In the past two weeks, our social media feeds were flooded by the image of Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious disease expert, telling US senators at a hearing that the country was “going in the wrong direction.” The image had a vivid, layered power. Not only did it feel like a national death knell, but Fauci’s appearance — in an imperial-red face mask emblazoned with the insignia of baseball’s Washington Nationals — seemed to signal another culture war. Fauci was making a comment about how to maintain one’s masculinity while wearing a face mask.
Fauci apparently isn’t the only one anxious about face masks impeding his masculinity.
It seems that in certain circles, wearing a mask has been conflated with the kind of archaic, knuckle-dragging rhetoric that casts wearing pink or having a cat on a dating app as effeminate. The LA Times gave some well-meaning but ultimately depressing tips to make masks more appealing to the “alphas.” Among its suggestions: “appeal to patriotism! Maga masks! Masks printed with shark teeth!” Can masculinity be so glacially unmovable and paper-thin fragile?
Photo: Reuters 照片：路透
Apparently, yes — which is unfortunate, because the danger from COVID-19 remains very, very real. Last week Scientific American called masks the “condoms of the face,” arguing that the struggle to get men to wear masks during this pandemic has parallels in the struggle to get men to wear condoms during the rise of HIV. While it seems strange to compare something you’d wear so visibly in public to something worn privately in intimate moments, the analogy underscores how some men’s notions of masculinity are intertwined with a corrosive mix of petulance, indestructibility and, ultimately, privilege. The article cited research showing that “masculine ideology” is associated with rejection of condom use.
Similar research by Middlesex University and the Mathematical Science Research Institute in Berkeley has found that men are less likely than women to wear face masks because they view the masks as embarrassing. According to the study, men are more likely than women to agree with the idea that wearing a mask is “shameful, not cool, a sign of weakness and a stigma.” The study also found that men have higher levels of “negative emotion” while wearing a mask.
It gets worse: not wearing a mask hasn’t just become toxic masculinity, it has become a form of weaponized masculinity. Donald Trump has said he is “choosing not to” wear a mask. When US President Mike Pence visited the Mayo Clinic, he ignored the safety protocols asking that he wear a face mask.
Photo: AFP 照片：法新社
This superspreader mindset seems to overlap with the eyeroll-inducing “OK, boomer” attitude epitomized by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to continue shaking hands as coronavirus spread, and the Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s claim that his athleticism would prevent him from getting a virus. For men like this, ego itself has become a figurative — and, they seem to believe, literal — shield.
That’s unfortunate, because the wearing of masks has already been politicized to a dangerous extent. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey, 70 percent of Democrats report regularly wearing a mask, compared with only 37 percent of Republicans. The image of Democratic political rising star Jamaal Bowman, photographed sporting a Wu-Tang Clan mask, suggests that some progressives have figured out how to make their masks politically charged fashion items. That is a welcome contrast with the stodgy masculinity of the opposition.
Bowman’s mask-wearing style offers a way forward that is both progressive and potentially life-saving. But the truth is that mask-wearing shouldn’t have to be complicated. It should just be common sense.
Photo: EPA-EFE 照片：歐新社
Photo: AFP 照片：法新社
某些群體的人似乎認為戴口罩缺乏男子氣概，如同那種過時、食古不化的論調，認為穿粉紅色，或在交友軟體上貼出養貓照片的人娘娘腔一樣。為了使口罩對「大男人主義者」更具吸引力，洛杉磯時報提供了一些訣竅，雖然立意甚佳，但最終令人沮喪。這些建議包括：「訴諸愛國主義」！戴印有「讓美國再次偉大」（Make American Great Again, MAGA）的口罩！戴鯊魚牙圖案的口罩！男子氣概果真如同冰河般不可撼動，以及如薄紙般脆弱嗎？
FOLLOW UP 讀後練習
1. According to the article, why are men more likely than women to refuse wearing protective face masks? Do you agree with this reasoning?
2. Why does Scientific American call masks the “condoms of the face?”
3. Offer some examples of politicians and incidents that show the difficulty of enforcing mask wearing.
4. Is it possible to explain these examples from the perspectives of “toxic masculinity“ and politics?
(Lin Lee-kai, Taipei Times)
1. anxious adj. 焦慮；擔心 (jiao1 lü4; dan1 xin1)
2. effeminate adj. 女人氣的；柔弱的 (nü3 ren2 qi4 de5; rou2 ruo4 de5)
3. condom n. 保險套 (bao2 xian3 tao4)
4. privilege n. 特權 (te4 quan2)
5. ideology n. 意識型態 (yi4 shi4 xing2 tai4)
6. stigma n. 恥辱；污名 (chi3 ru4; wu1 ming2)
7. toxic masculinity phr. 有害的男子氣概 (you3 hai4 de5 nan2 zi3 qi4 gai4)
8. ego n. 自我意識；自負 (zi4 wo3 yi4 shi4; zi4 fu4)
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