Within hours of the announcement that William Windsor and Kate Middleton, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, were expecting a baby, Twitter was filled with offensive jokes about the baby being ginger.
Ben Everitt, who describes himself as a “policy/strategy geek and big four consulting escapee with more than an active interest in politics and community,” reported a work discussion. “Conversation in the office has already turned to whether it will come out ginger. Consensus is that it’s great economic news, though #kate,” he tweeted.
Elliott Web, who describes himself as a “freelance radio presenter and voiceover artist,” made a reference to a possible infidelity in the Royal Family. “Nice royal baby news, unless it comes out ginger in which case we’ll get the very first royal DNA test on Jeremy Kyle #kate,” he joked on Twitter.
“Monarchists being excited about this expected baby who could rule over them really shows how ridiculous they are,” Ashu M G Solo, a prominent civil rights activist, said. “This future baby has done nothing to deserve the honors that will be bestowed upon him or her, but they still want to be future subjects of this baby. Let all people be created equal.”
Ginger jokes may be an accepted part of free speech, but for some it is not a laughing matter. In October, Matthew Woods was jailed for 10 days for making offensive jokes about missing five-year-old April Jones. One of the so-called jokes was “Who in their right mind would abduct a ginger kid?” Campaigns were set up on Facebook, such as “Free Matthew Woods,” in order to speak up for the perceived miscarriage of justice.
Jonathan Bishop, who runs The Crocels Trolling Academy, said in both cases this is free speech, “My best friend Mark’s girlfriend is ginger and she gets her fair share of jokes from me and others,” he said. “We have to accept that in a democratic society, people are going to say things that are offensive to some, but that doesn’t mean people should go to jail for exercising such free speech.”
Solo, who is also a prominent interdisciplinary researcher, said he prefers redheads and argues that lawmakers in the UK should embrace the old adage that sticks and stones can break our bones, but words can never hurt us. “These jokes are offensive and irrational, but don’t warrant criminal charges,” Solo said. “Different people find different things offensive. When we start banning one form of speech, we are on a slippery slope to banning other forms of speech that can have more merit. Excluding libel and slander, let everyone enjoy full free speech for only then can society reach.”