Beards are all the rage, or for me, the cause of rage. Tamed animals dangling off into checkered shirts, but, it's been this way for a few years now. All the newspapers are convinced there are scientific explanations, 'the quest for manliness', or, the quest for rank and dominance i.e. the quest to fulfill society's tendencies to privilege men.
I'm fed up with this elegant investigation into beards, from Telegraph to BBC, as if growing, wearing and working in one is an across the board feat of simplicity. Beards are controversial. What the ease of wearing one boils down to is whether you appear as 'other' or 'native', basically, white or coloured, and female or male.
I'm not really sure where to start; I guess I'm a little bitter, no, a lot. Embittered that my beard prompts the supervisor to politely suggest that I shave. But, when a sharp suited white guy with his groomed beard comes in, she and others, act like the best thing since uber just parked up in the room.
Yes, I righteously resent the fact that growing a beard is an entirely different experience from race to race, from class to class and importantly from gender to gender, that there is nothing I can do to change that experience. Growing a beard with no qualms is a white male privilege; let that one grow on you.
There is something fundamentally unjust about the fact that my beard encourages profiling, encourages oppression, whilst a white mans beard encourages admiration. He is sharp and I am suspicious, he is cultured, and I am savage, his beard remind us of Henry VIII whilst I represent an unwillingness to conform to 'British Values'.
This is no abstraction. My beard has brought many a serious violence upon me in Britain; from being called a terrorist, which for me is the single most dehumanizing term, to being stopped and searched for appearances, which is of course illegal; but pointing out the illegality of that has only led to physical restraint being used.
It took a handful of white hipsters and some fashion connects to propel beards into 'GQ' levels of acceptability, a simple but very old victorian equation was reborn, (groomed) beard + white = respectable. What does a beard mean to society? As previously noted, media has come to the conclusion that beards equate to the essence of male domination, patriarchy at its basest, somebody needs to remind the editors that it's more than likely their collective matrilineal heritage are full of beards.
Through mainstream media and culture i.e. western exceptionalism and patriarchy, society has drawn its own conclusions of men with beards; let me debunk some of them for you.
'Mr. Spiritual'. No, the baggy trousered guy with a scraggly big beard, who speaks softly with pearls of culturally appropriated wisdom, is not any more moral than thou.
'Mr Politically correct'. No, the boat shoed hipster with the philosopher's stoned trim, who can whitesplain post-colonialism, is not any more politically correct than thou.
'Mr Strong-protector'. No, the buff lumberjack dude with a beard of Zeus and a fast disappearing mouth, who makes sure to tat close to the muscles, is not a better protector than thou.
'Mr Sharia law'. No, the odd looking man with no Moustache but a big wiry beard, who smiles in that 'I'm stealing benefits' kinda way, is not about to blow up the sidewalk.
No, but seriously, I'm not out to hurt feelings, I just want you to loosen your bun and hear me out on this one.
Dear great white bearded man,
On this white-hetero-patriarchal monopoly board called society, you have one too many 'get out of privilege free' cards, I'm part of a crew, call us the revocation crew, we ensure you understand why ignorance is no longer sufficient, and why 'reverse this' and 'reverse that', is no longer (well, were never really) acceptable responses.
You are flaunting male-whiteness, what is male-whiteness you ask? Male-whiteness is your engendered privileges you have from being a cis-white male within White Supremacy (see: white privilege checklist, and male privilege checklist).
Donning a big old beard and getting compared to Beckham, rather than Bin Laden, or leaving your bag unattended without being informed about national security levels by police, is your white entitlement. Donning a beard without being photographed, cussed, assaulted and harrased is our privilge, a male privilege, that Balpreet Kaur epicly undermined, showing men how shallow and short-sighted we are.
The great rich white man's beard is entitlement on speed, it is a living extension of his privilege, every oblivious but obviously un-subtle beard stroke is a reminder of conquest, why? Because having a beard in Waziristan might mean death, because having a beard and being brown in the USA, and the west at large, can lead to being gunned down whilst planting flowers.
White supremacy is culpable for Islamophobia, which underlies millions of deaths, rich white men choose to synonymise beards with terrorism, and normal white men follow suit, and countless lives are ruined. We're living in a country where 1/3 of people identify as racially prejudiced, where media soundbites could've come out of the Crusades, where beard often signifies 'enemy'.
If you are the benefactor of white-hetero male structural privileges then wearing a beard comes with responsibility, that responsibility is to appreciate the inequalities assigned to our bodies at birth, to stop whitesplaining, to stop dismissing experiences of oppression, to not turn this into a 'we're all working class' affair, ignorance kills, your ignorance kills.