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men won't wear masks

'Garnished With My Breath'

Why Men Won’t Wear Masks

Masculinity

It is about being seen as less of man, over doing the responsible thing and saving lives (which may well be the more manly thing to do).

Donald Trump “doesn’t like them.” Mike Pence wouldn’t wear one. Boris Johnson was quite happy to go without one and shake hands with everyone he met in the weeks immediately prior to lockdown, then nearly died. Labour leader Keir Starmer was out pouring pints without a mask at the weekend. Chancellor Rishi Sunak was filmed delivering meals to people without one. And now Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro after bragging that he ‘wouldn’t feel anything’ is he caught the virus because of his ‘athlete’s background’, has now caught the virus and is unwell. Of course he hadn’t been self-isolating or wearing a mask. He’ll be ok. The people around him? Well, who knows? Not his problem. What a man.

Great examples one and all in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic which the WHO said yesterday is getting worse, with cases doubling to 12million worldwide in the last six weeks.

Men, in general, are reluctant to wear masks.

The publication Scientific American this week called masks “condoms of the face” referring to historical struggles to get men to rubber-up during the AIDS crisis; social stigmas are holding men back. Which has nothing to do with ‘sensation’ excuses in this case but because to a certain mentality they smack of weakness. Some men, like most world leaders it seems, would rather appear strong, like they can ‘take’ a virus’ – but how strong is it to put vulnerable people in your midst at risk?

Research by Middlesex University found men are less likely to wear masks than women because they think they are embarrassing. Presenting the study Dr Caprano said, “Our results found men have less intentions to wear a face covering than women particularly in countries where face covering is not mandatory….the fact that men are less inclined to wear a face covering can be partly explained by the fact that men are more likely to believe they will be relatively unaffected by the disease compared to women. This is particularly ironic because official statistics show that actually coronavirus impacts men more seriously than women.”

Of course this is all madness, but not entirely unexpected. Men have a psychological block when it comes to health. And another one when it comes to ostentatious style. The two together provide a hell of a barrier for the simple act of protecting yourself and others in the midst of a pandemic.

Firstly, men still regard health problems, or any signifier of such, as weakness. There are many signs of this, including later cancer diagnoses for men, suicides being 75% men because they are less likely to reach out for mental health help, and also other major killer diseases like TB, which around the world kills mostly men, according to WHO, because they won’t seek medical treatment for it. Men would rather die than go see a doctor.

When it comes to style, well, men famously show aversion to basic risks like colour, preferring in general sober attire which allows you to fit into a group, particularly in professional settings. Sure there may be innovations like Hawaiian shirts that all men will suddenly take up, once the herd has okayed it, but generally men don’t care to draw attention to themselves with memories from playgrounds still sore. A mask? Well, it’s a compromise of proper masculinity isn’t it? With all of its controlled, invulnerable unthinkings.

Together these two elements make a mask all kinds of wrong to a lot of men. Which is why we should all wear them in public, to rid the stigma, and indeed, rock the stigma. There are some pretty sexy masks out there now, some great neckerchief fashions, and well, this is one of those moments where acting like a ‘Real Man’ is not simply absurd but dangerous. Once again it is left to the man on the street to lead the way while the men in charge of the country bumble into more self-conscious signifying of control while neglecting their duties and allowing more people to die. Don’t be a dick, wear a mask.

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