Coronavirus Safety Runs Into a Stubborn Barrier: Masculinity

On Tuesday, and not for the first time, Joseph R. Biden Jr. described President Trump’s reluctant attitude toward wearing masks as “macho.”

Tomi Lahren, a conservative commentator and Fox Nation host, countered that Mr. Biden “might as well carry a purse with that mask.”

They were among the most direct comments yet that have tied stereotypes about acting and appearing manly to the basic precautions that doctors, epidemiologists and other health experts recommend to prevent infection by the highly contagious and deadly coronavirus.

The theme has been there since the beginning of the pandemic. Some experts who study masculinity and public health say the perception that wearing masks and following social distancing guidelines are unmanly has carried a destructive cost. The virus has infected more men than women and killed far more of them.

The experts say the best public health practices have collided with several of the social demands men in many cultures are pressured to follow to assert their masculinity: displaying strength instead of weakness, showing a willingness to take risks, hiding their fear, appearing to be in control.

Men’s resistance to showing weakness — and their tendency to take risks — was demonstrated by scientists long