Mask-wearing has become the new normal in America. The country, in a matter of weeks, has had to make a hard pivot from masks being discouraged to mandatory. Studies have shown that men are less likely to wear any facial coverings because they feel overly optimistic about the virus not affecting them. Some irresponsible feminist pundits feel this is an example of “toxic” masculinity. A closer examination, however, would suggest that a man covering his face has been overwhelmingly discouraged in American culture.
The wearing of masks goes almost as far back as humanity itself. In numerous cultures around the world, masks have forged a place in its history. In Africa, masks were used in various religious ceremonies, helping to communicate with spirits. Skull masks, made from the human skulls of fallen enemies, were adorned by the Aztecs as symbols of victorious battles. Chinese, Korean, and Japanese masks many times were used in theatrical performances. During Roman gladiatorial conquests, galeas and masks made of bronze were worn, largely to protect against enemy attacks and to intimidate opponents. In modern times, masks are a big part of American sports such as football, hockey, baseball, and professional wrestling.
Throughout history, these warriors, dancers, spirit conjurers, etc., are predominantly men, thus solidifying the thesis of mask-wearing as a male-dominated tradition. In modern history, outside of sports, masks have taken on a less masculine tone. In the immediate years following September 11, 2001, Muslim and Arabic cultures became a hot button topic in the States. The Hijab, worn by Muslim women, became a much-discussed fashion accessory (especially among feminists) and has become the avatar of those cultures to certain American individuals. Many female dancers and sex workers don masks, as well as the growing number of female healthcare professionals. While it is of a completely different sort, cosmetic masks for skincare is largely associated with women.
Along with masks becoming more feminine, the act of a man showing his face became the standard. Showing one’s face was the ultimate sign of confidence and male machismo. On the other hand, hiding one’s face displayed meekness, lack of charisma, and, in some cultures, considered disrespectful. Hip-Hop is a shining example. A large part of one’s success in rap battles is facial expressions, which can convey as much emotion as the lyrics themselves. In today’s popular culture scene, musicians, athletes, media personalities, etc., are expected to show their faces to capitalize on their earning potential. Basketball players, who do not wear any face gear, can earn significantly more money in endorsements over other American professional sports.
Masks, throughout periods in history but more so in recent decades, have been linked to criminal and other rambunctious behavior. Numerous movies and television shows depict characters committing acts of robbery, murder, and violent protests under the disguise of a mask. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, many states and provinces worldwide enacted anti-mask laws to try to discourage such behavior.
Outside of work-related tasks, mask-wearing has largely been discouraged among today’s male population. It is not a shock that men are having issues wearing masks in public, all of a sudden, during the COVID-19 pandemic. President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence came under scrutiny when they did not wear masks during separate appearances. Men are expected to commandeer interactions in many social situations. This is especially true in mainstream politics, where a politician’s face must be visible.
Marine Serre, a famous French fashion designer said, “A mask creates a barrier between you and the world. It protects you, but it also means you can’t get close to someone”. Creating another barrier in a world with racial, economic, geographical, and gender-related barriers contradict the male social spirit. How is a guy supposed to approach an attractive woman with a mask on his face?
Taking precautions for your health and the health of others is highly recommended during these times. For true alpha males, going against that male spirit, which, in many ways, led to the success and fortune they enjoy is not an easy task. It can come across as an attack on their character. Wearing a mask, though necessary, goes against modern masculinity.