Masks of Fear 4: Mask-ulinity

John Bailey
9 min readOct 27, 2020


You should refuse to wear a “face condom”. And, it’s easy to explain because you can use the same lame excuses:

“I’m too big” — you can’t find a mask big enough to cover your enormous, chiseled, masculine jaw.

“I’m clean” — you wash your hands … sometimes … and you aren’t “diseased” — which anyone can clearly see by the ripple of your biceps. (flex a few times, they’ll get it)

Masks are just not … “manly”. Imagine Kirk Douglas in a mask: You can’t see his chin cleft, his perfectly formed dimples, his majestic jaw line. The mask fairly erases his Douglasness, leaving mere crumbs of manhood — things like integrity, intelligence, actual courage. What kind of masculine identity can a person have if they have to stop posing and posturing long enough to do things?

Research by Middlesex University and the Mathematical Science Research Institute in Berkeley found that men are less likely than women to wear protective masks because they view them as embarrassing: “shameful, not cool, a sign of weakness and a stigma”. According to Dr Valerio Capraro, Senior Lecturer in Economics, “men have higher levels of negative emotion” while wearing a mask.

Men are having EMOTION…

I get that it’s a woman making the claim, so maybe it’s projection. Just the same, it’s a little scary. Besides, masks are effeminate. Maybe we should just say “NO” to the “virus burqua”?

Shock jock Joe Rogan, pied piper of masculine culture, said only “bitches” wear masks.

Aubrey Huff, former baseball player and self-described “protector of toxic masculinity” tweeted:

Boris Johnson’s decision to continue shaking hands worked out well for him. He became infected, required hospitalization, and later said he was sick enough “things could have gone either way”. (CNN quote)

Jair Bolsonaro claimed his athleticism would prevent him from getting a virus, and besides, he “wouldn’t feel anything” if infected. He trashed efforts to contain the disease in his country — at present the worst-faring in the world, measured in deaths per capita.

That’s similar to the USA — which has floundered under the “leadership” of the posing “masculinity” of a performer-in-chief — another anti-science, anti-mask president — the builder not of great walls protecting a nation from foreign hordes but of fences protecting said malignant poser from his own disaffected people — the savior not of humans but of profits for billionaires — fiddler to the biggest economic crash in the history of the Republic.

Declining the mask is an attempt at social signaling — a performative flaunting of the naked face in the way a porn star might flaunt an erection. But, in this case, who is the audience, and how are they supposed to benefit?

This performance hearkens back to primary school, when the dull boys tried feebly to conceal their dullness behind braggadocio, bluster, and bullying. It’s ironic that these same man-boys, now middle-aged, seem to think they’re manifesting an ideal of the rugged, individual, when mask refusal really traces in part to a fear of what other people will think of them.

Their callous recklessness toward others is an advertisement of character — just not the one they seem to imagine projecting. They’re manifesting the posturing of insecure adolescent boys, engaging in hijinks, trying to impress adolescent girls. It’s a juvenile context in which concern for safety reflects weakness.

These things arise from “precarious masculinity” — a culture where “manhood” is not inborn, but must be achieved, often by enduring painful initiation rituals. It can also be lost — by behaving as Rogan so poetically put it “like a bitch”.

Arlo Kinsey, an 18 year old high school graduate working at RJ’s Bob-Be-Que Shack in Mission, KS was greeting customers. In his own words.

“I’m working in a minimum-wage job just to save up for college, and then I’ve got to tell this dude to wear a mask because, that’s, you know, what I’m required to do by law,” (referring to Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly’s order to help slow the spread of COVID-19.)

The “Dude” — a middle-aged man twice the size of the skinny high school graduate — pulled a gun on the kid, implying he would murder him for conveying the message.

“And he’s going to shoot me because of that? We could have taken your order outside if you didn’t want to. But you go into an air conditioned area without a mask on, and if I tell you to wear one, you’re going to shoot me?”

A pathetically precarious masculinity indeed…

Researchers have found that men respond to challenges of their man-status with behaviors like supporting hierarchy, espousing homophobic beliefs, supporting aggression, and choosing physical tasks over intellectual ones. We might say the spectrum of behaviors often called “toxic masculinity” are actually symptoms of fragile masculinity, or precarious male status.

A man in public without a mask is willfully endangering people around him by refusing to contain his spit and the viruses it could contain. That’s toddler-like, or adolescent at best — certainly not “manly”. This is literally-toxic masculinity — displaying the social responsibility of a drunken driver. It’s a pathetic attempt to portray a character of strength when the opposite is what’s really there.

“People are not who they say but rather who their actions reveal them to be.” — Ziad K. Abdelnour

Truly masculine men are protective, not preening and posing — and then demanding some privilege. Truly masculine men would not risk bringing home something to harm their wives and children.

Real Men Aren’t Dullards:

Dullness isn’t masculine; it’s the opposite. Because, literally dying of stupidity — or harming your family because you’re thick — these are the fates of a mental weakling, not a strong protector and provider. The main qualities of homo sapiens (Latin for wise man) that let us take over the planet are intelligence and adaptability, not brawn and obstinance. It doesn’t matter how burly you are. If you’re too stupid to avoid infection, you get thrown out of the gene pool.

Real Men Know Masks Work:

Here’s a demonstration to appeal to the adolescent boy in any of us, showing HOW masks work:

For those who like to read (or can), here’s some writing on the science.

Masculine Men Wear Protective Equipment:

Anyone who is doing anything truly adventurous or out on the edge is wearing some kind of protective gear — from gloves, to a helmet, to a mask of some kind.

Lumberjacks wear gloves and leg guards — because there’s no thigh of any tough-guy that’s any match for a chainsaw chain. Firefighters wear protective gear — including breathing apparatus — because even though firefighters are really pretty tough guys, there’s no fire-proof humans.

Police? Body armor.

Fishermen? Flotation and survival suits.

Even recreational adventurers wear protective gear. Paraglider pilots wear gloves and helmets — and carry reserve parachutes.

The only “masculine men” who don’t wear protective equipment of some kind aren’t doing anything real: they’re posers.

What other smart, masculine men wear protective equipment?

The ones who “got the girl”. You know I’m talking about those smart-masculine guys — the dentists and surgeons and people who work in clean-rooms with microscopes and technical equipment.

Those people have to protect their environment FROM THEMSELVES. Their breath could infect the insides of the person they’re doing surgery on — or contaminate a scientific sample or a space probe. They’re careful to protect others.

Who doesn’t wear masks?

Posers. Guys who blow cigar smoke and shit-talk surgeons and blather about how responsible, smart, science-literate, pro-social, taking-care-of-your-people smartly — you know, everything you saw John Wayne portray on screen — is “being a bitch”.

Maybe, the problem for posers is the mask isn’t enough of a sacrifice. Maybe if it made them bleed every time they put it on, it would be a useful prop for their posturing and whining.

Your Masculinity Might Be Fragile If:

  • The idea of safety equipment offends you.
  • You are offended by people being smarter than yourself.
  • You feel a need to pose without safety equipment.
  • You advertise masculinity or act abusively rather than in a truly masculine (protective) way toward others.
  • Your behavior is obnoxious, adolescent, and endangering to others rather than smart, thoughtful, and protective of others.
  • You are self-centered, self-involved, and protective of your vanity rather than concerned for others and protective of their safety.
  • You are offended by people being different from yourself.
  • You are offended by being shown an opportunity to be protective rather than obnoxious and reckless.

Save Your Masculinity:

Start by giving yourself a break: It’s OK to have mistakenly followed the prophets of fake masculinity who are in fact neurotic betas. The good news is being truly masculine isn’t that hard.

Understand that masculine isn’t a “status”. It isn’t static, but an ongoing behavior: You are never more masculine than the last time you looked out for those weaker than you — those a real masculine man would protect.

That’s the main difference: Self-centered versus taking care of others. Whiny bitches are always on about their own comfort, status, and entitlement. Masculine men are secure about themselves, so they’re busy taking care of others. And, they’re not angry about it: Anger is just a big insecurity zit, erupting. Masculinity is calm, not threatened by people asking the strong to take care with the lives and safety of others. Real masculinity welcomes every opportunity to protect — however that can be done.

It’s OK to be uncertain, awkward, or even anxious.

The difference is in how they react to it. They don’t bullshit, bluster, or bully. They don’t pose or whine. They don’t hide behind delusional denials of reality. They don’t fall down conspiracy theory rabbit holes (sure sign of a timid beta) to blame others. When they’re wrong they want to know FAST, so they can change course to being RIGHT. They don’t let dim-witted neurotic posers talk them into dying (or killing) of stupidity.

Arnold Schwarzenegger wears a mask, and encourages other real men to do likewise. And, Jamaal Bowman has been seen rockin’ the Wu Tang Clan mask.

They’re not afraid of seeming weak because they’re secure with their manhood. Being protective of others won’t shrivel their penis. Follow their lead: Show some real mask-ulinity by protecting your community.

Helping Others:

Fragile masculinity is more delicate than a snowflake. You can’t install masculinity into someone who is insecure or narcissistic.

If you’re their parent, you can model real masculinity. You can point to it. You can perhaps gently (so you don’t melt them) encourage in the right direction. You can consider getting them involved with an activity where there are positively masculine adult males they can respect and emulate — and who will help bring them along.

Sadly, if they’re already of an adult age, my experience suggests a conversion from toxically fragile to a positive and resilient version of masculinity is a rare one. So, if you’re dealing with a fragile adult (age) male, “social distancing” may be the best choice for you. Above all, keep yourself safe, both physically and mentally.