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Pugnacious professors

December 17th, 2004

Via Henry Farrell, and Michael Froomkin comes the news thatIf you want a chair, you should throw away your razor:

A correlation between having a beard and being a professor has been uncovered by scientists, suggesting a reason for discrimination against women in academia….A study of 1,800 male academics has revealed professors are twice as likely as lecturers to have bristles….One theory is that being unshorn makes men more likely to be appointed to professorships, as facial hair is linked with high testosterone and aggression.

I don’t suppose I can point to my peaceloving nature as evidence against this claim.

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  1. Don
    December 17th, 2004 at 20:16 | #1

    I wonder how many of the bearded profs had the whiskers when they were lecturers.

    Here’s a hypothesis:

    Professors and grad students will display the most extreme eccentricities of dress and presentation. Academics who lie between them will show the least.

    Late career profs can get by on their academic reputations (if they didn’t have reputations they wouldn’t be profs). They don’t need to signal their credibility by looking respectable.

    Early to mid career academics have to put on a show. Having no laurels to rest on they need to both perform (journal articles, conference papers) and look the part.

    Grad students are still learning the part.

  2. December 17th, 2004 at 23:44 | #2

    They also have a need to signal that they are not as other men, i.e. that they are not suits. If they are not careful they might even be taken for university administrators!

  3. December 18th, 2004 at 07:14 | #3

    The professor et fil look a couple of budding bushrangers (the Quiggin gang?). I wouldnt want to meet them on a dark night.
    Dr Knopfelmacher, another academic I knew reasonably well, did not have a beard but was a slob. He was, however, ferociously aggressive, both physically and intellectually.
    Intellectual life consists of critique, which is essentially a constant attempt at jabbing your opponent, combined with the occasional knock-out blow.
    The good thing about intellectual aggression is that it generally gets better as you get older, which is contra the trend of physical aggression.
    “Moral rhetoric is the last legitimate form of aggression.”
    Dr. Frank Knopfelmacher.

  4. December 18th, 2004 at 17:07 | #4

    In this country, having a dark swarthy beard like that is just about enough to get arrested for having terrorist sympathies!

    You’re lucky you’re Anglo John! ;)

  5. December 18th, 2004 at 17:48 | #5

    He’s not “anglo”, he’s a Celt like me. And on me a beard got me accused of looking like a muslim terrorist, except that one of my Jewish friends said I looked like a Rabbi (same difference, I suppose, ethnically speaking).

    That’s when they weren’t making remarks about bushrangers, that is.

  6. derrida derider
    December 19th, 2004 at 17:14 | #6

    PM, you’re lucky. I once got a 28 minute grilling at the point of an Uzi at Ben Gurion airport – all because of my combination of Celtic features and crudely trimmed beard.

  7. December 19th, 2004 at 17:39 | #7

    That’s as nothing to my Uncle Arnold’s experiences after the Fall of France. He was rounded up with everybody else in the Maginot Line and made a POW. When the treaty with Vichy was signed his status changed to internee, which meant that the food got worse (“always bloody carrots”, he told me once), but so did the guarding.

    So he escaped and went home to Paris, remaining on the dodge as something minor in the black market until liberation. The catch was that he didn’t have papers, so – and this is the beard bit – he grew a beard to disguise himself.

    But there was a further catch. With his Irish ancestry it happened to grow out red and marked him out even further. He had to dye it crudely with boot polish and remain a safe distance from scrutiny.

    By the way, the Germans showed far more respect for these internee things than the USA does now. My grandparents’ experiences show that the Gestapo behaved far more correctly than the USA does now. I will not go into further detail here.

  8. John Quiggin
    December 19th, 2004 at 22:53 | #8

    When I went to Israel recently, people routinely assumed I was Jewish, despite my (to me) obvious Celticness.

  9. Fyodor
    December 20th, 2004 at 09:00 | #9

    JQ,

    With that beard, you could have had a walk-on part in the Old Testament. You could prolly also pass for an Orthodox priest.

    BTW, all this talk about “Anglos” versus “Celts” is a bit spurious given most of the “Celtic” fringes of Europe were heavily colonised by Germanic-speaking peoples, and Britain was originally inhabited by Celts who did not simply disappear when various Romans, Angles, Danes and Normans arrived. I reckon Anglo-Celtic is a good definition for anyone from the British Isles: genetically they’re all mongrels until proven otherwise.

  10. December 20th, 2004 at 10:33 | #10

    Almost right, Fyodor, except that the originals were pre-Celtic and we have a tendency to breed back to that (it’s the name Celt that’s misapplied and gives a false connection to Germanic types), and also the English proper arrived after historical records which show the genuine mongrelisation didn’t swamp all groups or work uniformly across the archipelago. That’s why there are discernible differences, to those that know how to recognise them (my accent is, of course, British Public School, which is misleading).

    At any rate, my mother was pleased that I was British and not English. If you must choose a blurring word, choose British. Oh, I forgot – it’s not PC to bring out that side of our cultural heritage. Far better just to say “anglo” and push it all under the carpet.

  11. Fyodor
    December 20th, 2004 at 11:29 | #11

    PML,

    If you’re going to go all pre-historic on my ass, then it’s contentious whether the original inhabitants of the British isles were Celtic or not, given the ethnic marker of “Celtic” is linguistic, not genetic. Given so little is known about the languages of those inhabiting Britan and Ireland in pre-historic times, it’s a difficult one to call.

    The fact that the “English” arrived on the islands during the historical period doesn’t obviate the fact that they did colonise ALL of the islands. Even Ireland, which is often held up as a relatively “pure” refuge for Celtic Europe was heavily colonised by Vikings (Dublin was founded by Vikings), Welsh, English and Scots well before the plantations of the 17th century. Likewise, the Irish invaded and colonised parts of Britain during the medieval period [the word "Scot" means invader, and connotes Irish colonisers of the country we now call Scotland].

    I’ll return to my original point: apparent genetic differences between people from Britain and Ireland are too complex to put down to linguistic differences. It’s all a muddle. We look at an Irishman and say his blue eyes and red hair are characteristic of his true Celtic blood, without questioning for a moment why so many English, Scots and Scandinavians have the same looks.

  12. December 20th, 2004 at 22:06 | #12

    Fyodor, I have a feeling that we are heading for what has been called “furious agreement”, fuelled by using terms to mean different things. I’ll try to give a fuller and clearer exposition of my position tomorrow afternoon, when I hope to have enough time for it.

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