemantle to Freshwater can stand tall and proud, for the moment.
Remember, don’t cringe at the ginge.
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