A scientist has explained why Mike Pence refused to wear a mask while visiting patients recovering from coronavirus, and the clear culprit is toxic masculinity.
Pence, who is taking a break from his long career of fomenting anti-LGBT+ hatred to lead the White House efforts to tackle coronavirus, paid a visit to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota on Monday, April 27.
The hospital insists that “all patients, visitors and staff wear a face covering or mask to slow the spread of COVID-19”, but a video was released of Pence, the chair of the White House coronavirus task force, visiting patients recovering from the virus with no mask in sight.
Peter Glick PhD is a social sciences professor and senior scientist with the Neuroleadership Institute, and in a piece for the Scientific American he analysed Pence’s behaviour.
He said that according to his research, Pence refusing to abide by the hospital’s guidelines comes down to “one critical reason, which is that appearing to play it safe contradicts a core principle of masculinity: show no weakness”.
“In short, wearing a mask emasculates,” he said.
Glick continued: “Leaders who are more concerned with preserving a macho public image put our lives at risk as they prove their manhood by showing resistance to experts’ opinions, hypersensitivity to criticism and constant feuding with anyone who seems to disagree with them.”
He said the attitude of toxic masculinity shown by Mike Pence, as well as president Donald Trump, means wanting to appear that you always know the answer and have no need to rely on anyone else’s opinion.
The scientist continued: “In addition to poor decision-making, our research shows that masculinity-obsessed leaders create dysfunctional organizations that fall apart when times get tough… When everyone is looking out for number one, it becomes unlikely that they will all pull together effectively when a crisis hits.”
Trump’s toxic masculinity, he said, was exemplified in a less serious situation in 2017, when he “courted danger from a different corona, making a show of staring at the sun during an eclipse”.
“Defying experts’ warnings about personal danger signals ‘I’m a tough guy, bring it on’”, he said.
The incident showed an attitude that has much graver consequences in 2020.
Glick said: “For leaders like Trump the need to exhibit masculine bravado is so deeply baked into their character that they really can’t help themselves from constantly trying to prove their toughness.
“In 2017, when Trump stared at the sun, he only stood to harm himself.
“In the current corona crisis, his continuing need to deny the experts and the danger to prove that he’s a tough guy harms us all.”