[sixties-l] Beard Liberation Front

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: Fri Feb 23 2001 - 15:36:58 EST

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    Whitehall's PC guardians take on evil of beardism


    by Jon Ungoed-Thomas
    February 18 2001

    BEARD wearers of the world unite. The government is attempting to fight
    "beardism" in the corridors of power, having recognised that facial hair
    can be a barrier to success in Britain.
    Those who sport beards complain that the same whiskers that 30 years ago
    lent them style and mystery have more recently made them the object of
    ridicule. Those who refuse to succumb to the razor now complain that they
    are nothing short of an oppressed minority, are passed over for jobs and
    promotions - and even harangued in the street.
    Emboldened by campaigns against the evils of racism, sexism and homophobia,
    the Home Office's equal opportunities guardians have told managers about
    the need to avoid discrimination against the bearded. At a course for new
    managers, staff were asked to consider "beardism" and to note their
    reactions to facial hair.
    Clean-shaven critics have attacked the move as political correctness gone
    mad, but last week a Sunday Times experiment found prejudice against chin
    hair is deep-rooted.
    A reporter sporting a bushy, if false, beard visited shops, restaurants and
    offices and was repeatedly told that his chances of getting a job were slim.
    "You'll have to shave that off," said a staff member at the Ivy, one of
    London's top restaurants.
    "No, no, no," said Tom Hemington, at Kirk Originals, an optician in Covent
    Garden. "At home I've got a sign saying 'No beards'. I wouldn't employ you."
    The Savoy hotel said a shave would be necessary before taking up a job. "A
    goatee may be all right for interview purposes, but they would ask you to
    shave it off for a front-desk position," said a manager.
    Pret A Manger, the sandwich shop chain, said it would consider bearded
    jobhunters: "We just ask them to be neatly trimmed."
    Beardism can apparently afflict even cabinet ministers. Frank Dobson, the
    former health secretary, was advised to remove his for the London mayoral
    election, which he lost to Ken Livingstone. "I told them to get stuffed
    because I'm not in the image business," said Dobson.
    Keith Flett, of the Beard Liberation Front, said: "Beards are part of the
    tradition of the Labour movement, but I don't think new Labour likes them.
    "People seem to think men with beards are dodgy or have something to hide.
    I've been shouted at by youths and van drivers just for having a beard.
    There is discrimination and we need to broaden the opportunities for people
    with beards."
    The BLF was set up in 1995 to support beard lovers and last year staged a
    "mass beard-waggling" in protest at "clean-shaven capitalism" and the huge
    profits generated by those making shaving foam and brushes.
    American beardists have already found themselves in court. In 1998 Brian
    Kennedy, a firefighter, won the right to grow his red beard. He
    successfully argued that a fire service beard ban violated human rights
    laws prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of personal appearance.
    No similar action has been launched in Britain, although the Human Rights
    Act, introduced last year, could be used to pursue a case. Lawyers say
    dismissed employees could claim that beard bans infringe rights to a
    private life or freedom of expression.
    Beardism is, however, entrenched in some of Britain's best-known
    institutions. Keith Graves, a reporter with Sky Television, says he was
    removed from a shortlist of potential BBC newsreaders after refusing to shave.
    Safeway and Coutts have refused to employ bearded men, but the bank now
    allows smartly clipped facial hair.Other organisations take a more relaxed
    view. Under Henry VI's statutes, Eton College permits the captain of the
    school to have a beard, a dog and a wife.
    Not all bearded men are convinced there is prejudice. "It would be
    extraordinary if there was discrimination, but I've never heard of it,"
    said the Marquess of Bath.

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