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October 17, 2013
Recently while interviewing for a job that would have put me on public view in front of a particular company’s clientele, I was informed that my facial hair would not be a hindrance toward my potential in being selected for the sought-after position.
Perplexed at such an inane (and what I considered self-evident) statement, I swiveled my head and with raised eyebrow played the moment over in my memory, hoping I’d misheard or misunderstood the sentiment of my could-be new employer.
How do you mean?
“What I mean is that your beard is allowed…”
I hadn’t misheard. My eyes widened, their upper and lower lids repelling each other at a distance great enough to stretch the skin of my face—I hoped—just enough to keep my mouth shut. (Never say too much at a job interview.)
You see, Friends, I have heard stories—ones I’d hitherto written off as urban legends—about those poor, hapless sons-of-mothers whose jobs in certain sectors require that they scrape the masculinity from their faces each morning (before then tying silk nooses around their glabrescent throats). But I had never found myself in the thick of such a situation.
My beard has been called a lot of things: big, soft, awesome, to name a few. But “allowed” is one I hadn’t heard before. And though it was a compliment insofar as it didn’t demand I remove the beard, it also implied that my very beardedness exists solely at the discretion of my employer.
I happen to think that’s bullshit. My beard is ON MY FACE. I didn’t win it via illegal gambling in underground casinos. I didn’t get it at Macy’s One-Day Sale. I didn’t have it applied by tattooists or henna-hawking eye-brow threaders on Canal Street. It’s my face.
The idea that beards do not “portray professionalism” is just ridiculous; moreover it is arbitrary and castrating. Let’s explore…
First let me tell you a lawyer friend of mine has confirmed: WE HAVE NO CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO FACIAL HAIR. So, off the bat, it is not illegal for companies to require that your mug be clean-shaven. (However, it is your responsibility as a bearded man to seek other employment should they try.)
Apparently the “Pursuit of Happiness” doesn’t include beards, even though I’m pretty sure it’s a part of my own MANifest Destiny—that is, my beard is more than just a sexually dimorphic androgen-dependent secondary sexual trait. It’s a lifestyle.
For some, it’s a religious symbol, and others are forced to grow them because shaving creates medical dilemmas such as the dreaded pseudofalliculitus barbae (extreme, chronic infection caused by razor bumps). These instances are legally protected.
Have you ever encountered "workplace discrimination" because of your facial fuzz? Do you think beards are too indicative of individuality which prevents the fostering of teamwork in the workplace? Or are we operating under rules that were simply created based on outmoded social mores?
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