Some Women Want To Keep Wearing Face Masks As An ‘Invisibility Cloak’
Ahead of further COVID-19 restrictions being lifted, some women plan on wearing face masks as they act as an ‘invisibility cloak’ from staring men and others asking them to smile.
Last year, we all took a bit of time to adjust to putting on a mask when going to the shop. Now, it’s second-nature – if anything, it would feel a bit wrong going anywhere without one in my pocket, like I’d forgotten my wallet or phone.
Some don’t agree. In the US, debates continue to rage on about whether masks should be enforced, with conservative pundits like Tucker Carlson equating them to ‘child abuse’ – I mean, really? – and others unable to see the harm in putting one on, even if it’s just walking to your table in a restaurant. However, for women, they offer another layer of protection.
The Guardian recently spoke to a number of people across the US about their thoughts on face masks. Becca Marshalla, a 25-year-old bookstore employee just outside Chicago, said, ‘It’s a common consensus among my co-workers that we prefer not having customers see our face.’
She continued: ‘Oftentimes when a customer is being rude or saying off-colour 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.’
Women are regularly asked to ‘cheer up’ or smile by men they don’t know, usually invasive strangers on the street, train or in a bar. Often, insults follow if they stand up for themselves or fail to comply. As a man, I can’t really imagine how annoying (understatement of the year) that must be.
‘I have had customers get very upset when I don’t smile at them. 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*ck you’ in my face. If wearing a mask in the park separates me from them, I’m cool with that,’ Becca added.
Of course, many men and women feel more comfortable under a mask for a range of reasons, whether it’s a matter of confidence, insecurity or simply not wanting to ‘perform’ for passing eyes.
Jinghua, a 34-year-old non-binary writer living in Melbourne, Australia, also told the publication: ‘After lockdown ended, it was confronting to go out and be exposed to all that offhand racism, sexism and misgendering from strangers again… sometimes when I’m just going out to grab takeaway, I’ve enjoyed keeping the mask on even though it’s not really necessary here now.’
Aimee, a 44-year-old screenwriter who lives in Los Angeles, said: ‘It’s almost like taking away the male gaze. There’s freedom in taking that power back.’
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