The Good Life

Positive psychology and what makes life worth living.

What's Wrong With Red Hair?

People want their children to look like them.

Part of the problem with redheads is that there aren't enough of them. They make up just two percent of the population. So they're pretty extraordinary. Redheads are too numerous to be ignored, too rare to be accepted. - Grant McCracken

In class the other week, during a break, a conversation took place about a recent report that sperm banks no longer want red-headed donors. Because two of the students in the class have very red hair, a lot of teasing occurred, all good natured I hasten to add.

But I left the class wondering if there were more to the story than what was conveyed in the conversation. I poked around on the Internet and found out that there indeed is more. Some issues about who we are as people and especially as parents are raised.

According to a report I found on msnbc.com (Taylor, 2011), it is only one sperm bank, Cyros International, that does not want red-headed donors, and the reason is that they already have enough "doses" (that's the word the story used) at present from red-headed men, some 140,000. That exceeds the demand. Cyros International is located in Scandinavia, where many of their donors are red-haired or blonde. However, this bank supplies sperm to 65 countries world-wide, and people elsewhere do not want red-headed or blonde donors, unless the donors also have dark eyes. And tall donors are always in demand, regardless of their hair color or eye color. It is good to know that 6'4" Conan O'Brien has a Plan B if the comedy thing does not work out.

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Apparently, sperm from red-headed donors is in demand in Ireland and to some degree in the United States. Why? People want their children to look like them, and Cyros International is on the lookout for donors who are Black, Asian, Hispanic, Mediterranean, or multiracial. And tall of course.

I had never before thought about the whole process of donated sperm. From what I could glean from Wikipedia and other Internet sources, sperm banks are variously regulated and have different policies. At least in the US, the donor is not usually identified by name, but information about his ethnicity, height, weight, skin color, hair color, and eye color is often conveyed. And at least in the United States, other information may be available as well, like the donor's education or special talents, for an extra fee, of course!

In the best of all possible worlds, all children would be a blessing, and it would not matter what color their hair might be (or how they were conceived). But in the real world, there are all sorts of reasons why parents want their children to resemble them physically, including a wish to avoid comments and questions, some of which might be rude or insensitive. Or maybe parents simply want their children to feel they "belong" in the family, and physical resemblance helps. Or maybe parents worry about prejudice if the child has a certain look out of kilter with most people in a locale.

Although I am not aware of pervasive prejudice against those with red hair, I do know that stereotypes abound, many unflattering, and that South Park episode #136 featured over-the-top diatribes against kids with red hair, freckles, and pale skin. (I assume this episode was an allegory about irrational prejudice of all sorts.)

So, I have no further opinion here except to note that these issues are interesting and probably speak to what parents want. I for one happen to like red hair.

Reference

Taylor, K. H. (2011, September 22). Sperm bank: Redheads not wanted. Men's Health on msnb.com. Document available on the Worldwide Web at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/44579757/ns/health-mens_health/t/sperm-bank-redheads-not-wanted/

Christopher Peterson was professor of psychology at the University of Michigan.

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