Understanding ‘Beards and blokes’

By | 2014/01/16

Over on the Sydney Morning Herald, Elizabeth Farrelly has written a diatribe about beards and manliness, called Beards and Blokes: our entitlement generation. I’m not sure who Elizabeth Farrelly is, but I’m fairly certain she’s someone I wouldn’t find many things in common with.

I certainly wouldn’t condescend to let her touch my beard (not that she’d want to).

My beard

My beard

Let’s start with her first statement:

Once, years ago, I had a boyfriend who creeped me out by wearing my perfume. When he started to show an interest in trying on some of my clothes, I dumped him.

It was hardly fair. Neither of us had a problem with my wearing his clothes.

Indeed, it was hardly fair. So the message to start with is that female to male cross dressing is OK, but male to female cross dressing is not. In terms of tolerance, she’s not off to a good start.

Next, Elizabeth points out the seemingly alarming fact that an awfully large number of men seem to be sporting beards these days:

At first glance you’d think that Tasmanian Devil disease has hit town, horribly disfiguring otherwise pretty faces.

Then you see it’s voluntary.

That’s an interesting idea. I wonder how often Elizabeth thinks about the hair or clothing options she chooses as being voluntary or just simply something that she has ultimate authority on. One wonders whether Elizabeth comes from that collection of women who believe that any man in their life is subject to their full control on all grooming choices? I think so.

I see that from time to time. Men who have no say in their personal grooming … their wife/girlfriend (or sometimes even mother) has total say. I usually feel compelled to ask:

So do you get to choose her hairstyle? Her lipstick? Her clothes?

If the answer is “no”, I invariably have to ask:

How often are you allowed to take your testicles out of her purse to scratch them?

Elizabeth, I suspect, has probably kept a fairly tight lock on her purse in her relationships. What happens next in her article is pretty staggering though:

Does the Beard look to resurrect maleness? Reconfigure it? Or repudiate it? And how, if at all, does it bear on the current spate of young male violence, the terrible “coward’s punch”?

I don’t know, Elizabeth. How much do blue rinses and perming have to bear on the dropping of atomic bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima? Could you ask a sillier question?

But she did:

Does the Beard look to resurrect maleness?

Sorry, is the notion of men being men dead now? Did we suddenly all become women and I just didn’t get the memo? Perhaps what is being lost, or killed, is the right for boys to be boys. That’s not about excusing bad behaviour, but it is about letting little boys grow up to be bigger boys and then let the bigger boys grow up to be men. There’s nothing inherently wrong with being a man.

Elizabeth goes on to say:

Yet if the Beard and the Punch demonstrate anything, it is male-pattern insecurity. Is masculinity in crisis? Again?

Ah, male-pattern insecurity. I’ve heard this before. I grew up hearing “only men with weak chins grow beards!”

Well, no. People grow beards because they want to grow beards. The same way as balding men comb 7 strands of hair over their heads and pretend to still have a magnificent crop of hair, and the same way women dye their hair, and the same way men go the gym, and the same way women go to the gym.

Men grow beards because they want to grow a beard, and because it’s their body.

A beard doesn’t mean that you’re someone who walks around delivering sucker punches or coward punches or king hits or whatever the going term is.

A beard simply means you have a beard.

Elizabeth thinks there’s more to this:

The New Beard is a statement. Chest-length and distinctly animal … it is brandished with the pride of a 19th century patriarch. It’s saying something. But what?

I have an idea. It says: “I have a beard.”

Elizabeth doesn’t think it’s that simple. She’s heard of Occam’s razor and wants no truck of it. She waxes on about the various accessories seemingly associated with a beard, and goes on to say:

The New Beard, while explicitly heterosexual, is also painstakingly ironic. So its accessories, far from reinforcing masculinity, deftly defy it.

Explicitly heterosexual, Elizabeth? I’m 40 years old and have a healthy sexual appetite and avow that the last time I had anything to do with a vagina was coming out of the birth canal … 40 years ago. The beard is neither explicitly heterosexual, nor explicitly homosexual, nor explicitly bisexual.

The beard is the beard. I wonder if Elizabeth also thinks that short hair on a woman is explicitly lesbian? My mother would disagree.

As to her final point there … far from reinforcing masculinity, deftly defy it. What, masculinity has a distinct definition now? Well hell, I wish Elizabeth would launch a profile on Grindr and go around the world educating every second person who states that only masculine guys need approach them what masculinity is, so as to clear up any confusion. Because masculinity certainly is confusing.

Maybe Elizabeth should watch this video, so she understands that talking about masculinity as if it were fixed and definable rather than ephemerally always in the eye of the beholder is one of the stupidest things one can do:

Finally she back-tracks a little:

And yes, the coward-punchers are a different demographic from the Bearded Boys.

Really? And tell me, Elizabeth … is the pope catholic, too? Do bears really shit in the woods? And do fish really pee in their own water?

Having back-tracked from tying beards to sucker-punches, Elizabeth tries to mix beards and alcoholism instead:

Even New Beard culture is bar culture; the cocktail creator as rockstar, the bearded barman against a backlit wall of whiskies.

Strangely enough, I know quite a lot of men with beards. Some of them drink, some of them don’t. That’s because some men drink and some men don’t drink. The beard has nothing to do with it.

Somehow beards are also a symbol of entitlement:

Life has taught these children that whatever they want, they should have. Whatever they do, or don’t do, they’ll be applauded. We have all conspired in this, and the dangerous but fascinating spectacle it makes.

Yes, entitlement. A person feeling entitled to grow their facial hair how they want.

But wait, what’s this? Elizabeth then immediately follows with:

What’s to be done? Can regulation help? Shorter drinking hours, greater police powers, fuller jails.

Ah, so somehow this is now all about excessive alcohol consumption. Is it still meant to be about the beards as well, or did Elizabeth have to submit a 1,000+ word article about alcohol abuse and found herself bereft of anything sensible to say for the first 700+ words, so used it as an excuse to kick bearded men in the genitals? I’m thinking she needs to be given shorter word limits on her SMH essays to guard against such embarrassing diatribes in future.

If Elizabeth really cared about alcoholism and alcohol abuse issues, she’d be looking closely at country areas in Australia rather than bearded men. It’s curious that there’s no reference to women drinkers in this article … it seems that all problems to do with drinking in Australia come from the male of the species.

Elizabeth doesn’t get out much, does she?

Just in case we get lost in the message about alcoholism, Elizabeth swings back around to have one more pass at beards and masculinity:

They taught their children that self-indulgence is just fools’ gold. That the monkey brain must be mastered and transcended … [t]hey knew masculinity, like beards, needs careful shaping.

Misandry and prejudice can grow like wildfire though, can’t they, Elizabeth?

But they’ll never stand up to a good beard.

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