COVID-19 rushed across the globe, infecting hundreds of thousands of people and ending the lives of over one-hundred thousand in the United States alone. The spread in the U.S. has mainly occurred due to a lack of political support and the spread of information. Falling behind on closing businesses yet opening up sooner than most countries, America is facing one of the worst crises it has seen. Some states have tried to follow CDC guidelines of phased re-openings, two-week decreases in hospitalizations and deaths, and more. Political leaders of the country have been placed under immense pressure to open sooner, and most states have allowed their citizens to choose if they want to follow CDC approved measures as they move forward in re-opening businesses.
Given a choice, do people continue wearing masks and gloves after COVID-19? Is social distancing really possible after these re-openings? In Arizona, Governor Ducey sped up the four-phase process despite rising cases while failing to push for mask usage. At the same time, Governor Newsom of California has lifted the required use of masks as sit-down restaurants and hair salons begin to reopen in some counties. Our president, Donald Trump, has refused to wear a mask every time he visits a hospital, comes in contact with others who may have the virus, and we have yet to see him sport a mask for any occasion.
Why are these men within our country who have such significant influence not wearing masks, whether they promote the usage or not? Recent polls and studies have shown that men are less likely to follow CDC approved measures like wearing a mask and gloves simply because it is seen as “uncool,” “weak,” or “feminine.” Simply put, to wear a mask means to show your weakness to those around you. There have also been studies showing this is from our ancestral evolution, similar to how animals avoid displaying weakness or fear to stay alive. However, we have moved past this.
Weakness, as seen in men, is something of a taboo in society as we plaster muscular men who never cry on our television screens. “Toughen up,” and, “Don’t act like a girl,” are prevalent phrases within our media that deflect the emotions of men. Even my father refuses to go to a hospital unless he is sure he may die. All our lives, men are told that emotions are for girls; weakness is for girls. Still, we are in the middle of a global pandemic that is striking fear into every human at risk of this respiratory virus, let alone damaging the physical health of so many people.
While sporting a mask and gloves may seem “uncool,” is it worth the risk of dying? Masculinity is based on the idea that weakness is an evolutionary flaw, and men rely on masculinity to display their strength. Following in the footsteps of our fathers, men continually find ways to emasculate themselves even in times of a global pandemic – it is too feminine to follow health guidelines. This calls for more action than merely insisting people follow guidelines to maintain health – we should be reevaluating the way we bring up our men and the things we display in media.
Moving forward, the images athletic brands show, the music we produce, and the stories we tell should include what it is like to be a man – emotions and all. Staying in touch with a “feminine” side does not and should not emasculate men so much that it drives them to the point of risking their own health and the health of those around them. Acknowledging the struggle of men to fit into a society that consistently deems uncool and feminine behaviors as acts of weakness would be the first step toward inclusivity and the promotion of healthy habits both mentally and physically.
The spread of information will also benefit society as a whole in regards to COVID-19 as we learn more about why masks are useful in preventing the spread of the respiratory virus. Yes, you may look “uncool” for wearing a silly pattern on your face or actually showing you care, but wearing a mask will prevent your breath from reaching lengths to infect others in the immediate vicinity. The risk of wearing a mask and looking “feminine” is much less than the risk of contracting, spreading, and possibly suffering from a virus that has spread around the globe. As we progress in re-openings, we must educate our brothers, fathers, our men and let them know they are not weak for staying healthy.