Inside GoD: Dartmouth’s Ginger Community
Two writers explore what it means to be a member of Dartmouth’s red-haired community.
Picture this: It’s the first day of classes. Nervously seated among strangers, you grab your notebook and computer in preparation for the lecture. You glance around the room, when suddenly, you get the feeling that someone is watching you. You turn your head, making eye contact with the person next to you. You notice their red hair, similar in hue to your own. As you take in your shared ginger-ness, you are confronted with a peculiar question:
“Are you a part of GoD?”
This was the experience of Chase Harvey ’25, a member of the GroupMe entitled “Gingers of Dartmouth,” or “GoD.” Gingers of Dartmouth, composed of 144 undergraduate gingers, provides a setting for gingers to grow as a community and foster connections with fellow redheads, according to Harvey.
When confronted by members of the GroupMe on the first day of his first-year fall, Harvey was extremely confused. However, he was quickly drawn into GoD and has now been an active member for two years.
“They just said, ‘Are you a part of GoD?’ And I said, ‘What? What do you mean by that?’ And they said, ‘I think you'll be a part of it soon,’” Harvey said.
Owen Hornberger ’27, a new member of the group, recounted his own “interesting” introduction to GoD.
“I was just at an event… and someone came up to me and… added me,” he said. “They had been searching for me because I had a doppelgänger.”
That doppelgänger turned out to be Harvey, who had been on a quest to find his look-alike.
“It was like a little mission,” Harvey said. “I’ve… walked up to… random gingers that obviously look like ’27s. And I’ll ask them, ‘Are you a part of GoD?’ Sometimes they’ll get scared, but then they'll join reluctantly.”
Elsa Coulam ’27 enjoys her newfound ginger community, despite never considering hair color as a foundation for friendship.
“I never really identified with people based on my hair color… [it’s] a funny thing to be fired up [about],” Coulam said.
Members of the GroupMe don’t typically communicate through written language. Ginger solidarity in GoD occurs through images, explained Harvey.
“The scrolling up goes so far,” Harvey said “It’s just pictures of redheads, on and on.”
Because of the small population of red-haired individuals on campus compared to the masses of blondes and brunettes, members of GoD greet one another enthusiastically when they see each other in real life, according to Coulam.
“When gingers just happen to run into each other, they… grab a selfie and send it in [the group chat],” Hornberger said.
In addition to the myriad of smiling selfies, GoD enjoys occasionally discussing all kinds of ginger-related topics, according to Hornberger.
“People talk about their favorite ginger characters, common ginger struggles like sunburn or holidays like St. Patrick}s Day and Kiss a Ginger Day,” Hornberger stated.
However, admission into GoD is not as open as you’d expect. According to Harvey, the rules as to who constitutes a ginger are blurry. Those with dyed hair are not allowed into the group. Strawberry blondes or people with auburn hair might find themselves subject to the opinion of the “council,” which is simply the entire group chat.
“If it’s obvious, [we] just add them,” Harvey said. “But if there’s questionability … you’ll just go send a picture of them to the group chat and let the council decide.”
A lot of the confusion seems to arise from dyed hair.
“It’s very controversial,” Harvey said. “If someone even dyes their hair from being a redhead to [something else], they’re booted [from the group].”
Although he’s only a ’27 himself, Hornberger has already had the opportunity to add other gingers to the group.
“It was a great experience to bring someone else into the fold of our flourishing community,” Hornberger said. “[Being a ginger] definitely connects you to other [gingers].”
Coulam remarked that the GroupMe “put [her] at ease” when she first came to Dartmouth. She described how it was a “funny thing” to be a part of, especially during the stressful transition into college life.
“I feel like I’ve seen people, and I recognize them [from the group chat],” Coulam said, speaking of GoD.
The online community of GoD translates into real — although informal and oftentimes brief — connections, sometimes in the form of doppelgangers like Harvey and Hornberg, Harvey stated.
“[Gingers] are just built different,” Harvey said. “There [are] people in the group chat I would fight for, and I wouldn’t even fight for myself.”
Recently, there has been discussion of a meet-and-greet for GoD, which has never met in a formal setting. Typically, group members only interact with each other if they are already friends, so a social would allow them to bond as a community.
Harvey expressed his interest in seeing the reaction of non-gingers on campus when confronted with an all-ginger meet-up.
“What would you do if you were just walking past the Green, [and] you saw like 100 gingers just standing there … talking to each other? You’d be terrified,” Harvey said.
Along with the idea for a social on the Green, the GroupMe has proposed a Run of the Gingers, inspired by Boston College’s first annual Run of the Gingers, held on this past St. Patrick’s Day. The run featured around 40 students and only lasted about a minute, but it nevertheless allowed red-haired students to come together and feel a sense of community.
“I know at some colleges, they do runs of the gingers or something where you get all the gingers together and run around,” Hornberger said. “I think that’d be fun.”
“I absolutely would [participate],” Coulam agreed.
Socials, runs and in-person meetings would help alleviate the teasing redheads sometimes endure.
“I feel sometimes [people with red hair are] just an easy target,” Harvey said.
Gingers can often be the brunts of jokes or the unwilling objects of attention. Coulam spoke of her experience as a ginger in high school, noting that being a ginger was often seen as a rare and “funny thing.”
“If you saw mostly gingers in class, you’d be like, ‘Oh my God! Look at all those gingers,”’ she laughed.
For gingers like Harvey, it can be difficult to find a community of people to relate to, particularly when only 2% of the world’s population are classified as redheads.
“We’re going extinct,” Harvery said. “I don’t know what to tell you. Have you seen the numbers lately? They’re dwindling.”
Fortunately for Harvey, there are no studies showing a concerning decline in the ginger population.
The red-headed population at Dartmouth may be small, but they are mighty. Hornberger vocalized that GoD is a means of “recognizing [gingers’] greatness.” Even though ginger hair isn’t always visible phenotypically, it still may be hidden somewhere in a person’s genome. Its brilliance is rooted in its recessive quality.
Harvey joked that the GroupMe works to preserve the ginger community in the face of adversity — from the teasing of other Dartmouth students to prying stares across the globe.
“You can’t win all battles,” Harvey said. “But you can win the war.”