I used to think that No-Shave November was all about me. I wanted to see how long I could grow my beard because I wanted people to talk to me about my beard. I was in it for what I could get out of it, to see how I would look at the end. I wanted attention. I wanted to prove I could grow a decent beard.
But men who participate in No-Shave November should only grow out their facial hair if they’re actually raising money for charity, like men’s health and cancer research.
No-Shave November grew out of Movember, a portmanteau of “mustache” and “November,” which started in 2003 with two guys growing mustaches in Australia to raise money for men’s health and prostate cancer. The first year, only thirty men participated by growing a mustache for a month, donating $10 each. Now, the project boasts the recorded participation of over five million people since the first year.
Movember donates money to over 1,000 men’s health programs focusing on “prostate cancer, testicular cancer, poor mental health and physical inactivity.” Last year, Movember raised $16.3 million in the U.S. alone (it is a global organization), and almost three-quarters of that was put directly towards men’s health programs.
No-Shave November was launched to capitalize on the growing popularity of Movember. The Hill family, from Chicago, started No-shave November as a fundraiser for cancer research after father and husband Matthew Hill died of of colon cancer in 2007.
Their goal is to raise money by donating what you’d otherwise spend on shaving and grooming supplies to cancer research and prevention foundations like St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the Prevent Cancer Foundation. Since its beginning in 2009, the Matthew Hill Foundation has raised over $5 million.
The foundations behind Movember and No-Shave November could do even more if everyone who participated in the month actually donated.
As I eventually realized, my actions were antithetical to the inspiration behind No-Shave November and Movember: Instead of focusing on others and donating, I was focused only on myself. I was a slacktivist, a form of activism that requires no effort (except for using a hashtag on Twitter) and instead tries to make the participant feel good about what they’re doing.
Unfortunately, this is common today. Go to a coffee shop and look around. You’ll spot a cause. And all you have to do to support that cause is buy something, e.g. you get a $5 cup of Ethiopian Yirgacheffe and some child gets 1/48th of a goat.
Go to a grocery store. Go to any aisle. You will find products that support a cause: shampoo that will save the rainforest, dog food that will save at-risk puppies in cages, organic cheese that will protect gluten-free dairy cows with diabetes.
Everyone’s happy because they get something and you get the satisfaction of knowing that you’re a good person after all, right?
Wrong. You’ve perverted charity to enhance your self-esteem. It’s not wrong to feel good about helping others, but when you’re helping others only because it makes you feel good, you’re being selfish rather than selfless.
Claiming to participate in No-Shave November without donating money or raising money is the worst kind of posturing slacktivism. Growing a beard or mustache without giving to charity takes away from point: Charity and giving are about sacrifice, not compromise.
Now I know better than to make what should be a charitable endeavor all about me, and I encourage you to do the same. If you’re already growing out your beard, but haven’t donated anything, it’s not too late. I urge the men who are growing facial hair this November to examine their motivations; if they find they are growing out their beards for attention rather than for charity, they should immediately donate money to a worthy cause or stop their posturing and shave. The world needs men who keep their word, not their facial hair.