Australian psychologists had men in the United States and India take part in a survey about sexist attitudes. They had the men answer a series of questions and then divided them into two groups – clean shaven and those with facial hair (mustachioed, bearded, or goateed).
When the sexism score of the two groups was compared, men with facial hair scored higher on sexism. Worse, they scored higher on hostile sexism, not benevolent sexism.
What’s the difference, you ask? Hostile sexism means that the man believes that women are inherently inferior to men. Those men who displayed hostile sexism agreed with statements like: ‘Women seek to gain power by getting control over men.’
On the other hand, benevolent sexism makes men act in protective and complimentary ways. These men are more likely to agree with statements such as: ‘Women should be cherished and protected by men.’
Researchers stated in the journal ‘Archives of Sexual Behaviour’ that not only were bearded men more hostile towards women but that “hostile sexist attitudes and nationality were the only significant predictors of whether or not men chose to grow facial hair.”
86% of Indian men with facial hair scored higher on sexist attitudes as compared to 65% of US men with facial hair. Those with higher education displayed more benevolent sexism.
So, what does this mean? Researchers theorized that men who have sexist views may choose to grow beards because facial hair highlights the difference between the sexes. That is to say, it appeals to hostile males because it maximizes facial masculinity.
Another possibility is that having facial hair makes men adopt sexist attitudes due to social perceptions. Men with beards are regarded as more masculine, dominant and aggressive. The men may simply be taking on socially-held beliefs.
Previous research has shown that clean-shaven men are generally considered more attractive. Even the current trend of bushy/hipster beards is probably on the way out due to ‘negative-frequency-dependent sexual selection’, i.e. the more often you come across a physical trait, the less desire it evokes in you.