Does a Beard Make You a Man?



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Megan Nollet and Bruce Gulland look at the history and meaning of beards. Does having a beard make you more of a man?

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Transcript


Voice 1  

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Megan Nollet.

Voice 2  

And I’m Bruce Gulland. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1  

Sam Weiner wanted to have a face full of thick hair. He wanted to grow a beard. He felt it was something he should be able to do. But he never could. So he decided that he would not shave off the hair on his face until he had a beautiful beard. He wrote about this for Vice.com,

Voice 3  

“After a few days all I get are a few thin hairs, mostly on my neck. My facial hair is both like wires and sadly thin. I look like a cross between a magic wizard and a sad teenager. I do not like how beards look. But I hate that I cannot grow one!”

Voice 2  

Men have been growing hair on their faces for thousands of years. Some men can grow large beards. Some men cannot grow any beard. But beards are more than just hair. They have religious, social, cultural, and even political meaning. Today’s Spotlight is on beards.

Voice 1

On the most basic level, beards can be helpful. If a man works outside, a beard is a way to keep warm in cold weather. But what is the purpose of a beard in warm weather? Or when a man works inside all day? Beards must be more than just a way to keep warm.

Voice 2  

Beards have been popular in different times and places. Beards often become popular because the leader of a country has a beard. In ancient Egypt, men would remove all their hair. Egyptians thought hair made humans more like animals. They would even remove their eye lashes - the small hairs over their eyes! In ancient Greek culture, beards were a sign of power, wisdom, and being a real man. Some Greek men would cut their beard off as a sign of mourning. Or they had to cut it off as a punishment. On the other side of the world, the ruler Genghis Khan had long hair and a beard. This style became popular across what is now China.

Voice 1  

Growing a beard can be a way to connect to the past. It can also be a way to reject the past. If an old leader has a beard, the next leader may not. If the old leader does not have a beard, the next may grow one. Christopher Oldstone-Moore wrote a book about the history of beards. It is called Of Beards and Men. He spoke to Esquire magazine.

Voice 4  

“Growing a beard is about reacting to the cultural meaning of facial hair. It is an attempt to define what it means to be a man in a different way than the generations before. There are particular times in history when men have decided to throw off that normal habit of shaving. They began a different way to express being a man.”

Voice 2  

Beards are also deeply connected to religion. Around the world, people live their religion in many different ways. But at different times, there have been commands to grow beards in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Sikhism. Religious commands to grow a beard begin with what it means to be a man. But they often become signs of religious devotion.

Voice 1

Growing a beard can also be a sign of becoming an adult. Men cannot grow beards until they become an adult. Then their bodies produce a chemical called testosterone. This chemical causes the hair on the face to grow. This is why it can be difficult for men who cannot grow a beard. They may feel like they are not a full adult.

Voice 2  

However, being unable to grow a beard does not make you less of a man. A person can have the necessary chemical testosterone. But the hair on the face does not react. Men who cannot grow a beard usually have normal levels of testosterone. They simply have genes that make it difficult to grow a beard. And yet, many people continue to think that a beard shows that a man is strong, able to have children, and would make a good mate. This leads to the other reason men grow beards. Many men grow beards for women.

Voice 1  

In 2016, the University of Queensland in Australia did a study. They showed thousands of women pictures of men. The men had either no beard, a short beard, or a big beard. Women said that the men with a short beard or no beard were the most sexually good-looking. But the womens’ answers were different when asked who they would marry. Lesley Alderman wrote about the study for the New York Times.

Voice 5  

“When it came to choosing a partner, or a man whom a woman could have babies with, the more facial hair the better. Men with full beards were the clear winners on this question. This suggests that men who are ready to marry may do better if they shave less.”

Voice 2  

Science shows that men who cannot grow beards are still able to have children and be strong. But this study confirms that many people still connect a beard with what it means to be a man. So should all men try to grow a beard? Oldstone-Moore says no. It depends on what you think it means to be a man.

Voice 4  

“I think men are thinking about what it is to be a man and how to represent that. And people are more divided than in the past. And what it means to be a man or woman is changing in lots of ways. It makes sense that men would consider a beard as a way to think about being a man. It is a move toward the natural. I think that for a lot of men, that has got to be an important piece of what it means to be a man today - or maybe just a human being. One of the ways to show you have choice is to choose to have a beard.”

Voice 1  

What do you think of beards? Do they look good? Do you wish you had a beard? Tell us what you think. You can leave a comment on our website. Or email us at radio@radioenglish.net. You can also comment on Facebook at Facebook.com/spotlightradio.

Voice 2  

The writer of this program was Adam Navis. The producer was Michio Ozaki. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called, ‘Does a Beard Make You a Man?’.

Voice 1  

Visit our website to download our free official app for Android and Apple devices. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

Question:

Do you think beards look good? Do you wish you had a beard?

Comments


Avatar Spotlight
Lan Can
said on April 22, 2019

In VN, we have an idiom: Dress cannot make someone to be a monk. Beard cannot make a man become manly.
But when I see a man with beard, I feel he is so attractive.

Avatar Spotlight
Honneur
said on April 22, 2019

I’ve worn beards a few years in my life, but I’ve never wanted to be more man than I really was. Those who think like this are weak in mind and do not know what it is to be a man in all situations and times. I do not wear beards anymore because mine have gone white and I do not like being called Santa Klaus ...

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bamfg
said on May 13, 2019

Men with beard are sexy.