[1/25/21] – Masculinity and Mask Wearing

In the face of 400,000 deaths (and counting) in the United States during the COVID-19 global pandemic, most men at the 46th Presidential Inauguration let their mask – intended to stop the spread of COVID-19 “slip” over their nose. They are not alone. In fact, men are more likely to flaunt this required public safety precaution than women. Why, you may ask? Well, it is definitely not genetic as not all men refuse to participate in the practice of preventing the spread of COVID-19. Nose “slipping” is akin to manspreading, mansplaining, and a host of other behaviors that are the result of socializing men in the context of toxic masculinity. Don’t be a baby, stop crying, you’re acting like a girl are common tropes in American culture intended to masculinize young boys and turn them into men. But what are we turning these young boys into really? In this week’s Lecture Spark, we explore the issue of nose “slipping” face masks among men in the context of toxic masculinity. Specifically, we will use concepts gender socialization, hegemonic masculinity, and self-fulfilling prophecy.

Download the PowerPoint Lecture Spark for Masculinity and Mask Wearing

Learning Objectives

LO1: Analyze the differences and similarities between the two terms hegemonic masculinity and toxic masculinity.

LO2: Discuss why nose “slipping” might be described as an example of hegemonic masculinity and toxic masculinity.

LO3: Explain how the four dominant agents of socialization contribute to the prevalence and trajectory of hegemonic and toxic masculinity in American culture.


What is the Personality Profile of People Who Refuse to Wear Masks | Are Masks Effective?

This video answers the questions: Can I discuss the mental health and personality factors behind people that refused to wear a mask in areas where that is mandated by law?

Masks vs. masculinity: Why do some men refuse to wear masks? | COVID-19 Special

Is it really that hard to wear a mask? It’s not, if you’ve lost a loved one to COVID-19 and understand the gravity of this pandemic. But for people with no connection to the coronavirus, it’s easier to say that all these health precautions are over the top, despite the science. Then there are surveys that show men are less likely to wear masks than women. Some claim it robs them of their manhood. Experts put it down to toxic masculinity.

Face mask fears: Some black men say wearing a mask makes them profiling targets

Lawmakers are recommending that residents wear face masks in several major cities including New York, Detroit and Philadelphia, but many African Americans fear they could be labeled a threat if they cover their faces to protect themselves. Jericka Duncan speaks to some black men who believe they were profiled by police while wearing face masks to combat coronavirus.

Discussion Questions

What agents of socialization – media, family, education, and peers – contribute most mightily to one’s gender socialization? How can competing messaging about who you are supposed to be and why create problems for young boys attempting to grow into men? What are some stereotypical messages about men that are particularly harmful, and where do they come from?

In your own words, define masculinity. What does it mean to be a man? What are the ideal attitudes and behaviors of the American man? How would you describe a less than ideal man? What qualities and characteristics place these men in subordinate status? Why are feminine characteristics be discouraged among men? How do men and women both contribute to toxic masculinity in violent confrontations about mask wearing?

How does the repeated messaging reinforcing that hegemonic masculinity is normative and anything else is not facilitate the adoption of this ideology in even the most resolute opponents of this cultural value? Why might some young boys start to believe the attitudes and behaviors espoused by hegemonic masculine thinking while others reject them? What social factors contribute to this trend?

How are messages of hegemonic masculinity different among men of different racial and ethnic identities? Which group of men – Whites or non-Whites – have more freedom to reject hegemonic masculinity without prejudice or discrimination, and why? Which group of men – Whites or non-Whites have the strictest rules enforcing hegemonic masculinity, and why? How does social class, religion, education level, political affiliation, and more create different pressures to conform to the “ideal” man in American culture?

What are some examples of the far more aggressive belief that men are dominant over all things feminine, toxic masculinity? Why might some people see nose “slipping” as a form of toxic masculinity? When does a practice of hegemonic masculinity become toxic? What cultural changes are necessary to facilitate the removal of hegemonic and toxic masculinity? What groups benefit the most from hegemonic and toxic masculinity, and what groups suffer the most, and why?


The prevailing and deeply entrenched ideological belief that masculinity is dominant over femininity in all aspects of social and cultural life is known by sociologists to be _______.

a. Gender Socialization
b. Aggressive Masculinity Syndrome
c. Hegemonic Masculinity
d. Feminism

From a _______ perspective, a sociologist researching nose “slipping” among individuals would focus their attention on how messages received from family members about masculinity inform how young boys and girls come to understand their gender identity.

a. Structural Functionalism
b. Conflict
c. Rational-Choice
d. Symbolic-Interaction

Peer interactions, media consumption, messaging from family members, and experiences in school are the strongest formative agents in the process of _______.

a. Socializing
b. Socialization
c. Socialism
d. Socialites

Photo credit: iStockphoto.com/FilippoBacci

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