Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Interesting user of the word Beard

So I was watching an episode of the new show Happy Endings last week and the character Max was asking for one of his female friends to act as his Beard for the weekend while his parents are in town. What's a beard you ask?

Well in this context a beard is a person of the opposite sex that accompanies a homosexual person in order to give the impression that they are heterosexual.

In this particular episode Max was looking for a Beard because he had not told his parents he was gay.

I'm guessing this is a fairly new terminology since I've never heard it before but I'm usually behind on lingo. Although I get the feeling that if this word had been around in the late 90s it would have been used on Will and Grace.

But there are entries on Urban Dictionary.

So what do you think about this term? Fitting, offensive, don't care?


April said...

I think the way it could be offensive is in the way that "beard" is used as a way to equate "manliness" with "heterosexual." Because it's not like gay men don't have beards, so it seems that the only reason "beards" is the term used is to imply some sort of lack of manliness that would need a standard marker of masculinity to become socially acceptable.

But, on the other hand, the fact that it's necessary to appear more masculine isn't an insult so much as it is a reality. I've never heard the term and been offended, personally, but I'm also a hetero female, not a gay male, so...

elementary_watson said...

Hey, April! As a beardless man (it just won't grow ...) I'm a bit miffed that you equate "beardiness" with "manliness".

Strange, btw, that I as a non-native speaker was familiar with the concept a long time ago; it was referenced in the introduction to a collection of Batman comics I read 6 years ago. I don't know about whether or not gay men find this term offensive, but if I went out with a woman and I heard someone referring to her as a Beard for me, I guess both of us would be pissed off by this.

Amanda said...

I've actually been familiar with the term for years now-- maybe from reading novels that were written in just the right era? I'd always had the impression it was a term people my parents' age (now 65)used.

Tim said...

Uh, I can see 4 people who might find this offensive.

If you equate beard == manliness == heterosexual, then our first two candidates are gay men with a beard and straight men without a beard. No matter the reason why or why not someone has a beard, it still implies that you are either not a real man or really homosexual.

The third one is the person called beard. Being equated with something that can be removed at ones personal whims and that is considered annoying and useless by some is probably not so cool.

And the fourth one is a female homosexual. Or is there a different word for lesbians ? Because if you consider the stereotype of them being especially hairy, it seems kinda strange that they need facial hair to look straight.

Also, equating beard with maniless is totally uncool, April.

Danny said...

But, on the other hand, the fact that it's necessary to appear more masculine isn't an insult so much as it is a reality. I've never heard the term and been offended, personally, but I'm also a hetero female, not a gay male, so...

Just because its reality doesn't mean its not an insult. It is quite insulting. To think that one needs a beard to be considered straight is quite offensive. I find the very fact that society compels gay men to do such things to be offensive.

I'm so tempted to finish that.

Danny said...

EW I'm thinking that April is not trying to imply that she believes it but is only explaining it.

Danny said...

Hey Amanda. Chances are I've just been living under a lingo rock and missed it.

Danny said...

I can dig it Tim. But as I told EW I'm thinking that April doesn't believe it but is only explaining it.

elementary_watson said...

Well, I wasn't 100% serious, Danny. I'm just a bit vulnerable when it comes to things about me some consider "unmanly", like going to ballets without afterwards demanding sex from my companion to compensate me, or being unable to grow a beard.

Schala said...

Funny though, that once you grow a beard, people find it a bad thing, like in Evan Almighty. They think you're homeless, or unkempt at the very least, and you lose social class points. If it's stubble, you're accused of being lazy, if it's full-blown, you're accused of being intentionally "dirty".

I love my boyfriend's beard, but I don't associate it with manliness. He associates the little fine hairs I can grow (which can be visible, but would never be considered a beard) as masculine though. I also love his long hair, and he loves mine. He associates my hair being long and thick with feminity, while his being long is not feminine (but he did get crap for it when he was younger. He stood by it and kept it long though).

So we have society thinking that no beard = boy, not adult. And that beard = lazy, bum. You somehow need to have not-quite-stubble-but-sandpaper-rough-face or something, to be acceptable.

Never heard the term Beard. I also don't see the need to be masculine at all costs (I do know the consequences of NOT being masculine when seen as male, and it does suck...but not being genuine sucks a lot worse...).

Schala said...

I'd like to add, that my hair is very long, at longer than waist (3 feet), while his is about 2 feet, so shoulder blades level (bra-strap for women).

And also to add that in my initial transition, I had a period of indulging greatly in glitter and feminity (what with being chastised for even feminine body language for years), but settled in a slight-femme kind of thing. Hardly ever use make-up, wear whatever I think works for that day (and don't care about making fashion "faux pas" like showing bra straps, having somewhat discolored clothing or wearing sneakers with a non-denim skirt. My boyfriend seems to mind more than me about this kind of thing, and he's no fashionista.), depending on weather, what we're about to do, if I want to dress more sexy or not. I usually forego the make-up, but will don it once in a while for my boyfriend. I frankly don't see how it's supposed to be pretty (to me, it just looks weird).

What makes me femme is that I don't go for masculine-styled clothes (had enough for a lifetime or two) and love my long hair. I also keep shaved (legs, pubic - no armpit hair ever grew). That's about it. I might wear high heels sometimes, if I don't plan on walking more than a bit. My hygiene routine takes me 10 minutes everyday (a bath, that's it), wash hair once every 2 weeks (and it takes 5 minutes), buy clothes when I have LOTS of extra money and see something I really like (and think spending 50$ on a piece of clothing is crazy unless I'm in love with it...but will spend 300$ on something I'm in love with...once in 2-3 years).

So I don't know where that puts me, but I get read as feminine (and female) unless I overdo the feminine (then people question the androgyny of my voice...something they overlook otherwise). I could pass as androgyne male if I dressed in guy clothes, maybe.

Schala said...

...well overly long reply to say:

I'm not that feminine, and yet see nothing wrong with it if that's what's best a fit for you. Regardless of assigned or identified sex.

My sense of aesthetics seem contrary to much of fashion, period. I like lolita fashion almost exclusively as a style. Don't like halter, strapless, or anything showing off cleavage intentionally. And I stand by my taste (that's how I only have 3 dresses, in 5 years - 2 of them lolita). Being genuine saved my spirit from being crushed...and gave me a will to live.

Bema said...

Okay, I'm going to add my two cents a little late. A beard is inherently masculine, but a man with no beard is not inherently not masculine. A penis-bearer of any orientation is not necessarily masculine, and the portion of the population that is or isn't masculine relies on your opinion. And then what benefit comes from being masculine?

We can't say that it is used to separate orientations because the mere fact that you can grow a beard does not make you attractive, since beard-hotness varies. Some people look good, and others look vagrant.

About the human being playing the beard, there must be disclosure in order for it to not be offensive. For example, if you play a girl along as a beard and then inform her of her beard status, that would be unethical. But if said person knows about your gayness ahead of time, then what's the harm? If anything it would be a fascinating sociological experience. Maybe someday I'll have the privilege of being a lesbian [lesbian equivalent of beard goes here] for a night.

My final point and most important point is this: The Emperor Hadrian supposedly wore a beard to hide a bad skin complexion. So instead of interpreting the word as an attribute of masculinity, perhaps it is simply a terribly specific variant of 'mask' for a man, in the sense that the gay man 'hides' things in his beard. Since women lack the critical mass of facial hair so common to men, and if we wanted to come up with an equivalent that took in mind popular hairstyling techniques among women, perhaps 'bangs' would be the word we need:

I'm introducing my bangs to my parents so they disconceive the truth that I am a lesbian.

Danny said...