Men who treasure the rugged masculinity of a bushy beard may also treasure patriarchy. A new study finds that men with beards have a greater tendency to hold sexist attitudes than their clean-shaven counterparts.
The study, published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior by a pair of Australian psychologists, analyzed the attitudes of 532 American and Indian men through a survey on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. The survey questioned the men about their attitudes toward facial hair and the degree to which they agreed with statements representing different types of sexism ranging from hostile (“Once a woman gets a man to commit to her, she usually tries to put him on a tight leash”) to benevolent but paternalistic (“Women should be cherished and protected by men”). Then, they looked at pictures of men with different types of facial hair and picked which one most resembled their own.
More than 77 percent of the sample had some sort of facial hair, though Indian men were more likely to sport hairy faces than American men. Even when controlling for this difference, however, the researchers found that bearded men are more likely to hold attitudes of hostile sexism. However, beards were not associated with benevolent sexism, for reasons that the study’s authors could not explain.
Previous research has indicated that facial hair is linked with perceived masculinity, and the researchers hypothesize that growing a beard may appeal to sexist men because it reinforces gender differences, potentially reinforcing their feelings of male dominance in society. There may also be a link between bearded men, testosterone levels, and sexist beliefs but further research would need to delve into these underlying causes.