Sunday, March 02, 2008

To Shave Or Not To Shave

I am not a fucking terrorist.

I'm also no stranger to controversy. I think that's something people know about me.

Growing my beard was always going to bring forth people's stereotypes. I mean - everyone knows a terrorist has a beard right?

To be honest, the initial inspiration behind my current facial hair was Leonidas...yes it's that sad. I enjoyed the spectacle that was the film 300...and chose to grow my beard like the lead character. There were several other excuses I cultivated:
i) I was going skiing in February and needed to keep warm...(bollocks!)
ii) I'm raising awareness of male health issues, especially prostate cancer - yes that silly month of 'Movember' (note that I acknowledge the importance of raising awareness of prostate cancer, but a vast number of shitty moustaches on men in London does not make me think it was the best way of doing it)...
iii) I have it for religious reasons (total bullshit - although lots of people immediately assumed I was Islamic - ahh the human capacity for living in assumptions...)
iv) I'm growing it to court controversy and expose people to their own stereotypes and judgements, and thus bring about an elevation in their consciousness (yawn)
v) I like the way it looks...(true and somewhat convincing)
vi) I can't be bothered to shave (true and perhaps the most convincing)

It was quite amazing that my facial hair change this time round could generate so much controversy. I've always changed it pretty regularly and people accept it...what can I say? I get bored...I liken it to a woman changing her hairstyle/ colour every so often.

I can deal with silly comments from strangers - that just makes me laugh - especially as they're so rare. It's the comments I get from people close to me that annoy me.

The initial reaction from the closest one was a bit apprehensive at first...but she loves me whatever I look like! I had initially said I would shave it off coming back from skiing but I got too attached to it (pun intended).

No - the reaction from some of the other people close to me was horror, thinly disguised disgust, followed by general disappointment that I could go through with leaving myself looking the way that I do.

Admittedly for about two months I let it grow wild.

Then before Christmas I trimmed it...it looked quite stylish...so much so my grandmother actually said she liked it...(maybe that's not the best indicator of style).

Then in January I sculpted it further to its current incarnation imitating Leonidas - it's original purpose.

It then started to get annoying being constantly asked 'when are you going to shave it off?' Predictably this spurred me on to keep it for longer. What makes it more interesting is that the logic behind their protests is 'it makes you look like a Muslim' (read that phrase again and imbue the word 'Muslim' with a certain amount of disgust and that's generally how it was said to me).

To my mind that's no fucking reason to get rid of my beard.

It's also an indication of the narrow-minded, judgemental nature of humanity, and it does annoy me. It seemed as if growing my facial hair is viewed as condoning ignorant, suicide-bombing, narrow-minded, morally-reprehensible, woman-persecuting terrorists.

Perish the thought that ALL terrorists have beards and are Muslims.

Perish the thought that ALL Muslims are terrorists...yet that's what some people around me think. I suppose I should be glad that those close to me are taking the time to point out how dangerous world that we live in actually is; that they're just expressing how much they care, by telling me to shave.

Aren't we better than this? Surely we can see through the ridiculousness of it all.

Apparently not.

It got me thinking about perceptions of terrorists...Russell Peters has a few things to say about it...so does the Loose Change documentary...[By the way - every self-respecting person living in a democracy owes it to themselves to watch the loose change documentary.]...but are people really that bothered by a beard?

I think people are manipulated by the mass media...Noam Chomsky wrote Manufacturing Consent ... we are more open to suggestion than we realise. Someone else I know is a big fan of 24...and he suggested that the series is American propaganda...apparently the main character is put in a position where he has to use torture to 'save' America - even though the U.S. is a signatory on the Geneva Convention. Are there circumstances where torture is justified? Is the series 24 'preparing' the American public?

All this from a beard...

Anyway - the time is right for it to disappear - I'm getting bored of my look...not sure what will be next - but I'm hopefully going to raise a lot of money for charity by having a live beard shave at school...for every £50 raised, a section of the beard will disappear...some boys are (apparently) willing to pledge a lot of money to see it go; another group of boys want me to keep it...either way, it will disappear eventually.

If only people's prejudices and paranoia would too.

J.

This post was brought to you by: prejudice, everyday racism, and beards.