Science Explains the Hidden Sexism in Beards

December 9th 2015

These days, sporting a beard is quintessential — "hipster" — fashion choice. For years, men have sculpted their facial hair into cool and unique fashion statements--handlebar mustaches, goatees, chin straps, mutton chops and long full beards. But a new study reveals that these unique displays of facial hair could be impacting society in a negative way.

In a new study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, researchers found that men with beards are more likely to hold sexist views toward women than those who did not have facial hair.

Australian researchers Julian Oldmeadow and Barnaby Dixson interviewed more than 500 American and Indian men between ages 18-72, each with facial hair ranging from clean shaven to full on beards. Researchers found that men with facial hair were more likely to agree with hostile sexist statements—statements that reflect superiority over women and antagonistic views toward them

According to Psychology Today, the hostile sexist statements include, "Women seek to gain power over men to control them," and "Once a women gets a man to commit to her, she usually tries to put him on a tight leash."

This is different from benevolent sexism, which according to a 2013 study, is a chivalrous and patriarchal form of sexism. Ideas including that 'women are precious and should be taken care of,' fall right into the paradigm of benevolent sexism.

But why would bearded men be more likely to express hostile sexism in the first place? The researcher who conducted the study has a theory, the Independent reports.

"Men holding more patriarchal views may be inclined to reinforce their masculinity and dominance by growing facial hair," Oldmeadow said.

Now not all men who wear beards are going to be sexist but this study does bring up some interesting points about masculinity.

Beards, a sign of masculinity?

Although men may grow beards for different reasons depending on culture, sexual orientation and age, there is some science that connects beards to masculinity.

According to a study published in the journal of Evolution and Human Behavior and reported by the Telegraph, male primates tend to develop some form of a visual marker to make them attract more females and stand out among competing males. For the male orangutan, it's the cheek flanges on the side of their faces. For the proboscis monkey, it's the elongated nose. On the golden snub monkey, it's the upper-lip warts. But for the male human, it's a beard.

"In large groups where individuals are surrounded by strangers, we need a quick reliable tool to evaluate someone’s strength and quality," one of the study's researcher Cyril Grueter told the Telegraph. "And that’s where these elaborate ornaments come in." In the case of humans--beards.

Share your opinion

Do you think our culture is becoming less sexist?

Yes 44%No 56%