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The War on Masks is a Cover-up for Toxic Masculinity

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Nicholas Kamm/Getty

Marine One lands on the White House lawn. Donald Trump, still sick and contagious after being treated for COVID-19 at Walter Reed Medical Center, strides alone across the grass while cameras flash. Then, having climbed the steps to the balcony, he dramatically strips off his mask and salutes the helicopter as it rises toward the Washington Monument. In one of the propaganda videos of the scene uploaded to the president’s Twitter account, heroic music booms in the background—an instrumental version of a track called “Believe” from an album titled “Epic Male Songs.”

In the last few weeks, Trump and his supporters’ attempts to project masculine strength and dominance have reached literally toxic levels. “President Trump won’t have to recover from COVID. COVID will have to recover from President Trump,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) tweeted. Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) posted an edited video of Trump wrestling the coronavirus to the ground, WWE-style. Much of the projections of the president’s manliness is tied up in the idea that he doesn’t need a mask because he is tough. I don’t wear masks like him,” Trump said dismissively at the September 29 debate against Joe Biden. “Every time you see him, he’s got a mask. He could be speaking 200 feet away from them and he shows up with the biggest mask I’ve ever seen.” Earlier this week, he taunted House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi by tweeting, “Wear your mask in the ‘beauty’ parlor, Nancy!”

To untangle the political and gender dynamics of Trump’s blustery response to the coronavirus and his own infection I spoke with Christina Wolbrecht, a Notre Dame political science professor who coedits the journal Politics & Gender. This spring, Wolbrecht and her colleagues put out a call for papers about COVID-19, and received multiple submissions about men and mask-wearing. Three studies published in the resulting series this summer independently demonstrated links between gender identity, including sexist attitudes, and whether someone is likely to wear a mask.

Masks are a piece of cloth that you wear on your face. They protect you and the people around you. They’re not inherently a gender-related thing, but surveys have shown women are wearing them more often than men. What do we know about why that is?

Why do some people wear masks and others don’t? One predictor is your........

© Mother Jones

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