Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Editorial reveals bearded stereotypes

Oh, young Princetonian, you have mildly amused me and given me fodder for my blog. This picture

ran to accompany "Ways My Beard Makes Me Seem Thoughtful and Worldly," an opinion piece in Tiger Magazine a few weeks back.  Author DJA opens his argument with the statement that, "sometimes I’ll soak my mustache in scotch before going out to a social event," which leads me to believe he does not truly appreciate fine scotch, or the distinction between beard and mustache, but the article, on the whole, articulates all sorts of bearded-man personas.

A bearded man is:
  • intellectual: "It puts me in the company of other famous thinkers with beards, like Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, Eleanor Roosevelt, Yosemite Sam, and Denzel Washington some of the time."
  • artsy/pretentious: "People don’t question me when I tell them that Darren Aronofsky’s absolutely made better films than this."; "People don’t question me when I tell them that post-structuralism, as a movement, is nothing new."
  • self-sufficient: "People don't question me when I say that I make my own jerky."
  • connected to nature: "People don't question me when I tell them that the weather is soon to change."  "People don’t question me when I tell them that they wouldn’t last a minute on the slopes of Kilimanjaro."; "People don’t question me when I tell them that I’ve seen good land and I’ve seen bad land and this is a bad piece of land."
  • good at "manly" stuff: "People don’t question me when I tell them that the problem’s in their brake pads."
  • political: "People don’t question me when I tell them that this country needs health care, sure, but not Obamacare."; "When someone asks me if I shampoo my beard, I look them in the eye and tell them, “Not until we bring every last one of our boys home.” Then I put my head down and am silent until they go away."
  • intimidating, and kind of primal: "People don’t question me when I tell them that to know a man you have to know by heart the taste of his blood."
 I, rather, subjectively, omitted a few statements I couldn't categorize -- one with racial tones, another about age (because beards make you look older or younger, depending on your face/age), and a last one about sticking three pens in his beard simultaneously.  Because, really, beardman, I'm the writer here.


Ben said...

As a non-bearded man, I feel I should stick up for the shaven ranks here. Most bearded men I know don't fit a lot of these categories. In addition, most shaving men I know fit many of these categories.

What is it about the beard that causes you to attribute these characteristics, which are shared by many a bearded and non-bearded man, to those with beards? If it is a signifier--a sometimes false signifier--of these characteristics, why do you fetishize the signifier as opposed to the content?

Raw said...

You're on to something here Ben.

lostberg said...

Really, guys?
Ben, in my defense, Iiii didn't attribute these characteristic to the beard, the editorial I cited implied it.
Still, it is a wide-ranging, and generally positive, constellation of traits. A few are almost mutually exclusive -- it's difficult to appear primal and pretentious simultaneously.
It's also difficult to stereotype shaving men, because there are so many of them. And if I'm going to make generalizations, I might as well point out an obvious signifier, right?