Back in 2012 I launched Beardbrand as a way to help unite a community of Urban Beardsman. When I first grew my beard I constantly got snark remarks about being ZZ Top or Grizzly Adams. While those are notable and cool guys, it wasn't the type of persona I felt represented me. I wanted to show the world that a guy can have a beard, take care of his family, be an excellent co-worker, and be a steward of the community. Sadly, these were not common assumptions back then.
Well, after 5 years I feel like the world has shifted dramatically. Many athletes are growing their beards, creative professionals, and even those in the broadcast booths are having the confidence to wear a beard. It's no longer a faux pas to wear a beard in the corporate environment.
So with all the headway that's been made for men to grow and wear their beards, you'd think the bigotry would have ended. Well, sadly it seems as if it's gotten even worse.
But now it's now coming from within the community.
The Bearded Community
I started growing my first long(er) beard in 2008 when I was raising money for the charity Beards BeCAUSE out of Charlotte, NC. Those first few years of growing I didn't have much support from others locally. In fact, I knew very few "bearded guys." Due to the lack of support, I went through the all too common cycle of shaving my beard and growing it back. I kept that habit going until 2011 when I decided to embark on a beard growing journey.
While there still wasn't much of a local support network, the online communities had grown dramatically and I was able to learn so much about growing a beard, how to take care of it, how to power through the challenging days, and celebrate the good beard days. Online communities like BeardBoard and Bearded Gents fostered an overwhelmingly positive and fair perspective of beard growth.
Now, these established communities are out there and they continue to be a positive resource for thousands of men. In addition to those, some new ones came up, like r/beards, our YouTube & online community, and several different Facebook communities.
In fact, you can almost narrow down your exact preference of beard type and the type of community to connect with. It's an awesome time to have a beard and to find a brotherhood. But it's not all roses.
The bigotry of beardsmen by beardsmen
See among some of these communities, there has been a growing sect of hateful and intolerant beardsmen. I see it a lot more in our YouTube & Facebook comments than ever before.
Just take a look at this negativity:
Now, from my observations, our YouTube channel has much more positive & constructive criticism than our Facebook page which seems to be more hateful. There is a pressure for guys to keep a long beard - that it's not acceptable to have a shorter beard or no beard at all.
We've been working so hard to get rid of comments like these:
That we've been blind to the rise of comments like these:
And here's the thing, the negative comments do have affects on people as mentioned here:
Here's how we change things
So I'm not one to sit back and let the world move in the wrong direction. I think we have control of our community and it's our responsibility to make sure we spread a positive message. Afterall, it's that leading by example which sets us apart from the others. While emotion gets us all (myself especially), it's important to step back and analyze our words and actions.
So here's some simple rules to help grow positivity for our bearded community.
Rule 1) People are all different, and that's ok.
Rule 2) People have a right to make opinions about others.
Rule 3) People's opinions will be regarded with higher esteem if they are delivered in a constructive or positive manner.
Rule 4) Name calling and belittling is done by those who are dealing with their own insecurities.
Rule 5) You're actions make an impact on the world. You can be a positive change for good.
Now, here's the thing. Let's say you've grown your beard out and found the journey awesome (like many of us have). If you are like me, you've had people who you strive to be like or want to model your beard after. If they shave or trim you feel like you've lost your benchmark and that sucks. It's normal to feel let down or to think that the person made a bad decision. The reality is that we don't know the full picture of their life and they may be considering other things that aren't apparent to you.
So a best commenting strategy would be something along the lines of, "I really loved your long beard and I'm bummed that you shaved it. That being said, I respect your right to do it." or "In my opinion, your beard looked it's best at 4 inches in length but it's cool you are trying new things."
Both of these comments are critical of the actions, but they are delivered in a way that doesn't belittle the person behind the beard. It's a fine line between constructive and negative. If you are ever on the fence with a comment, try to spin it towards the positive side.
If you feel a community has gone down a negative cycle, then take action and bring in some positivity. It may be hard and an upwards battle - but it won't go unnoticed. The challenge in these situations is not to fall back on the very thing that is happening. For instance, "No one gives a shit about your opinions you fuckwad" is not a very good way of bringing positivity back into the conversation. Something more along the lines of, "hey guys, remember these are real people on the other side of the internet and we only get a picture into their decisions. Try to deliver your opinions in a more positive light!"
Most people want to be better people, but at the same time it can be hard to acknowledge when we've been a dick. Allowing people to gracefully step away from their actions will help people correct their words rather than coming back with guns ablaze.
Here's to making the world and the internet a happier and better place. There's no reason for intolerance, bigotry, and hate to persevere. Fight to do what's right and keep on growing!