Masks and emasculation: Why some men refuse to take precautions

Why the reluctance to model safe behavior? My research with Jennifer Berdahl and others suggest one critical reason: Appearing to play it safe contradicts a core principle of masculinity: show no weakness. In short, wearing a mask emasculates.

The refusal to wear a mask undermines the message that the rest of us should take safety precautions. But that’s the least of the problem. Leaders who are more concerned with preserving a macho public image put our lives at risk as they prove their manhood by showing resistance to experts’ opinions, hypersensitivity to criticism, and constant feuding with anyone who seems to disagree with them.

In our research, the show no weakness principle manifests by acting like you always know the answer. Admitting uncertainty or that you rely on anyone else’s opinion seems “weak.” Trump’s resistance to experts’ advice stems from a constant need to demonstrate that “I alone can fix it.”