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Op-Ed: Understanding the Glitter Beard

Photo by Greg Salvatori

It's not just a whimsical fad, it's a commentary on manhood.

While hate continues to pour in from the piece decrying Glitter Beards as a trend that "must be stopped," the general conversation mistakes the affect for a fad instead of understanding it as a commentary. Beards are a proclamation of manhood. The glitter beard, such as the one I was photographed with by photographer Greg Salvatori challenges and, in some aspects, seems to undermine what manhood actually is.

Our construct of American masculinity sits atop a pedestal and is looked upon in wonder by the masses. It's an edifice carved with persistent effort that dictates acceptable gestures, words, music, and dress. It informs how a man should walk, dance (or not dance), stand, eat, move (or not move), and speak. In the past decade, many of us have embraced beardedness as an outward expression of manhood and, in certain ways, even patriotism.

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In a culture where perceived masculinity is the manifestation of maleness, some of us have decided to subvert this image by decorating our beards in a decidedly un-masculine way. And, while some have pointed to the hateful commentary directed at glitter beards as a reason we should feel shame for having worn them, I counter that these attacks are quite specifically the point of why many of us have done it. As a culture, we quickly jump to violence and hate speech wheever masculinity is challenged.

More and more, social media is interwoven with our perception of the world we inhabit. It is the vehicle that drives our news, and the gallery that presents us with the culture we consume. So, before you assume you've stumbled upon the next mullet, maybe you should instead wonder if what you're seeing is simply the next silk-screened soup can. Viva the glitter beard!

Watch the GayBeards tutorial on how to glitter your beard:

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