Are Men With Beards More Sexist?

by Emma Cueto

The end of "No-Shave November" has arrived, which means man guys will be saying goodbye to their recently acquired facial hair. But for the ones who don't, it's interesting to note that a new study claims men with beards are more likely to be sexist. Weird, right? But the researchers behind the study say they actually weren't all that surprised.

Now, of course not all men with beards are sexist, and not all sexist men have beards. (Correlation isn't causation, after all.) And, obviously, it's unlikely that growing a beard turns you into a sexist — otherwise No-Shave November would lose a lot of guys their female and ally friends. But the research does seem to show there is a connection between facial hair and beards.

In the new study, Australian researchers interviewed over 500 men between age 18 and 72 from the United States and India. Participants were shown photos of various styles of facial hair, including full beards, goatees, a clean shaven look, and many others, and they were asked to identify which one most closely matched their own facial hair. They were then asked how much they agreed with various statement, some of which indicated attitudes that are referred to as "hostile sexism" such as "Women seek to gain power by getting control over men" and some of which indicated "benevolent sexism" such as "Women should be cherished and protected by men." And although, sadly, they found that two thirds of men, including men with every kind of facial hair, expressed some agreement with at least one of the sexist statements, there was a definite correlation between facial hair and sexism, even after controlling for things like nationality and education level.

What's more, the researchers say they aren't surprised that men with facial hair are more likely to express sexist attitudes.

"We had hypothesized that men with facial hair would hold more sexist attitudes than clean-shaven men, because facial hair associates with masculinity and dominance," one of the study's authors, Julian A. Oldmeadow, told Mic. "So we were not surprised by these findings."

And as the authors hypothesize in the study itself, it is possible "that sexist men choose to grow facial hair because it maximizes sexual dimorphism and augments perceived masculinity and dominance."

So does this mean that you have to break up with your bearded BFF because he's a closet sexist? Of course not. Men grow facial hair for all kinds of reasons — for instance, they might think they look good with facial hair or they find shaving all the time to be a hassle. Not every guy sporting a mustache does so because he's trying to make himself look manly. But on the flip side, it does seem that many men who embrace traditional, sexist ideas about masculinity are more likely to want to grow some facial hair because of the way it is coded as masculine in our society.

In other words, this study doesn't necessarily say anything about bearded men you know, but it does say some interesting things about masculinity.

The fact is that masculinity in our society is, paradoxically, all about power and dominance and control, and yet is also an incredibly fragile construct. When your identity as a man is based around being strong and tough and macho — all of which are defined in very limited and limiting ways by the dominant culture — then it's also very easy to feel you're performking your gender "wrong," and subsequently feel as though your very identity has been compromised. Traditional gender roles don't really do anyone any favors.

The fact that masculinity as a social construct is so fragile has a lot of effects on men, and it makes some sense that men who buy into it would also be drawn to the idea of facial hair. Facial hair is coded as masculine, and it's also relatively solid. In fact, it's one of the few hallmarks of masculinity that is physical, and relatively permanent. While other aspects of masculinity have to be performed over and over again, repeatedly, forever, and can't be performed wrong ever lest you throw the whole thing into crisis, beards just sort of sit on your face, not going anywhere, reassuringly projecting masculinity to the world.

Of course, I have no idea what to say about those guys who put glitter in their beards or how they might fit into this whole scheme. Are they subverting traditional masculinity by making it shiny, a trait which is traditionally feminine? Who knows. Either way, it looks phenomenal.

Images: Pexels; Giphy (2)