If you’re among those who applauded Dick Cheney wearing a face-covering, because, he too, is trying to do his part to spread COVID-19, we’re right there with you. But to call a mask-wearing man a real man? We’re back in the Bizzaro dimension that conflates masculinity with following basic public health principles, holds Dick Cheney up to be a leader when he is just a follower — of simple guidelines that should keep this 79-year-old safe. #realmenwearmasks thing is already a joke, because, let’s face it, this conversation should never have to be framed like this.
Saying “real mean wear masks” is a little like saying, “real men pay their bills on time,” or “real men put sunscreen on their kids when it’s sunny outside.” The result is positive, but the motivation seems like the ultimate doth protest too much situation. Look. We all know there’s a perception that wearing a COVID mask exists along with some kind of political divide. And so, if you’re actively thinking about that a lot, then, on some level, it’s good that Dick Cheney is wearing a mask. But, this weirdly grants the false premise that most prominent Republicans are anti-mask when they’re not, and really, Trump is the big anti-masker.
— Liz Cheney (@Liz_Cheney) June 26, 2020
And, beyond that. This is stupid. The “Real Mean Do BLANK” thing exists because it suggests there is a large majority of men who are invested in the concept of being a real man. Again, think about it. You’re giving power to a really dumb (and needlessly gendered) concept by trying to prove its opposite.
To prove what’s wrong with this thinking, let’s talk about shit. If I wrote: Real parents changed their babies’ diapers, that would imply there was some powerful contingent of wack-a-doo parents who found diaper-changing to be controversial, and that there were actual medical benefits from babies having poop on their butts, basically, forever. (I’m not talking about natural diapers or people who start toilet training really early, I’m talking about a funhouse mirror world in which people thought changing a diaper was BENEATH them.)
Now, in fairness to Liz Cheney and Dick, I understand the hyperbole here is what is supposed to make “Real Men Wear Masks” construction work, but when it comes to something this obvious, I think I have an issue with the word “real” more than the word “man.” To quote Jemaine in Flight of the Concords: “What man, which man, when’s a man. What makes a man Am I a man?”
Numerous outlets have already lampooned this, including McSweeney’s, with their satirical article: 8 WAYS MEN CAN WEAR FACE MASKS AND STILL FEEL MANLY. (Number three on the list is: If he agrees that epidemiologists know more than he does about how the Coronavirus spreads, ask him to grill the meat at a barbecue.)
You get it. Talking about what real men do is something real mean don’t do, because real men are a construct and most of us, at least when we’re talking about COVID-19 masks are, in the end, human. Should real humans wear masks? Yes. Real humans should.