Growing healthy men

HOUGHTON – What makes a man?

Some popular definitions have included not caring about appearance, or showing dominance and power, often through violence.

But Dial Help is hoping to promote another conception of masculinity centered on respect and speaking out against violent or hurtful behavior. And beards.

Dial Help held a “Healthy Man” Beard Competition at The Bluffs in Houghton Thursday night. Contestants were judged half on the appearance of their beards – or in one case, moustache – and half on a one-page essay or one-minute video they created to explain what healthy masculinity meant to them.

“For too long, violence against women has been pegged as a women’s issue,” said Kevin Weir, sexual assault prevention program coordinator for Dial Help. “It’s time for men to stand up and take responsibility for this as well, and you’ve all done that tonight.”

Contestants Chad Borgen, William Thompson, Steven Reineke and Chris Walkons presented their speeches and answered questions from the judges about their facial hair.

Borgen, the eventual winner, defined masculinity as putting family first, standing by (and keeping) your word and speaking out and standing up when necessary and being able to step outside the “man box” to help end demeaning acts. It’s especially important for him as a single father raising a daughter, he wrote.

“Being a father for me is like signing a contract that I will always be there for my daughter as long as I am able,” he wrote. “And it is just as important that I take care of myself to ensure my daughter will know how to care for herself. When and if she decides on a partner to share her life with, I hope she will have a better understanding of how a person should behave toward her through my example.”

Second-place finisher Reineke drew on male role models such as God, Santa and Jesus to show that manhood (and beards) can go hand in hand with compassion and generosity.

“We will not be feared by women, children and our fellow man,” he said. “Instead we will be loved and respected.”

Walkons actually had a beard, but shaved it down to a moustache to participate in the annual Movember campaign, which raises awareness for mens health.

Though he’s resisted growing one in the past because he thought it looked thin, he decided to support the cause, so “I’m going to be happy with how I look.”

As Thompson said, one doesn’t so much grow a beard as just decide not to shave it.

“A lion grows a mane as he matures, and a man grows a beard as he matures,” he said.

After the awards presentation, Borgen held the trophy high. When the crowd asked for a speech, he urged people to “grow a beard.”

Winning the competition nearly left him speechless, Borgen said.

“I was just happy to participate in what I think is a very positive outlet,” he said.