What Trump’s refusal to wear a mask says about masculinity in America

From the president to stay-at-home protesters, a mask-less face has become a stand-in for manliness.

When reporter BrieAnna Frank showed up to a Honeywell plant last week in Arizona to cover President Donald Trump’s visit, she was sure to wear a mask.

Masks were the reason the president was there: The former aerospace plant in Phoenix has pivoted to producing them in recent months amid a nationwide shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE).

But the dozen or so people who had gathered outside the facility to cheer on the president were not there to support masks. They had their faces uncovered, Frank told Vox.

As she approached members of the crowd to interview them, the conversation quickly got heated. “They started to yell that me and the other journalists there were trying to incite fear and panic and paranoia” by wearing masks, said Frank, who works for the Arizona Republic.

One man in particular seemed to take issue with the male journalists wearing masks, she recalled. “It’s submission, it’s muzzling yourself, it looks weak,” he said, “especially for men.”

“I felt that it was a statement that people should know about,” said Frank, whose tweets about the encounter went viral. To the crowd in front of the factory, she said, “Masks clearly symbolized something beyond, ‘I am trying to protect my health.’”

They’re not alone. Trump himself declined to wear a mask while being photographed at the plant, though he claims he wore one “backstage.” Vice President Mike Pence was criticized for failing to wear a mask during a tour of the Mayo Clinic in April. And when armed protesters showed up at the Michigan statehouse on April 30 to protest stay-at-home orders amid the coronavirus pandemic, many were mask-free. One shouting, bare-faced man who was photographed at the rally later said he was “not at all” worried about the virus and would never wear a mask — “ever.”

Since the pandemic began, the issue of wearing masks has further exposed America’s racial and gender prejudices. Earlier on, wearing masks was associated with Asian countries and often dismissed because of racist assumptions about those countries. Then, as many cities began to require residents to wear masks, police began targeting black men for covering their faces, profiling them as criminals rather than as people trying to abide by health guidelines. And for a certain subset of mostly white, conservative men, not wearing a mask seems to have become a hallmark of manliness.

For unmasked protesters like the ones in Michigan, “There’s an assumption of a kind of invincibility that is tied to this idea of white masculinity,” Jonathan Metzl, a professor of sociology and psychiatry at Vanderbilt University and the author of Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment Is Killing America’s Heartland, told Vox.

It’s not just men — Frank noticed many women among the unmasked Trump supporters gathered at the Honeywell plant. And, of course, many men are happy to follow the recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to cover their faces in public. Still, a narrative has emerged on the right that wearing a mask is weak and refusing to wear one is somehow strong. And that narrative could put everyone at risk.

One thing about [being] macho is being fearless,” Melanye Price, a political science professor at Prairie View A&M University, told Vox. “But that fearlessness comes at a cost for every single person around you.”

The CDC recommends masks. Not everyone is listening.

Long before the pandemic hit, masks were common in East Asian countries, where they’re seen as a simple way to protect yourself (and others) from disease, as Refinery29’s Connie Wang wrote in March. Wuhan, China, where the coronavirus outbreak began, started requiring them in January. The US was much slower to recommend masks for the general public, but in early April — with confirmed coronavirus cases jumping by the day — the CDC recommended that everyone wear a cloth mask in certain public settings. Some cities, like New York and Los Angeles, began mandating the wearing of masks in certain settings as well.

Like much about the coronavirus, the impact of wearing masks on transmission isn’t entirely clear. But many experts believe that even cloth masks can offer some degree of protection for wearers — and perhaps greater protection for the people around them. The virus seems to spread “when germ-containing droplets make it into a person’s mouth, nose, or eyes,” as Vox’s German Lopez previously reported, and it’s true that “masks stop people from spreading their own droplets.” If everyone wears a mask — including those who are asymptomatic but may still be carrying the virus — it could help halt the spread of Covid-19.

Most Americans appear to be on board with the CDC’s recommendation. In a Morning Consult poll (conducted from April 7 to 9), 72 percent of respondents said they planned to start wearing a face mask in public places over the next two weeks.

Others, however, have chafed at the CDC’s advice. As people around the country protest their state’s shelter-in-place orders, many have appeared in public without masks. One example is the protesters in Michigan, which has become a hotbed of resistance to social distancing restrictions — a defiance Trump has encouraged via his tweets about “liberating” Michigan and other states. And on April 30, hundreds of protesters gathered at the state capitol in Lansing, some of them armed and many of them eschewing masks and standing close together in violation of social distancing guidelines, according to Reuters.

One of the mask-less protesters was Brian Cash, who was photographed shouting during the event. He later told the Detroit Free Press he believes the coronavirus was “intentionally released” by the Chinese government and that the state’s stay-at-home order is useless because people still go to grocery stores and pharmacies. “So what is the point of staying at home?” he asked.

The resistance to masks has also found support within the Trump administration. Pence, the head of the federal government’s coronavirus response, said he did not wear a mask while touring the Mayo Clinic in April because he is tested for Covid-19 regularly. (He later backpedaled and said he “should have” worn one.) But a mask-less Pence attended two events in Iowa on May 8, the same day his press secretary tested positive for the virusaccording to the Intercept. At one of those events, CEOs were reportedly asked to remove their masks before joining Pence onstage.

Trump, meanwhile, has consistently appeared in public without a mask. After he was photographed without one at the Honeywell plant in Arizona, he said he had worn one “backstage,” outside the view of cameras.

“But they said you didn’t need it, so, I didn’t need it,” he went on. “And by the way, if you noticed, nobody else had it on that was in the group.”

Aides tested positive for the virus days later, and staffers have since been asked to wear masks on White House grounds, according to the Washington Post. Trump, however, is still unlikely to wear a mask himself, aides say.

For Trump, not wearing a mask may be a way to project masculinity

The Trump administration’s behavior around masks has gendered overtones. For Trump and Pence, not wearing a mask may be a way to project a macho image, Metzl said, playing into “tropes of indestructibility.”

Appearing to play it safe contradicts a core principle of masculinity: show no weakness,” wrote social sciences professor Peter Glick at Scientific American. “Defying experts’ warnings about personal danger signals ‘I’m a tough guy, bring it on.’”

Trump’s messaging has also helped promote the idea that ignoring the risks of coronavirus is the tough or strong thing to do. Despite warnings from public health experts about the dangers of reopening the country too early, he said at the Honeywell plant that “the people of our country should think of themselves as warriorsbecause “our country has to open.”

Trump’s militaristic, tough-guy messaging around wearing face masks may be encouraging people to minimize the risk of contracting and spreading coronavirus.
 Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

Such militaristic, tough-guy messaging, along with Trump’s refusal to wear a mask, may encourage ordinary people — especially men — to minimize the risk of coronavirus for the sake of appearing manly.

While the refusal to wear masks isn’t an exclusively male phenomenon — a Michigan woman was arrested last month after police said she attacked a grocery store employee who told her to leave because she wasn’t wearing a mask — there is some evidence that men may view mask recommendations with more skepticism than women. In the April Morning Consult poll, 76 percent of women said they planned to wear a face mask in public over the next two weeks, compared with 67 percent of men.

Though Trump’s narrative around the virus may be reinforcing gender stereotypes, the issue of masks is revealing Americans’ racial biases as well. While white men have been able to appear in public without masks — and with guns — as part of a protest, black men have been targeted by police, both for wearing and for not wearing masks. In Philadelphia, officers were caught on video forcibly removing a black man from a bus for not covering his face, just one day after the city began requiring it, Fabiola Cineas reported for Vox in April. And a police officer in Miami handcuffed and arrested Armen Henderson, a black doctor who tests homeless people for Covid-19, as he loaded equipment into a van in front of his home — while wearing a mask.

Black Americans often have to engage in “social signaling” to make white people feel comfortable in public spaces, said Price, the political science professor. “You say good morning first, you smile first,” she said. “None of that can be done with masks.”

White people often already perceive black people as dangerous or not belonging in public places, Price said. “But a black body with a mask is something that somehow expresses even more danger.”

Meanwhile, for white protesters like those in Michigan, not wearing a mask may signal a kind of immunity from danger — or at least a perceived immunity. As white Americans, they’re unlikely to encounter the same kind of police brutality that black people face when they engage in protest. “Imagine 10 black men and rifles walking up to any state capitol in the United States,” Price said. “They would be shot before they ever made it up the steps.”

But congregating in crowds without masks is also a statement of perceived immunity from the virus, Metzl said. The unmasked protesters seemed to be sending the message that “nothing’s going to happen to me because of my whiteness,” he explained. “If you thought you were really going to get the coronavirus, you wouldn’t act like that.”

The fact that black and Latinx Americans in many communities are disproportionately likely to become infected and die of Covid-19 may be influencing such attitudes. “I think for a lot of the country, people feel like this is something that’s happening to someone else,” Metzl said.

But people who refuse to wear masks may be putting others, not just themselves, at risk

Obviously, the feeling of invincibility that leads protesters to avoid masks could backfire if they get sick. Pence and Trump may also find themselves rethinking their stance in the coming days since White House officials tested positive — Pence himself is reportedly keeping his distance from Trump and other staffers to avoid potentially exposing them.

But the especially disturbing thing about refusing to wear a mask is that, while it may seem like an expression of toughness, it actually increases the risk to others more than yourself, Metzl said. While some may feel that not wearing a mask expresses their own invincibility, “You could also think about this in terms of all the other people you’re putting at risk by not wearing a mask,” he added — your family, friends, colleagues, the rest of society. The failure to wear one is “symbolic of a kind of loss of a bigger common sense of responsibility to each other.”

People protest Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-at-home order outside the capitol building in Olympia, Washington, on May 9, 2020.
 Jason Redmond/AFP via Getty Images

Remedying that loss is not going to be as simple as sending the message that “tough guys wear masks,” Metzl said. (Washington Post humor columnist Alexandra Petri has suggested a tagline for a potential “Masks For Him” line of accessories: “We put the ‘mask’ in ‘toxic maskulinity.’”) Rather, the country has to look at what the current mask debate says about racism and other prejudices. “What we need is a much more concerted effort to address the bigger issues that are represented by masks,” Metzl said.

For the Arizona Republic’s Frank, the confrontation over masks outside the Honeywell plant is part of a wider narrative around the virus. She recalled another incident in which a female reporter was accosted, this time by a woman, for wearing a mask. “I do think that what happened to all of us out there in the field on Tuesday is indicative of a larger issue” with how masks are viewed in the US, Frank said.

But for her, wearing a mask is about one thing: public health. Frank lives with her mother, a nurse who treats Covid-19 patients. “I try to be really careful,” she told the people gathered outside the plant. “I try to protect myself and those around me.”

Jerry Falwell Jr.’s coronavirus response shows his staggering level of ignorance

After learning of Jerry Falwell Jr.’s decision to partially reopen Liberty University, my thoughts turned to the biblical account of Balaam’s ass.

According to the Hebrew scriptures, the children of Israel were on the verge of engulfing another Bronze Age tribe. Lacking recourse to the United Nations, the Moabites turned to a diviner named Balaam to curse the Israelis. But on the way to the cursing, Balaam’s conveyance, an ass, saw an angel blocking the path ahead, turned hard into a wall and crushed Balaam’s foot. Unable to see the celestial creature himself, a frustrated Balaam beat his ass. But God permitted the wounded animal to speak, mock her rider and explain the divine roadblock. The eyes of a chastened Balaam were finally opened and he took the Israeli side. And the rest is Middle East history.

Students at Liberty University are more likely than most to understand the specialness of this biblical lesson. It is one of the few stories in which Falwell should not be assigned the part of an ass. For that matter, he does not even deserve the role of Balaam, who at least was open to instruction. Instead, Falwell has charged the angel straight on and — in defiance of nearly all public health experts — reopened the Liberty dorms in the middle of a pandemic. Now, according to the New York Times, at least one student has tested positive and several more have shown coronavirus-like symptoms.

Falwell played down the risk to students who might get the disease. “Ninety-nine percent of them are not at the age to be at risk,” he argued last week, “and they don’t have conditions that put them at risk.”

But this public response indicates the staggering level of ignorance that informs Falwell’s leadership. It is possible for students with mild or unnoticeable symptoms to spread the disease. And once cases are discovered, it is generally too late to take preventive action. Yes, the fatality rate of infected college students is likely to be low. Yet places with broad community spread are more likely to see infection of the elderly and vulnerable, who are more likely to fill premature graves. Since when has Liberty University embraced the teaching of Social Darwinism in Ethics 101?

What can’t be disputed is the constant churn of mixed messages that Falwell has contributed to our national debate. His stated intention has been to concentrate Liberty’s student population: “I think we, in a way, are protecting the students by having them on campus together.”

It can’t be disputed that Falwell personally welcomed hundreds of students back to campus after Spring Break. “They were talking about being glad to be back,” he recalled. “I was joking how they pretty much had the whole place to themselves, and I told them to enjoy it.”

It can’t be disputed that Falwell has called the national pandemic response an “overreaction” with political motivations. “Impeachment didn’t work,” he claimed, “and the Mueller report didn’t work and Article 25 didn’t work, and so maybe now this is their next attempt to get Trump.”

It can’t be disputed that Falwell went on Fox News and speculated that the coronavirus might have been the work of the North Korean military.

It can’t be disputed that Falwell called one critic a “dummy,” even though he is the parent of Liberty students. Or that Falwell has dismissed a critical professor named Marybeth Davis Baggett as “the ‘Baggett’ lady.’ ”

There is an old Bob Dylan song titled, “Gotta Serve Somebody.” Who is Falwell serving instead of students, parents, staff, his board and the Lynchburg, Va., community? Let’s see.

  • Falwell has contempt for the weak. He is
  • dismissive of experts. H
  • traffics in conspiracy theories. He
  • attacks his critics with infantile putdowns and demeaning names. And he
  • refuses to admit when he is dangerously wrong.

Who does that sound like? It is on the tip of my tongue.

In this case Falwell has gone even further than the president, who is occasionally forced, under duress, to say sane things about the virus. Falwell seems to want credit from President Trump for drinking the most distilled, concentrated, rotgut form of the Kool-Aid.

He blunders toward blasphemy by insisting that he is being persecuted for his religious beliefs. “We’re conservative,” he claims, “we’re Christian, and therefore we’re being attacked.” But any path that ignores the truth and endangers the vulnerable can’t be called the way of Christ. No, there is only one explanation: Falwell has laid down the cross to follow Trump.

Dave Ramsey Reacts To Potential Stock Market Crash!

Dave Ramsey Reacts To Potential Stock Market Crash!

Transcript

00:02
for those of you that are as old as me
00:04
you remember this when we were kids we
00:07
used to have these things called service
00:08
stations they’re different than gas
00:11
stations because someone would actually
00:12
come out to your car and pump your gas
00:13
for you and I distinctly remember on
00:17
Nolensville Road the main drag right
00:19
down from our home that there was a
00:21
service station on three different
00:23
corners of a possible four corner
00:25
intersection three of them competing
00:27
with each other occasionally a sign
00:30
would go up that would say gas war if
00:33
you’re old you remember gas Wars your
00:36
local gas stations would compete with
00:38
each other and one of them would drop
00:40
the price and all that everybody would
00:42
go over there the other one will drop
00:43
the price more and everybody would go
00:44
over there and the other one drop the
00:45
price more and they’d all go over there
00:46
and these is competition in the
00:49
marketplace without government
00:52
intervention drove the prices down until
00:55
the guys got tired of it and then they
00:56
just kind of raised all the prices back
00:58
up but we’d go through a period of time
01:00
that this head-to-head competition
01:03
caused a gas war and it was competition
01:06
and it was turned out to be good for us
01:08
because we didn’t have a lot of money
01:10
and we could put gas in our tank because
01:12
it was cheaper well guess what Russia
01:17
and the Middle East have decided to have
01:20
an oil war not a war where they’re
01:24
shooting each other but where they’re
01:26
driving the price of oil down
01:28
dramatically it’s dropped 33% over the
01:35
weekend now you know those gas stations
01:38
I was talking about when they dropped
01:39
their prices everybody help me with this
01:42
do they make more money or less money
01:44
with lower prices they made less money
01:47
okay everybody knows this right their
01:49
profits went down didn’t it but they got
01:51
customers and they got to stay in
01:53
business by competing so guess what
01:55
happens when the price of oil goes down
01:57
two guys like Chevron and Exxon people
02:02
like that their profits go down because
02:08
the price of their barrel of oil went
02:10
down that they’re sucking out of the
02:11
ground
02:12
you
02:13
you know that means you’re about to get
02:14
some cheap gas in the coming weeks for
02:16
your car right people if oil drops 33%
02:21
do you know I think it’s going to affect
02:21
your dadgum get price at the pump yes it
02:24
will okay because the gas war will are
02:28
the oil war which gas has made out of
02:30
oil will turn into a gas war at the pump
02:32
around here it won’t have a little sign
02:34
up that says gas war it’s probably
02:36
politically incorrect you probably get
02:37
put in jail but end of the day is you
02:40
guys are gonna get some cheap gas
02:42
because this is driven down now it’s is
02:45
it you think it’s gonna stay down no no
02:47
more than the gas war between the gas
02:48
stations continued forever it’s not
02:51
going to stay down and so Exxon is going
02:53
to survive and Chevron is going to
02:54
survive and BP is going to survive and
02:55
Halliburton is going to survive
02:57
everybody that all these oil stocks that
02:59
are driven by profit in the oil business
03:01
but guess what they’re part of the Dow
03:03
Jones Industrial Average and when their
03:05
profits go away to the tune of 33% over
03:08
the weekend guess what their stock price
03:10
does it goes down oh let’s mix that with
03:14
all of you people have completely lost
03:16
your mind
03:17
over the coronavirus and everybody’s
03:20
scared out of their brains and can’t
03:22
even think clearly now oh and now we
03:25
have a wonderful buying opportunity on
03:28
the stock market today the stock market
03:30
is tanked based on this oil war and the
03:33
coronavirus now let me help you with
03:35
this my friend art Laffer who is one of
03:37
the leading economists in the world
03:38
without a doubt has a great saying he
03:43
says people don’t make good decisions
03:45
when they’re drunk and they don’t make
03:48
good decisions when they’re panicked if
03:54
you’re thinking about pulling your money
03:55
on the stock market because you think
03:57
the coronavirus is going to destroy the
03:59
US economy you are a panicked fool
04:03
you’re a fool Southwest airs stock
04:08
prices down 30% do you think Southwest
04:12
air has lost 30% of its value because of
04:16
the coronavirus in reality I mean learn
04:20
to do a little basic math here that
04:23
means that throughout the next five
04:25
years there
04:27
on their planes would have to be down
04:29
30% for them to have permanently lost
04:32
30% of their value that’s asinine you’re
04:37
panicked or you’re drunk I don’t know
04:39
which it is or both
04:41
that’s ridiculous and so the stock
04:46
market going down is as artificial as it
04:49
can be it is based on drunk people panic
04:52
people in an oil war and that’s what
04:55
it’s based on this is the best buying
04:58
opportunity in 10 or 15 years on the
05:01
stock market today because these numbers
05:05
are down artificially these companies
05:07
have not lost all of this money they’ve
05:11
not lost all of this value do you think
05:13
Cruise Lines dropped 40% in value over
05:18
the last 16 days come on I’m dumb are
05:20
you okay listen here’s the deal
05:23
40,000 people will die of car wrecks
05:25
this year in the u.s. 14,000 people have
05:28
died of the flu so far in the US and
05:30
around 40,000 will die of the flu this
05:33
year in the US 22 people have died of
05:35
the corona virus and yet you cannot find
05:41
a bottle of that hand-washing stuff
05:45
anywhere in any store in America today
05:47
you would think the stuff was gold if
05:50
you got a case of it you ought to put it
05:52
on eBay overnight because some panicked
05:54
fool will pay you $8,000 an ounce for
05:58
that stuff in it people have lost their
06:01
minds if you lost their minds and I
06:05
don’t want the corona virus and I don’t
06:06
want you to die the corona virus and I
06:08
don’t want you to die the flu I don’t
06:09
want you to die in a car wreck I don’t
06:10
want anybody die I want everybody to
06:12
live have a good life I’m here for you
06:14
but you’re sacrificing your entire
06:16
freaking retirement because you’re
06:19
panicked because you watch too much news
06:23
you need to turn off the news you need
06:26
turn off let me tell you the level of
06:29
anxiety you have is directly tied to the
06:32
number of hours a day you spend watching
06:34
news if you just turn it off and open up
06:39
your Bible my friend Zig Ziglar
06:40
say I read the newspaper every morning
06:42
and I read the Bible every morning so I
06:43
can tell what both sides are doing and
06:46
you know I tell you what you’re just
06:48
gonna have to think people when you’re
06:51
drunk and when you’re panicked you don’t
06:52
make good decisions usually as soon as I
06:56
get really really scared right after
06:58
that I get really really desperate and I
06:59
get riot right after that really really
07:01
stupid and cashing out your retirement
07:03
account or stopping your investing or
07:05
bailing on your 401k because you’ve
07:08
watched too much news is absolutely
07:10
asinine do not do that as a matter of
07:14
fact if you’ve got some extra money it’s
07:16
a good week to put some money in I don’t
07:17
believe in market timing I don’t have a
07:19
single dollar allocated in my personal
07:22
budget for timing the market so all of
07:24
my purchases of mutual funds are on
07:26
autopilot they just go when they go but
07:29
I’m kind of regretting that right this
07:30
second because man I could turn a
07:32
million dollars into two million so fast
07:34
right now thank you to Russia and thank
07:37
you to the Middle East for driving the
07:38
oil prices down because I’m gonna get a
07:40
cheap tank of gas from my big butt
07:42
Raptor pretty soon out of you people and
07:44
I’m gonna grin all the way to the bank
07:47
when this stock market comes right
07:48
straight back up and the rest of your
07:50
standing on the sidelines going I lost
07:52
half my retirement because you panicked