The Guardian has a story with quotes from people who want to keep wearing masks for reasons beyond protecting themselves from covid and germs. Masks help women avoid the male gaze, (although some men just try harder when you’re wearing a mask) and they help us avoid having to smile and look happy all the time. For people who work in retail especially, this is a big advantage. Some women appreciate that they don’t have to wear makeup under a mask and others say they feel less vulnerable and judged when their face is covered. I got a lot out of this article and the personal stories people shared. Mostly I felt bad for the people who work with the public.
She’s been fully vaccinated for three weeks, but Francesca, a 46-year-old professor, does not plan to abandon the face mask that she’s come to view as a kind of “invisibility cloak” just yet.
“Maybe it’s because I’m a New Yorker or maybe it’s because I always feel like I have to present my best self to the world, but it has been such a relief to feel anonymous,” she said. “It’s like having a force field around me that says ‘don’t see me’.”
Francesca is not alone. After more than a year of the coronavirus pandemic, some people – especially some women – are reluctant to give up the pieces of cloth that serve as a potent symbol of our changed reality.
“It’s a common consensus among my co-workers that we prefer not having customers see our faces,” said Becca Marshalla, 25, who works at a bookstore outside Chicago. “Oftentimes when a customer is being rude or saying off-color political things, I’m not allowed to grimace or ‘make a face’ because that will set them off. With a mask, I don’t have to smile at them or worry about keeping a neutral face.”
“I have had customers get very upset when I don’t smile at them,” she added. “I deal with anti-maskers constantly at work. They have threatened to hurt me, tried to get me fired, thrown things at me and yelled ‘f-k you’ in my face. If wearing a mask in the park separates me from them, I’m cool with that.”
That poor woman who works at a bookstore! I can’t imagine dealing with antimaskers all day like that. I would be keyed up waiting for the next one. Masks do add a layer of protection against scrutiny. There were quotes from a man who was relieved he no longer had to fake a smile and from a non-binary person who was glad to not be misgendered constantly. This article ended with a woman who felt more self conscious about her appearance because because she sees herself on Zoom all day, which I’ve heard is a real issue for people. Wearing a mask helps her feel ok about going out in public. While I will continue wearing a mask inside for the near future as I want to feel more protected, I realized that it lets me hide in plain sight too. It also helps me be less self conscious about skin issues like acne. I can wear a blemish sticker and not worry about people seeing it either.
photos credit: Georg Arthur Pflueger, Lala Azizli and Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash