Opinion: The Unfortunate Duality of No-Shave November

November is upon us again, and men across the country lay down their razors as they opt to forgo all facial grooming in the phenomenon so lovingly referred to as “No-Shave November.” This phrase, though, has come to encompass an unfortunate duality of those who participate for the sake of growing out their facial hair and those who are genuinely involved in the greater goal of increased men’s health awareness. As such, the significance behind the scruff has become more of a cultural event (like the man bun) rather than a charitable cause.

At Boston College, these health awareness goals often fall second to those who may be experimenting with facial hair for the first time, want that killer finals beard, are participating in a team-wide initiative, finally have the chance to mimic the recent celebrity beard hair fad or are just downright lazy when it comes to shaving. All of these students will try their hand at a bearded November look; few realize just how much they could be contributing to major health initiatives.

The No-Shave November foundation encourages all who partake to donate monthly shaving expenses to charity. From September 1 to December 31, the foundation commits itself to donate no less than 80% of these donations to their participating charities: The American Cancer Society, The Prevent Cancer Foundation, Fight Colorectal Cancer and St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. This initiative isn’t gender specific either--all are welcomed to participate if you forgo shaving and commit yourself to go au naturale for the month.

The Movember Foundation, a small NGO based out of Melbourne, Australia, has adopted and evolved the core philosophy of No-Shave November. They encourage all participants to begin November clean-shaven and grow a mustache over the course of 30 days in an effort to raise awareness and spark conversation about the lifespan and health inequality that exists for men specifically.

According to The Movember Foundation webpage, men are dying too young. “Gender is one of the strongest and most consistent predictors of health and life expectancy. For men, this is not good news. On average, across the world, men die 6 years earlier than women.” This is particularly relevant as it relates to mental, prostate and testicular health. Men commit an estimated three quarters of all suicides while prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men worldwide, with the number of cases anticipated to rise to 1.7 million by 2030. In wake of hugely successful Breast Cancer initiatives every October, The Movember Foundation takes it upon themselves to raise awareness for this gendered health inequality.

To all BC students who chose to participate in these meaningful awareness-building movements, it is important that you do so with a goal of augmented men’s health in mind--don’t fall into the cultural trap. Every overgrown follicle this November should have meaningful intent behind it. Do so, and, once you get past the itchiness and the protests of your mother, arrive home for Thanksgiving with a proud indicator of change upon your face, knowing that you have done something good for the world.

If your goal is ultimately just to grow out your facial hair, I encourage you to call it something else. “No-Shave November” is something that should only refer to those who plan on adhering to goals of raising awareness of cancer and men’s health promoted by the aforementioned foundations. To join this group of individuals is both an honor and a responsibility that should be undertaken seriously. Hopefully by this point, though, you’re starting to consider joining together with fellow BC students in the fight for these goals yourself.

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Ryan Bradley