News & Opinion | August 12, 2020 3:06 pm

Sexist Men Might Be Less Likely to Wear Face Masks

Of masks and misogyny

man standing behind glass in a face mask
A masked man gazes wistfully out the window, wondering when his manhood will return from war.
Justin Paget/Getty Images

If you’re a man who finds himself aggressively disinclined to wear a mask or take other safety precautions against the COVID-19 pandemic, you might be sexist.

Previous studies have suggested men are less likely to wear masks than women, but now there’s additional research to suggest an actual connection between masklessness and misogyny.

A recent Vox piece attributing men’s anti-social-distancing attitudes to “performative masculinity” cites research from Tyler Reny, a postdoctoral research fellow at Washington University in St. Louis, who found that men who hold sexist beliefs are among the most likely to reject pandemic precautions.

“Those who had more sexist attitudes were far less likely to report feeling concerned about the pandemic, less likely to support state and local coronavirus policies, less likely to take precautions like washing their hands or wearing masks, and more likely to get sick than those with less sexist attitudes,” said Reny, who analyzed data from the Democracy Fund + UCLA Nationscape project, a public opinion survey that’s been interviewing thousands of Americans about the pandemic since March. “What I found is that sexist attitudes are very predictive of all four sets of [aforementioned] outcomes, even after accounting for differences in partisanship, ideology, age, education, and population density.”

So while not all men who refuse to wear masks are necessarily sexist (some might just be generally negligent!), it stands to reason that the same misguided beliefs about masculinity that underlie sexism might also be causing some men to view mask-wearing as a sign of weakness.

The thing is, not wanting to wear a mask doesn’t make you an inherently bad person. The world we currently know and are forced to exist in is no one’s first choice. But unfortunately this is what life is now, so just wear a mask, okay?

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