My weird weekend in St Paul »« That’s how I always picture God

Suddenly feeling a bit uncomfortable with my face

It started out that I was just reading this silly piece about some show called Duck Dynasty, and then I followed a link to “Power is on the side of the beard”: Masculinity and Facial Hair in Nineteenth-Century America. Well, yes, I thought. Power. Obviously power. But wait…

…the measures American men took to distinguish themselves from women politically, socially, and visually make sense: boxy clothing and bushy beards were reactions to women’s changing role in American public life. Although men in Europe and the United States had long written—even in times of overwhelming beardlessness—about how beards marked the male members of their species as strong, manly, powerful, and wise, it was only once women began entering “their” public that American men started to cultivate the facial hair they had publically revered (but personally scorned) for generations. Facial hair was a visual and visceral way for men to distinguish themselves from women—to codify a distinctly male appearance when other traditional markers of masculinity were no longer stable or certain.

In the second half of the nineteenth century, beards thus emerged as a key method for American men to demonstrate their masculinity to themselves, to women, and to each other.

Uh, actually, true confession: I grew a beard because I’m kind of a homely guy, and something that would cover more of my face would be a plus. I dreamed of achieving the Cousin It look, but alas, my eyebrows never quite took off.

It gets worse:

By the second half of the nineteenth century, American men had made it clear what it meant for a man to have a beard: it gave him power, it conferred authority, and it allowed him to demonstrate his masculinity. In other words, facial hair turned a man into a “true man.”

“Radical revolt against nature”: Barefaced Women and Masculine Power

Bare chins, on the other hand, were obvious markers of effeminacy and inferiority. Many beard histories pointed out that bare chins were historically used to indicate servitude, and that prisoners were often forcibly shaved to disgrace them further. But despite the looming presence of chattel slavery on American soil until 1865, beard historians were far more interested in demonstrating that women were not supposed to have facial hair.

Perhaps the most passionate argument about why women should not wear beards came from Horace Bushnell, a prominent theologian and preacher who, in 1869, published the brashly titled book, Women’s Suffrage: The Reform Against Nature.

Bushnell’s argument was quite simple: women’s rights advocates argued that they should have the same rights as men because they were equal to men, but no claim of gender equality could be valid, Bushnell believed, because “men and women are, to some very large extent, unlike in kind.” A person merely needed to glance at the two sexes, he said, for the differences between them were so immediately obvious.

The man is taller and more muscular, has a larger brain, and a longer stride in his walk. The woman is lighter and shorter, and moves more gracefully. In physical strength the man is greatly superior, and the base in his voice and the shag on his face, and the wing and sway of his shoulders, represent a personality in him that has some attribute of thunder. But there is no look of thunder in the woman. Her skin is too finely woven, too wonderfully delicate to be the rugged housing of thunder… Glancing thus upon man, his look says, Force, Authority, Decision, Self-asserting Counsel, Victory.

Oh, no, that’s not a view I’m trying to promote! Maybe I need to shave and start wearing a bag on my head instead.

Although now I’m really curious about the mindset that would compel people to write arguments about why women shouldn’t grow beards. Isn’t that kind of unnecessary?

Comments

  1. says

    Ugh. I wear a beard because I wear a mustache and the mustache looks silly without the beard. I wear the mustache because my lip looks urgly. I have an urgleh urgleh upper lip.

  2. HappyNat says

    I usually have a beard out of laziness. I hate shaving and my facial hair grows fast, so if I go more than a couple days it’s a pain to shave so I let it go. I am lazy (and like 5 extra minutes of sleep) hear me roar.

  3. Charlie Foxtrot says

    I reckon my beard makes me look a lot like Wil Wheaton. Thats all the reason I need.

  4. Lofty says

    Good grief. I wear a beard because my youthful experiments at shaving irritated me immensely. Once every month or two I get the barber to run his lawn mower thingy through it and all is good. I don’t think it intimidates too many people around me, it’s not engineered or anything. I suppose some men do wear a beard as a tactical weapon though.

  5. blf says

    Besides being too lazy to shave, I’ve never seen the fecking point to it. My beard looks like a hedgehog in the process of being swallowed sideways. I’ve been compared to Zed Zed Top and some old goof that only shows up around squidmass-time, albeit I don’t really see the resemblance to any of those amateurs myself.

    I have in the past been confused with being a cootie-carrying girl when seen from the rear due to long-ish hair, resulting in considerable amusement when the visible parts of my face are seen…

    Besides, beards are needed to cool the brain.
    And mop up the beer.

  6. Al Dente says

    I have a particularly heavy beard and very delicate skin. I wear a beard because an electric razor doesn’t work on my beard and I dislike having blood sacrifices every morning.

  7. ludicrous says

    Think how that nice clean shaven Lon Chaney felt that moonlit night when the hair between his toes began to bush out Better shackle yourself to your bedpost.

  8. says

    I have a beard because when I hit adolescence I was too lazy to shave every day, and besides I found the shaver irritating to my skin. On one vacation when I was ~16, I conveniently forgot to bring my shaver. After three or four weeks my dad (who could be a remarkable stick in the mud at times) said: “Actually, that doesn’t look too bad. Alright, I guess you can keep it”.

    Forty years later, I’m still too lazy to shave every day.

  9. jste says

    I usually have a beard out of laziness. I hate shaving and my facial hair grows fast, so if I go more than a couple days it’s a pain to shave so I let it go. I am lazy (and like 5 extra minutes of sleep) hear me roar.

    This. Exactly this. (Also, my wife claims to prefer me with a beard, but that might just be because it grows in quickly enough that an hour after shaving my face is all rough and stubbly again.)

  10. robro says

    I would have a beard because I shaving messes with my skin, but my partner thinks it makes me look old. I tell her that I look old because I am old, but she remains unconvinced.

    Isn’t there some story, probably apocryphal, that Lincoln grew his beard at the suggestion of a young girl. He was the first American president to sport a beard. Except for Andrew Johnson, every president after that in the 19th century had ample facial hair until McKinley in 1897. After McKinley only two presidents had facial hair in the 20th century, Roosevelt and Taft, and those were mustaches not full beards. In other words, beards were a fad. You know, men are such push overs for fashion fads.

  11. Al Dente says

    With great beards comes great responsibility.

    I’m totally responsible for my beard. I shampoo it three times a week, just as I do with the rest of my head hair. I comb it. Trim it regularly. Keep it lice free. Murmur gentle words of encouragement whenever the beard appears troubled or upset. Praise it when it does well. Admire it in the mirror.

  12. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I once had the flu over a Xmas break, and didn’t shave for a week. Looked very spotty/scraggly, so now only a day or two of not shaving on weekends/holidays.

  13. paulburnett says

    I have known several ladies with polycystic ovarian syndrome, which give them (among other things) a beard.

  14. barbswire says

    Perhaps at one time there may have been a conscious desire to differentiate from women with beards, particularly during the rise of the suffrage movement and the pushback from some men who’s privilege was threatened by it. Within the last century, I don’t believe this has been the case. In fact, during difficult economic times when the pendulum has swung to the conservative end of thought and politics, that’s when beards disappeared and the clean-shaven, short-haired appearance became predominant. Remember during the 60′s when the “long-haired/bearded” appearance was derided by conservatives. No, I don’t think it has a thing to do with the appearance of “male dominance” today.

    Let’s face it…. we all want to put our “best face forward” (pun intended) and if that means sporting facial hair, then so be it. Women go to great lengths to eliminate ours. If men only knew how many women have to battle beards and moustaches they’d be shocked, lol. In any case, both sexes try to look attractive to the opposite sex.

    I personally really like facial hair on men, and identify as a feminist. I’m not sure why I like beards, but for some reason that particular male “plumage” attracts me. Wear beards responsibly, guys…. it drives some women a little crazy. ;)

  15. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    I wear a beard because without it I look like the 19 year old character whose virginity becomes the butt of a joke every five minutes in a certain genre of movie. >.>

  16. barbswire says

    My first sentence in my comment above didn’t mean women sporting beards, lol. It should have read…

    “Perhaps at one time there may have been a conscious desire by men to differentiate from women by wearing a beard.”

    That’s better.

  17. brianpansky says

    so many people with beards here.

    but i guess maybe shaving is more difficult/unpleasant for some people?

  18. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    so many people with beards here.

    but i guess maybe shaving is more difficult/unpleasant for some people?

    Or, you know, they choose not to, for, you know, the reasons they GAVE?

  19. chigau (違う) says

    How does any of this work in populations where facial hair is virtually non-existent?

  20. says

    I have a beard because I’m… uh… let’s say rotund. Beards are marvelous for hiding double chins. And there are benefits to being an older, larger gent who grows out his beard for Christmas.

  21. brucegee1962 says

    The way I read about it, the beardless look caught on at the BEGINNING of the 19th century because, for the first time, razors were both effective and affordable. And I suspect that, at least in America, beards grew in popularity around the Civil War because shaving in wartime gets to be a hassle. Although I suppose there were plenty of British beard-wearers in the latter 19th like Dickens and William Morris, so maybe that theory is shot.

  22. magistramarla says

    Dear Hubby does not get kisses if he skips shaving.
    I much prefer a clean-shaven man!
    Sorry, PZ.

  23. says

    but i guess maybe shaving is more difficult/unpleasant for some people?

    Yes, for a number of reasons. Some men have sensitive skin (I get horrid zits when I shave regularly). Some men find that their “five-o’clock shadow” shows up around noon (I had to keep an electric razor in my kit if I were wearing my CAP uniform for extended periods).

    And some men just look better with a beard.

    And some men just like their beards. And some men have partners who like their beards.

    And given that the OP is about beards and why some men started wearing them, it makes sense that quite a number of the men commenting are going to have beards.

    If any of this is a problem, feel free to kiss my beard.

  24. says

    I wear a beard because without it I look like the 19 year old character whose virginity becomes the butt of a joke every five minutes in a certain genre of movie. >.>

    My resemblance to a scrawny teenager is only aggravated by the fact that I’m completely unable to grow more than a bit of fuzz on my face. I shave when not looking slightly scruffy matters, but otherwise don’t bother.
    robro 17

    In other words, beards were a fad.

    Pretty much this. They go in and out of fashion pretty regularly.

    commondescentsee 18
    You look a good deal like several of the other male members of my family.
    brucegee1962
    Nah; facial hair in Europe went in and out of fashion repeatedly before that. Straight razors were in manufacture since at least the mid-17th.

  25. PDX_Greg says

    … but alas, my eyebrows never quite took off.

    Now that’s something you don’t read everyday.

  26. joe321 says

    Although now I’m really curious about the mindset that would compel people to write arguments about why women shouldn’t grow beards. Isn’t that kind of unnecessary?

    You obviously have never seen Monty Python’s “The Life of Brian”

  27. Bicarbonate says

    beards marked the male members of their species as strong, manly, powerful, and wise, it was only once women began entering “their” public that American men started to cultivate the facial hair

    …. and women spend a lot of time plucking and bleaching facial hair (mostly eyebrows, chin, upper lip) for the inverse reason. And as women age, many begin to get real whiskers even if they don’t have polycystic ovarian syndrome.

    A lot of people work hard at dimorphism.

  28. chigau (違う) says

    Bicarbonate #37

    A lot of people work hard at dimorphism.

    QFT
    Especially when it’s not really there.

  29. brianpansky says

    Or, you know, they choose not to, for, you know, the reasons they GAVE?

    eh, i was only really referring to some of the more vague comments, like “shaving irritated me immensely” and “I found the shaver irritating to my skin” which are reasons not to shave, but doesn’t provide a reason that the irritation occurred. possible other questions i could have posed would involve type of shaving instrument, motion-and-force-use of the blade, and other conditions such as warm water. (and apparently type of skin)

    but, ya, my wording betrays that i somehow only remembered the vague comments and forgot about the others.

  30. ekwhite says

    I had a fairly decent beard earlier this year due to an extended stay in the hospital. I decided to shave it off because it was starting to stick out of my beard cover at work. I’m down to a mustache now.

  31. Pteryxx says

    French feminism with beards – La Barbe

    La Barbe (“The Beard” – which also means “enough!” or “boring!” in old French slang) is emblematic of this resurgence. Members of the collective appear regularly on the front pages, sporting their fake beards. With 74 actions under its belt since its inception in March 2008, and with offspring organisations in Nantes, Toulouse, Niort and even Mexico (where they’re called Las Bigotonas – The Great Moustaches) La Barbe’s MO is to gatecrash high-level political, economic and cultural events every two weeks. Women wearing fake beards take the stage and stand silently in front of the array of individuals in suits and ties to underscore the pervasive over-representation of men in places where important decisions are made. They hand out an humorous flyers to the public, congratulating men on successfully keeping “harpies and gossips” out of their ranks and maintaining all power within their wonderfully firm male grasp.

  32. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    Hm, so calling a woman a gay man’s “beard” maybe comes from this? As in, a gay man isn’t manly, he even has a fake beard to pretend being more so.

    *googles a bit*
    I can’t find anything. Not sure that means there isn’t anything to find (I was in a bit of a hury).

  33. says

    in Minnesota you just tell people you grew a beard for the deer hunt and kept it for the winter but sort of liked it,of your wife sort of liked it so you keep it.

  34. says

    I got a bad looking beard because with or without it I am bad looking guy. And beard means less hassle, shaving means already mentioned blood sacrifice and early waking-up, so why bother with shaving? There is no upside to it.

    The final drop to the decision to grow a beard was, that until not so long ago when I was shaved, people tended to gravely underestimate my age and spoke to me in overtly familiar/patronizing way, which I found extremely irritating. The experience of buying a pack of beers when 30+ and being asked for ID to verify my age never thrilled me too.

    Now I got a few wrinkles too, so this would probably be no problem any more, but there is no wasy back. I grew accustomed to not shawing and became laaaaazy.

  35. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    chigau,

    That was my first stop, but it didn’t confirm my guess so I figured wiki must be wrong sometimes too. ;)

  36. Artor says

    I wear a beard because I have thick eyebrows, and without the beard to balance them, my eyebrows would dominate my whole face. Also, last time I shaved the beard off, I looked like a geeky teenager again. No thanks.
    As for women with beards, the only reason not to is that they usually can only manage a patchy scraggle. I’ve know women with beards, and the best I’ve seen was a wispy goatee, a little off-center. My facial hair didn’t come in thick until a ways into my 20′s, and my teenage goatee looked like it was embarrassed to be seen on my face.

  37. says

    I’ve got to shave this crap off my face in the next 18 hours or so. I look younger and less ridiculous clean shaven.

    And speaking of beards it’s interesting that neither Koji Uehara or Junichi Tazawa joined the Red Sox mountain men squad this year. Guess they’re not beard growers either.

  38. thecalmone says

    A few days ago I asked an ex if she had ever had a bearded lover. Don’t remember how the subject came up. Anyway, she said something like “Yeah – one or two – kissing’s a bit weird but it’s great for oral.” I kind of wished I hadn’t asked…

  39. Matrim says

    I wear a beard primarily for two reasons: I’m lazy and don’t like to bother with shaving 99% of the time, and I tend to get razor burn and ingrown hairs when I do. I had to shave every day for years, I’m glad I don’t have to bother with that silliness any longer. I think I look better sans beard, but not enough to make me want to deal with shaving. I never really saw it as a symbol of power…wait, no, there was a point in my life where I did. But it wasn’t masculine power, oh no. It was when I had my long flowing Nordic locks, that combined with my beard was a symbol of power…THE POWER OF METAL!!!

    There are days I miss my metal phase, but long hair is also a pain.

  40. graham says

    When first married we lived in a small caravan with no electricity and only one wash-basin for everything. Growing a beard meant one less chore in the morning in a crowded kitchen-cum-ablution area. I like my beard, my partner likes it so it’s stayed. I do have a beard trimmer and give it the once-over a couple of times a week. Now that the hair on top has thinned I use the beard trimmer on that too, so no more trips to the barbers.

  41. graham says

    …and to echo a previous commenter, yes it has been remarked upon favourably in the context of oral sex.

  42. madtom1999 says

    Earlier in our evolution the alpha male had a beard as a symbol of power and beat the shit out of anyone trying to take his place. Young males started to shave to avoid his wrath and stay in the tribe and this allowed larger tribes and human progress.
    Of late however males have discovered that shaving still triggers the maternal nurturing instinct and you get your dinner when you come home from pretending to hunt rather being attacked by other alpha males all vying for position – though they do co-operate a bit and pick on shaven ones of different tribes.

  43. reinderdijkhuis says

    My beard, which I only started growing out while working long-distance for a while 4 years ago, ages me considerably – possibly by up to 30 years, if the reactions of strangers are anything to go by. I’m still keeping it.

  44. Louis says

    Although now I’m really curious about the mindset that would compel people to write arguments about why women shouldn’t grow beards. Isn’t that kind of unnecessary?

    [Tongue meets cheek]

    Curse you and your myopic Americanocentric perspective! We of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern heritage, and indeed occasional habitation of said locales, know full well that women grow beards. Why several of my aunts have spectacular facial hair. Beards aid them in lifting heavy object and spitting on the corpse of Mussolini and sundry important Mediterranean Lady Activities. A beard is a great signal of quality in a potential wife as she may be useful in starting various revolutionary groups and shooting Nazis.

    Never underestimate an elderly Cypriot aunt with a rather spectacular beard. You could end up working a summer on her farm in Cyprus due to your dodgy Greek and her instance on a youthful verbal contract made accidentally.

    That last bit happened. The rest was not serious.

    Louis

  45. bortedwards says

    I’m currently struggling with a five-weeks-of-fieldwork-beard. Actually, for once I’m almost at peace with it, but as I’m about to apply for a visa to live in the United States of Parnoia I thought a beard and glasses not shown in my passport photo might be difficult. Or I’m just looking for a reason to return to my more comfortable beta male role…

    @33 gijoel, your link is of a band who also proclaim this:
    http://youtu.be/RmFnarFSj_U

    A mate of mine just posted the first picture of him holding his newborn son (like a board) and the caption “at least he knows he’s got a dad” yuk yuk yuk.
    I hope he’s naive and I’m being overly sensitive, but am I reading too much into that song to find tones of homophobia or mysogyny??
    Am I missing the sweet sweet bogan (redneck for you yanks) humour? Genuinely unsure…

  46. Bicarbonate says

    madtom1999 @56 wrote:

    Earlier in our evolution the alpha male had a beard as a symbol of power and beat the shit out of anyone trying to take his place. Young males started to shave to avoid his wrath and stay in the tribe and this allowed larger tribes and human progress.

    I’m assuming your alpha male schtik is an attempt at humor. yuck.

  47. says

    “And priests wear dresses…uh, why?”

    Priests get dresses for similar reasons to women.
    It’s the “power derived from non-participation in reality” type thing.
    Priests are meant to be above such things as having anyone see them do such a vigorously earthy thing as convey themselves across the floor with their own legs. They should all hover whilst contemplating sexually abusing pre-teen angels on pinheads and that makes them better than you.
    Plus you can’t see the legs, yet they move and that’s magic like god or something.

    Women can’t look like we’re walking, participating in reality, because the very visible effort of it all makes us look a bit too self sufficient and that makes us all total bitches, likely to report our rapists, ask for raises etc. It won’t make us that much better than other men, like the Priests, but it does make us better than other, disobedient women.
    Could do into this further, including how shorter skirts and heels won’t counter this at all, but really I’m here for the beard symposium.

    So Beards…I like them. My Dad, my first male role model, had one and it’s difficult to reconcile the thing I associate with weaning with Islamofascisism and evo-psych stupidity.

  48. Louis says

    Matt G, #59,

    I want to answer your question, but I fear I cannot do so without making a terrible joke.

    Louis

  49. says

    I’m terrible at shaving, but generally I just want to have no hair on my face because it’s too itchy and hot.
    Oh, except this mustache, but that’s because I want the look of an evil lunatic walrus…

  50. roggg says

    I have a beard because the hairs…they just keep growing. What am I supposed to groom daily or something? Nobody’s got time for that. Beard it is.

  51. says

    Along with a certain amount of lazyness looking more masculine really was a conscious decision behind growing my beard in high school. In middle school I started growing my long and it got down to a shaggy just past the shoulders look. Teachers, students everyone was having a problem gendering me. I had people asking me my gender during recess, one teacher tried to insist I couldn’t sit in a spot because I was a girl and she wanted everyone sitting boy-girl. So when I started growing facial hair in high school I just embraced it as a way to make them all shut up a little. These days its not as important but I still find it more comfortable having a bit of fuzz on my face.

  52. says

    I originally grew a beard (well, a goatee… it’s been a beard for years though) back in college because I hated to shave. I keep it because my wife (then girlfriend) gave me the absolute most horrible “you shaved” comment when I cut it off. It was the kind of tone that you get when your parents are too disappointed to be angry with you…

    Needless to say, a decade later, and I’ve never been without some level of facial hair. Shame to see something born out of laziness being co-opted for… this.

  53. gussnarp says

    I grew a beard because my roommate/coworker and I had no time to shave for a couple of weeks. At the end of that, having outbearded him (there were not many people I could have outbearded then, only a few more now..), I decided to shave the patchy bits but keep the goatee/Van Dyke/mustache/full chin and lip covering. It also had the side benefit of covering a weak chin. When a friend of mine later shaved a truly legendary beard, revealing that he apparently had some kind of void of evil magic where his chin ought to be, the wife forbade me ever to shave my chin. Later I let the rest of the beard fill in to cut down on shaving and keep warm (doesn’t work, the winder wind is just as cold).

    I don’t think we today need to worry about 19th century beard justifications by a handful of misogynists. Beards were also common on radical leftists, many of whom were supporters of women’s suffrage. In fact, it is these radical leftists who became most strongly associated with beards, which is the main reason we’ve not had a President with a beard since Benjamin Harrison. I, for one, am glad to see this mark of leftist radicalism and intellectualism make a comeback. But that doesn’t mean I like all beards or all bearded men, by any means.

  54. ledasmom says

    Tualha @ 67, that is awesome. I would be very tempted to do that, except that I would make a rather tall Gimli.

  55. wondering says

    Gottsdammit.

    My chin is the last place I still try to remove hair. Now I feel like I should start sporting those whiskers, but at the same time I feel extremely uncomfortable about not plucking those damn goat hairs. You’d think that getting over the need to pluck eyebrows and shave legs, pits, and “other places” *ahem* would make it easier to give up the chin. But no, that one feels harder than the others.

    Massive cognitive dissonance, batman.

  56. says

    Well, and to give a POV I’ve not seen yet, when I transitioned, one of the criteria they insisted on before allowing you on the Magic Surgery List was electrolysis to remove any facial hair, whatever your own opinion on it. Enforced dimorphism for the loss! :(

    Fortunately, my premature greyness came to my rescue, as such facial hair as I’d had (never more than scraggles) quickly became more or less invisible. There’s not much left by now, as I’ve finally uprooted most of it, and I doubt I’ll spend any more money on making it go away.

    Also enforced: change of name to something unambiguously new-gendered (even if your old name was ambiguous, like Chris or Leslie or something), divorce from any previously-hetero marriage (the only kind at the time), and a certain number of hours per week of enforced exile from home. Being a stay-at-home Mom? Not womanly enough! Being an artist or writer? Not extroverted enough! Being queer? Not allowed, find yourself a husband, bitch. Being androgynous? Get tae fuck. Don’t like makeup or sequins? Not womanly enough! Play “masculine” (i.e., team sports which are not field hockey) sports? Not allowed! Hobbies like wargaming or model railroads? “Why do you hate being a woman so much?”Try to point out that lots of AFAB women do many of the above things? You lose 10 Tranny Points, and must go back three spaces!

    And if you try and tell that to the trans* kids today, they won’t believe you. Why, I had to transition in a hole in t’middle o’ road! (et c.)

  57. says

    WTF? I wrote this long comment, really awesome and funny, and now it’s not showing up. And it won’t let me re-post the comment, because it claims I already did. But it’s not showing up. :(

  58. michaelvieths says

    If I didn’t have a beard, the *evil beard stroke* gesture would be less effective. Also, since I’m into bears, it’s romantically advantageous. :) Also also, I can store pencils in it. And sometimes dice. They have a million uses, really.

  59. Pteryxx says

    CaitieCat #72: usually that means a word in the comment tripped the spam/slur filter. Try again with more asterisks?

  60. says

    Well, and to give a POV I’ve not seen yet, when I transitioned, one of the criteria they insisted on before allowing you on the Magic Surgery List was electrolysis to remove any facial hair, whatever your own opinion on it. Enforced dimorphism for the loss! :(

    Fortunately, my premature greyness came to my rescue, as such facial hair as I’d had (never more than scraggles) quickly became more or less invisible. There’s not much left by now, as I’ve finally uprooted most of it, and I doubt I’ll spend any more money on making it go away.

    Also enforced: change of name to something unambiguously new-gendered (even if your old name was ambiguous, like Chris or Leslie or something), divorce from any previously-hetero marriage (the only kind at the time), and a certain number of hours per week of enforced exile from home. Being a stay-at-home Mom? Not womanly enough! Being an artist or writer? Not extroverted enough! Being queer? Not allowed, find yourself a husband, b*tch. Being androgynous? Get tae f*ck. Don’t like makeup or sequins? Not womanly enough! Play “masculine” (i.e., team sports which are not field hockey) sports? Not allowed! Hobbies like wargaming or model railroads? “Why do you hate being a woman so much?”Try to point out that lots of AFAB women do many of the above things? You lose 10 Tr*nny Points, and must go back three spaces!

    And if you try and tell that to the trans* kids today, they won’t believe you. Why, I had to transition in a hole in t’middle o’ road! (et c.)

  61. David Marjanović says

    <_<

    image

    That’s convincing.

    possible other questions i could have posed would involve type of shaving instrument, motion-and-force-use of the blade, and other conditions such as warm water.

    All of these are irrelevant when your skin is sensitive enough.

  62. says

    I’m clean shaven because hipsters.
    Also it gives neighboring clansmen nothing to grab to help slit my throat.
    (Though with modern safety razors and lotion it only takes me 5 minutes while showering with nary a scratch)

  63. awakeinmo says

    I likes my Honey to have a neat goatee. He looks good in it. Aaaaand I have a crush on Robert Downey Jr., and the goatee is vaguely reminiscent of Tony Stark. Yeah, I’m also a nerd. And as long as I’m sharing too much info, I must agree with Graham @ 55.

  64. gussnarp says

    As one who’s said I have a beard at least partly out of not wanting to spend the time shaving, I’ll also point out that I don’t consider myself “too lazy” to shave, nor do I have any particular problem with shaving. In fact, I quite enjoy shaving and rather miss it. But when I became a parent, I found that every second spent sleeping, keeping the kitchen clean enough to avoid disease, or doing any number of things required to prevent unpleasant odors, was hard enough to come by that I truly needed to “shave” the few minutes spent shaving.

  65. Pteryxx says

    Enforced dimorphism for the loss! :(

    CaitieCat #76, thanks for that, and the reminder that lots of folks don’t get to decide based on personal preference.

  66. muttpupdad says

    As a wee lad I was told by my father that I could not begin to shave until I was sixteen, by which time I was so used to having a beard that I didn’t want to get rid of it. The only time I have been forced to be clean shaven it took an Act of Congress to do it( boot camp), but lucky Uncle Elmo said we swabbies could go without and as soon as I graduated boot, I pitched my one and only razor into San Diego Harbor.

  67. says

    bare chins were historically used to indicate servitude, and that prisoners were often forcibly shaved to disgrace them further.

    The line with “retail” has always been “well groomed”, but one has to wonder, given this nonsense, if there isn’t a certain prevalence of this same idea in retail, along with the sort of “private school” theory of erasing personal identity by hiding tattoos, when possible (or not hiring people that have them), not allowing much of *any* piercings, and all the rest of the BS you get in “major” companies, most of which I consider bloody stupid rules, even though I hate having a beard, and don’t have any of the other “proscribed” things.

  68. sumdum says

    My hair grows so slow, I can get by with shaving once or twice a week. Sometimes I wish I could grow a proper beard, it seems like fun.

  69. says

    I have a particularly heavy beard and very delicate skin. I wear a beard because an electric razor doesn’t work on my beard and I dislike having blood sacrifices every morning.

    Well, there is that. Though, for me, the regular razors are just a pain in the ass to use, and cost money I would rather not spend. The electrics.. work, if you are not lazy about it (you pretty much can’t be lazy with a regular razor), and the blades in them are sharp, which they eventually do need replacing. Anyone tried one of these new zappy things, like the “no no”? The name just… wtf, but if in principle the damn things worked, and you had to shave less often with one….

  70. otrame says

    My grandmother (who was not exactly the “sweet” type*maasive understatement*) used to say men who wore beards were trying to hide something.

    I started shaving when I realized that I was spending way too much time plucking every day and the resulting ingrown hairs were horrible. I HATE shaving, so much so that even when I was young and trying to pretend to be a “normal” girl, I often let my legs go without shaving. Then i gave up on meeting an ideal of womanhood that was entirely artificial and quit all shaving (among other things). Until my beard got started, as i said. I feel no overwhelimg urge to be consistent. I do not like my chin covered with hair that is coarser than my head hair.

  71. anuran says

    …because GOD put that beard on your face. Do you think you’re so smart you can fight GOD?
    (There, that should get half of ‘em planed off)

  72. says

    bare chins were historically used to indicate servitude

    I’d love to see these “beard historians” tell that to the Romans. It was one of their proudest distinctions against their enemies/subjects – that they had the discipline and dignity to show their full face to the world and to their gods at all times.

    and that prisoners were often forcibly shaved to disgrace them further

    Heads maybe. Never heard of forcibly shaving whiskers.

  73. pacal says

    I grew a beard because I can’t stand shaving. Further I see no problem with a beard being an assertion of masculinity. Frankly I just do not understand the appeal of ripping up your face on a daily basis. I also don’t understand women who shave their legs.

    Yeah I know that there is a lot of social pressure on women that hair on your legs is un- feminine and so should be removed and that there is a definite anti-beard bias in contemporary attitudes towards male facial hair in North America. Still it amazes me how many people buy into this anti-hair crap.

  74. pacal says

    Tigtog No. 89

    bare chins were historically used to indicate servitude

    I’d love to see these “beard historians” tell that to the Romans. It was one of their proudest distinctions against their enemies/subjects – that they had the discipline and dignity to show their full face to the world and to their gods at all times.

    So the Romans were arrogant, pompous asses, who made over the top comments and creamed themselves when they looked in the mirror. Hardly news.

    I remember reading of a meeting in Greece in which a Roman Aristocrat explained why the Romans shaved off their beards. He gave the dignity and discipline argument and didn’t forget the stuff about not hiding their faces from the Gods. A bearded Greek replied – Why would the Gods want to see a mutilated face?

  75. Markita Lynda—threadrupt says

    Don’t sweat the small stuff! As long as you don’t chase after women randomly to tickle them with your beard, it is simply a preference. Beards for men and long hair for women are fashions that ebb and flow.

  76. conway says

    I’m really pissed off that the goatee and mustache look has become so prevalent these days. I’ve been rocking it since 1977. Back then, I could go months without seeing anyone else with the style. Now I’m sure people think I’m an old dude trying to look young. But I’m just a guy who thought Errol Flynn was the coolest and as soon as I could grow it, I did.

  77. says

    I just like my beard. I like the way it looks and feels. I like the way it moves when there’s a breeze. I even enjoy the compliments I get on it, though that’s not my main reason for keeping it.

    The only real downside I’ve noticed it people acting like I’m a criminal or assuming I’m a member of certain religious sects.

    I’ve been pulled over by a cop who claimed it was because I made too many turns from the grocery store on the way back home (my husband smokes and had just lit up, so I went a bit out of the way to give him a chance to finish up), and that that was somehow suspicious. I suspect, though I can’t prove, since he never cited me for anything, that his primary criteria for stopping me that I had a long beard and was wearing a tank top.

    I’ve also had someone drive up to me on the street while I was walking back to work from lunch, get out of her car and ask me if I was Jewish (as if it was her business), and then, when I said that I wasn’t, she still asked me if I knew of any Synagogues in the area.

    Other people’s stupidity aside, I still prefer having my beard.

  78. ledasmom says

    muttpupdad @ 85, you had enough beard to shave at 16? I’m asking because I really have no idea when boys usually have to start shaving if they don’t want whiskers. Older son (16) has been growing a mustache for the last, oh, four years at least.In a couple more years it may be visible to the casual glance.

  79. says

    My facial hair was the usual thin adolescent fuzz throughout high school and the beginning of college — I had to shave starting around 16, though, because it looked hideous growing in. Then when I was 19 or 20, the mustache erupted and was an unstoppable growth, while the rest of my face was thinly populated. I first grew a biker ‘stache because that’s where all the hair was.

    The beard filled in gradually over the next ten years. And now that I’m in my 50s, the hair is just sprouting everywhere — if I live to be a hundred, maybe at last we’ll discover the Yeti.

    As a developmental biologist interested in patterning mechanisms, though, I’ve got to say that I find the progression of patterns of hair growth (and also of baldness!) to be really fascinating. They say that there are variations in follicle properties, such as sensitivity to androgens, across the head and face of men — sorry, ladies, you generally aren’t as interesting in this regard, since you don’t seem to have the hormonal conditions that allow them to be expressed to the same degree — that differ in individuals and over time. It’s the same problem as why tigers have stripes: how are these patterns specified? I make journal searches now and then on the subject, and unfortunately it’s mostly phenomenology right now, descriptions of patterns with little understanding of the underlying mechanisms.

  80. ledasmom says

    So there’s something else I’ve been wondering about and can’t find much information on – what causes the leg baldness? For the past few years I’ve had (pause to roll pant leg up) little to no hair on the outside and the back of the calf, a little hair in a ring around the ankle just above the ankle bone, a little hair on the knee, hair on the toes. Harder to tell above the knee as hair there has always been light and pretty much non-visible.
    Is this something that happens to a lot of women and people just don’t notice because so many women shave? Do men get this?

  81. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Is this something that happens to a lot of women and people just don’t notice because so many women shave? Do men get this?

    I see something similar. The pants leg rubs against the hair, removing/abrading it where it rubs. Heavy fabrics like denim, and tight fitting legs, are likely culprits.

  82. Esteleth, statistically significant to p ≤ 0.001 says

    Leg baldness? I have patches on my legs (mostly where fabric rubs and on the back of my knees) where I’m bald.

    I am, for the record, a woman. I don’t shave, because I can’t be bothered. Also, I’m blonde, and my leg hair is sparse anyway, so I don’t need to. *shrug*

  83. gussnarp says

    Leda’s mom,

    I don’t know about leg baldness in women, but my father’s legs are almost entirely without hair. What is there is light and thin so that he could pass for having shaved his legs on all but the closest examination. He generally has very little body hair, but he has a reasonable amount on his forearms and was at least capable of growing a mustache, like everyone else in the 70s and 80s. So that his legs seem even more hairless than the rest of him. He always told me I’d never be able to grow a beard and, being a late bloomer, I believed him. Then suddenly at around 18 I started to grow hair. So at any rate, whatever weird body hair gene he has either didn’t make it to me or isn’t dominant. Unfortunately this means I also had terrible acne, whereas he had absolutely none, ever.

    I often wonder about hair genes, you hear a lot of mythology about hair inheritance, but I wonder what the truth of it is. Do two different genes result in a blended outcome of some sort, or is one strictly dominant? How many genes are involved? Are there genes for head hair that are separate from those for body hair, or are they interrelated? I tend to assume that testosterone levels are strongly involved in hirsuite bodies and early male pattern baldness, but what are the other contributors?

  84. ledasmom says

    I don’t think the leg baldness is a result of fabric rubbing. Doesn’t matter what fabrics I wear, and this summer was pretty much all shorts anyway. There’s no difference between the area covered by socks and the area that isn’t. Also, it showed up just a few years back, and it’s not like I didn’t wear pants for my first 35 years or so – if anything, I wore pants more, because I didn’t wear shorts until this summer.

  85. says

    Leg baldness: count me as one on the abrasion theory side. My legs are ordinarily hairy for a dark-haired woman above my knees, and I only shave them if there’s some particular reason I need to wear a skirt and no stripey socks (my usual signature piece of clothing). This is almost never.

    The hair is the same on my thighs and upper calves, but about three inches below my knee, it just stops, more or less. I have very little hair below that point.

    Me, I tend to think it’s beyond coincidental that that’s where my football socks came to, and only a little higher than where my combat boots came back in the day when I wore a uniform.

    Between forty+ years of football (soccer) as a player and referee, and four years in the military, I simply don’t have hair left where my socks/shinguards and combat boots used to go. I mention the combat boots because that’s when I first noticed how bare my legs were getting down low, and it’s gotten more pronounced over the years.

    It may not be the cause for everyone, but it seems an unlikely coincidence in my case. Y(L/100km)MV.

  86. barbswire says

    Comment #99:

    As a developmental biologist interested in patterning mechanisms, though, I’ve got to say that I find the progression of patterns of hair growth (and also of baldness!) to be really fascinating. They say that there are variations in follicle properties, such as sensitivity to androgens, across the head and face of men — sorry, ladies, you generally aren’t as interesting in this regard, since you don’t seem to have the hormonal conditions that allow them to be expressed to the same degree — that differ in individuals and over time.

    Oh, I think women may be more interesting than you think PZ. Most women are just really good at hiding the changes that come from hormonal shifts in middle age. From female pattern baldness to chin whiskers, to mustaches…. to the really truly greatest mystery of all…. the disappearing eyebrow. I say mystery as there seems to be a correlation between the loss of a women’s eyebrows… and the corresponding explosion in quantity of men’s.

    Coincidence? Mere correlation? I thought so too, until I was made aware of the “migration of the eyebrow hair”. What, you might ask, is that? As I have been told, it is the movement of hair from a female’s eyebrow to that of a nearby male, often her partner, leading to her having to get an eyebrow pencil or powder to fill in the gaps, and he with things that could be mistaken for living entities such as particularly furry caterpillars or space aliens hiding in plain sight. What happens to older single women’s eyebrow hair or those of lesbian couples is unknown, but it’s thought the eyebrows begin a long journey to find similarly single men or male gay couples.

    Of course, the migration cannot be witnessed as the eyebrows refuse to begin or continue their migration if they know they are being watched or filmed. You can see the evidence, though, and just need to have have faith. ;)