Should women who lust after beards be careful what they wish for? A new study published in Archives of Sexual Behavior suggest that they might.
Both benevolent (patronizing, worshipful) and hostile (aggressive, misogynist) sexism support male dominance in society, and prior research has shown that facial hair enhances ratings of male dominance. Given these two facts, psychologists Julian Oldmeadow (at Swinburne University of Technology) and Barnaby Dixson (at the University of Queensland, Australia), wondered if perhaps a relationship exist between sexism and facial hair?
To answer this question, they assessed the facial hair status and degree of hostile, benevolent, and ambivalent (a combination of the two) sexism of men averaging age 31, with a range of 18 to 72 years old. To ensure that any observed relationships between facial hair and sexism would be generalizable, the researchers sampled participants from two distinct cultural groups. Of the total 532 men, roughly 40% identified as Americans living in the USA, while the remaining 60% identified as Indians living in India. Of the Americans, 65% reported having facial hair; of the Indians, a whopping 86% did. (Preliminary results showed that Indians scored higher than North Americans on both dimensions of sexism, though I doubt the beards are to blame for this.)
More relevant to the task at hand, within each culture, men with facial hair scored higher for hostile sexism than clean shaven men, and hostile sexism predicted facial hair status. As the graph below indicates, there was no such link for benevolent sexism.
So why are bearded men more sexist? Well, previous studies have shown that facial hair enhances facial masculinity and perceived social dominance, so men who hold more patriarchal views may be inclined to reinforce their masculinity and dominance by growing facial hair.
And why were beards not associated with more benevolent sexism? Perhaps because facial hair functions to reinforce gender roles, which aligns more closely with hostile (read: dominant) sexism.
Interestingly, there were no statistically significant relationships between facial hair status and other demographic variables, including age, education, relationship status, and sexual orientation.
So are all men with facial hair sexist, and all men without facial hair not sexist? Of course not. But before you decide to start dating that sexy lumbersexual, make sure you discuss feminist theory with him.
Oldmeadow, J. A. & Dixson, B. J. (2015). The association between men’s sexist attitudes and facial hair. Archives of Sexual Behavior.