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It's not easy being red: Princeton Redheads Society

Princeton students celebrate 'the redhead experience'

By Elizabeth Landau
Special to

The Princeton Redheads Society has gotten official recognition and funding from Princeton University.
Princeton University

PRINCETON, New Jersey -- From Elizabeth I to Robert Redford, redheads have stood out throughout history because of their distinctive fiery manes. Now, students at Princeton University have joined forces to discuss and celebrate their unique experiences of having red hair.

The newly formed Princeton Redheads Society, which obtained official recognition and funding from the university, has begun to bring together red-haired students in meetings and parties centered around the theme of "the redhead experience."

Founded by red-haired Princetonians Ann Glotzbach and Doug Rosenthal, the group meets in a red-painted room munching on red snacks such as Twizzlers and sipping cranberry juice.

Members plan redhead-oriented events, honor red-haired faculty members with sunscreen awards, and discuss the many implications of living with red hair.

"It brings together people who may never have met otherwise," said Glotzbach, a senior in the sociology department. "The only thing they have in common is red hair, but that ties them together in such a strong way."

Earlier this year the group played host to Moontan 2004, a nighttime barbecue with Afrobeat music, glow-in-the-dark beach balls and red drinks.

Though the moonlit event was a nod to redheads, whose skin burns under the sun, a diverse group of students responded to the invitation's declaration "All hair colors welcome."

Other events will include a Valentine's Day bash and Eric the Red Day, in celebration of the red-haired Viking who is believed to have colonized Greenland.

The group, with a mailing list of about 80 red-haired students, has achieved such popularity among non-redheads that the officers created a "liaison" program. Liaisons do not have red hair, but help the redheads plan events.

"We're not one to discriminate; we've always been singled out," Glotzbach said.

Redheads face challenges from the sun as well as society, according to some Redheads Society members. Easily spotted in crowds and classrooms, redheads are sometimes the objects of "carrot top" jokes and other teasing.

"You get some attention and hopefully you learn to use it for the better," co-founder Rosenthal said. "For one thing, I think it's one of the reasons a lot of redheads develop a good [and often somewhat sarcastic] sense of humor."

The group has also brought red-haired students in contact with a professor equally passionate about the redhead condition.

Princeton English professor Anne Daniel has spent the past four years pondering, researching and writing about the portrayal of redheads in literature, as well as treatment of redheads in different cultures.

Her forthcoming book, "Redheads," shows that male redheads throughout literary history have been portrayed as powerful and untrustworthy and the red-haired female as devilish and seductive.

While political movements in Ireland and Scotland strive to gain political protection for redheads against discrimination, Daniel finds that in America today redheads mostly enjoy a positive aesthetic status, particularly females.

"In the case of redheads, a stereotype that began negatively has been turned into something very different, and empowering for red-haired women, " she said.

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