The French Resistance movement against the Nazis and the Vichy regime during World War II stands as one of the most courageous struggles of the 20th century. Its efforts to combat oppression and discrimination in occupied France were valiant; and though I do not mean to undercut what they accomplished in this column, it’s time to put away the wine, stash the Brie, and move on, François. There’s a new resistance movement in town: the Beard Liberation Front.
As much as you might think that this is just some kooky idea I’ve conjured up, it isn’t. (Read on for one I actually have.) The Beard Liberation Front, or BLF, is a British group that combats discrimination against bearded people. Founded in 1995 by socialist historian Keith Flett (what is it with socialists and beards, anyway?), the BLF gives out an annual Beard of the Year award to notable people who have railed against an otherwise clean-shaven system.
While some BLF campaigns are semi-humorous (they cited Santa Claus as promoting beardist taunts during the holidays), the organization has taken hard-line stances on many mainstream issues. They spoke out against Exxon Mobil’s ban on beards worn by workers and, according to a 2002 article by BBC News, the BLF called for a protest of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix because of the “obviously false” facial hair worn by actors Richard Harris and Robbie Coltrane in the film.
The goals and rhetoric of the Beard Liberation Front come as a burst of fresh air in this politically correct age where people are divvied up into minority groups and every college pamphlet from Cornell to clown school is riddled with that nine-letter word — ooh, it pains me to say it — diversity. It’s good to see that beard advocates have decided, “Hey, if every other minority group is doing this, why can’t we?”
Granted, beards, unlike race or gender, are a personal choice. But a bias against beards is still a bias against appearance, and that is just as troubling an issue as any other. To show solidarity with the Beard Liberation Front, and in light of the successful and important messages spread during both Black and Women’s History months, I propose Beard History Month.
Beard History Month would be a time when people can look past physical differences and join together in celebration of bearded peoples’ struggle to surmount clean-shaven oppression. No matter what their political beliefs, great figures in beard history can be honored and bearded martyrs memorialized.
Since February and March are already Black History and Women’s History months, respectively, the logical choice would seemingly be December. After all, December is the month in which tradition says Jesus was born, and while Jesus is famous for his skills at carpentry (among other things), he also had a beard. But celebrating Beard History Month in December would be unfair to bearded men not named Jesus Christ. I mean, the man already has Christmas.
Instead, I propose that in honor of Charles I of England, another bearded martyr claiming divine influence, Beard History Month should be celebrated in November, the month of the monarch’s birth in 1600. Stubborn, opinionated and unwilling to conform to the changing times, Charles embodied many of the common characteristics associated with those who wear beards. He may have appeared politically backwards and felt it unnecessary to explain his policies, but he stuck with his guns in the face of mounting opposition.
Charles was eventually beheaded after a decade of civil war by the Parliamentarian forces of Oliver Cromwell — a notably hairless man — who had warts on his face to boot. Cromwell was also purported to have been staunchly anti-fun and once made a virulent speech to members of Parliament on the evils of keeping kittens.