In today’s refusal to wear a mask, we see echoes of this condom rejection embedded in white masculine ideology. Led by the Masculinity Performer in Chief, these men are making what increasingly looks like the last stand for that celluloid masculinity. As in another infamous “last stand,” they risk ending up dead on the battlefield they insisted on creating, along with the casualties they take with them.
A lot of people are baffled at this behavior—at balking at something so basic, a disease transmission preventative that has such a low barrier to access. Why do these men perform this mask-free “celluloid masculinity” in the literal face of a threat? The reason is that eschewing a mask sends a strong social signal, in which the bare face is the performance. But who is the audience?
Understanding this behavior requires understanding the level of investment that these men have made in their masculine ideology. Trump, reality notwithstanding, is the high priest of this ideology. When he rejected masks, his became the performance to imitate. These men have made a deep commitment and probably engaged in some willful self-deception to remain loyal to Trump. Donning a mask would mean wasting their investment and the perceived fruits of all that self-compromise.