In the weeks after Halloween is over, observers worldwide may witness their family, friends and coworkers grow increasingly scruffy. Clean-cut gentlemen across the globe suddenly don facial hair that continues to flourish as November progresses. So what is this fuzzy-faced phenomenon that is sweeping the nation’s twenty-something year old men?
Ask anyone involved, and he’s likely to tell you he’s growing out his facial hair for No Shave November, a month-long event where participants challenge themselves to see if they can make it the entire thirty days without shaving their face.
However, a closer look shows that many participants may not know the true purpose of the practice.
No Shave November is actually a spin off of “Movember,” a charitable movement where participants sign up and, while growing moustaches, collect money to donate to men’s health research.
The idea of “Movember,” according to Movember.com, is that growing a moustache will spark “conversations about men’s health that lead to greater understanding of the health risks men face.”
According to their website, the charity began in Australia in 2003, and has since spread to 21 countries, raising an estimated $446 million, 90% of which is donated to foundations that help awareness, education and research for both testicular and prostate cancers.
With the month’s focus shifting from the topic of men’s health (“Movember”) to a more social context (No Shave November), some observers worry that the ritual’s core purpose is being overlooked.
Dr. Janet Starner, an English professor at Wilkes, weighed in on the confusion.
“The initial sign of not shaving points to ‘let’s talk about prostate cancer,’ but that relationship has been disrupted by a social urge that says ‘beard? Oh, cool, this is a cool social thing to do.’… and those are very different,” she said. “It becomes not something about charity… it becomes the next cool thing in the way you look.”
Starner said men often grow up with an idea that they need to “man up,” and that their bodies will fix themselves – an idea that society pushes onto men. This, she said, makes No Shave November counterproductive.
“When it becomes a social practice that is founded on ‘how do I look?’, then it reinforces the very stereotypes of male toughness that leads to the problem of undiagnosed prostate cancer in the first place,” she said.
However, some men participating in No Shave November see benefit in the month, despite the negative consequences that Starner noted.
“I think it builds camaraderie in the male community,” undeclared sophomore Billy Parsons said. “It’s something to do together.”
As students familiar with the trend explain, the problem doesn’t seem to be a lack of consideration for the cause, but rather a lack of awareness.
“No one knows what is stands for,” sophomore nursing major Carolyn Scarponi said. “Instead of raising positive awareness, (people are) geting negative attention.”
While “Movember” has a charitable foundation, No Shave November has a strong social aspect that has the benefit of not needing to pay money.
The charity, however, stresses the importance of pledging, as it helps the awareness and understanding of men’s health issues.
Students who are interested in learning more about the “Movember” movement, the charity’s history, financial information and how to sign up can go to their website, Movember.com.