Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Women Who Want to Keep their Masks

Over the past century or so the workplace, the marketplace and even the battlefield have been increasingly opened to women. In the past, women focused mostly on the home, even to the point where some cultures banned and still ban them from going out in public alone.

Without specifying, it is clear that women have not had the easiest time integrating into the world outside of the home. Some of it derives from male disinterest in gender integration. Some of it derives from women themselves-- especially their wish to change the rules of the game. One notes today that the Pentagon’s effort to integrate more women in the armed forces has led to changes in strength requirements, thus building more weakness into military units. One understands that many male soldiers find the new ways alarming and dangerous.

Of course, feminism has done its best to exploit the difficulties. One might think that feminism has been in the vanguard of this struggle, but too much contemporary feminism is more interested in advancing an ideology than it is in improving women’s lives. After all, one of the most important works of feminist theory is a book called The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State. It was written over a century ago by a man named Friedrich Engels-- best known as Karl Marx’s sidekick. 

When it comes to choosing between women and ideology, contemporary feminism has most often chosen ideology. The victims of Bill Clinton’s and Joe Biden’s sexual predations can testify to that fact. 

So, feminism insists that it wants women to have an equal place in the public sphere. Fair enough, as long as we do not confuse equal opportunity with proportionate representation. If we insist on judging the success or failure of the current efforts against the loony notion that women must be equally represented at all levels of corporate or professional life, we will be attempting to impose an ideology on the process. And we will be disrespecting those women who choose, freely, not to strive for the summit of corporate power. 

As for how we should theorize these issues, I propose that we consider them in terms of what Asian cultures call face. Your face, as I have argued on different occasions, is your public identity.

The face you present to the world represents you as a social being. By presenting your face to the public you will have a place in society, a role and a function in society. To have such a place you need to be identifiable. And you are identified in public by your face. One notes, as one often has, that you are the only person who can never see your face directly. Your face is the way you present yourself to other people, the way you are recognized by other people. 

If we accept that we want women to have a public face, to have a place in the world outside of the home, to have a fair opportunity to work a job, to advance a career and to have a voice in public affairs, surely we do not want to promote a regime where women-- to say nothing of non-women-- are obliged to cover their faces in public. Many Western cultures ban Muslim women from covering their faces with what is called the niqab.

Obviously, the meaning of the term “face” in Asian philosophy goes beyond the literal and the obvious. But, it also contains the literal and the obvious. If a woman or a man is obliged to cover his or her face, he loses face. The purpose of the veil forced on many Muslim women is to deprive them of face, thus, to deprive them of a functioning place in the world outside of the home.

As for men masking their faces, you might have noticed that it has traditionally been associated, not with being a homebody and not having a place in the world, but with banditry. When everyone wears a face criminal types can easily come to believe that they are unrecognizable, because for the most part they are. Surely, they are less recognizable than they would be if they were not wearing masks. Whereas in normal civilized life someone who walks into a bank wearing a mask is up to no good. Today, if he walks into a bank wearing a mask, he is presumed to possess a special type of virtue.

For all I know the current increase in crime might have to do with the fact that criminals assume that once they put on a mask they cannot be identified.

As for women, today’s liberated women often seem compelled to share the image of their private parts through a practice called sexting. At times, this is practiced by teenaged girls. We do not recommend it, at all.

Women who have been told by idiot psycho professionals that they should not feel ashamed of their bodies have occasionally chosen to show how unashamed they are by showing off their private parts. Apparently, the right to privacy stops when the iPhone enters the equation.

And yet, since shame is a universal emotion, not something that comes and goes depending on custom or norms, many women want to show how shameless they are, but without having to pay a reputational price. How can they do so? Why, it’s easy. They crop their faces out of the pictures. By going faceless women can pretend to have attained peak shamelessness.

Thus, when it comes to the innocent gesture of wearing a mask, even when you do not need to wear a mask, do not think that it is merely an innocent gesture. As long as it is medically unnecessary, other issues are at play. Mask wearning is, as they say, fraught.

Anyway, today’s liberated enlightened women are prone to keep their masks on, even when it is unnecessary from a medical perspective. Rather than have a public face and enjoy full participation in extra-familial activities, they prefer to follow strict Muslim rules and mask their faces, thus rendering them unrecognizable to others. 

Women now seek invisibility and anonymity. You have to wonder how contemporary feminism has induced women to want to become invisible and anonymous, but such seems to be the case. Are they ashamed or proud of their worldly accomplishments? It all feels rather retrograde.

The Guardian has the story. One woman is happy to go unseen in 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.

Why does a sales clerk need to hide from her customers? Does this enhance sales? Does this create a better relationship with customers?

“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.”

Among other reasons, some women do not want to engage with other people. Of course, this will make them feel disconnected. And feeling disconnected will make them feel depressed. As we ought to have learned during the pandemic, this is not a good thing:

Aimee, a 44-year-old screenwriter who lives in Los Angeles, said that wearing a mask in public even after she’s been vaccinated gives her a kind of “emotional freedom”. “I don’t want to feel the pressure of smiling at people to make sure everyone knows I’m ‘friendly’ and ‘likable’,” she said. 

“It’s almost like taking away the male gaze. There’s freedom in taking that power back.”

Naturally, today’s feminists see everything in terms of empowerment. One wonders how their limited intellectual capacity allowed them to adopt behaviors that, in other countries, would have signaled misogynist oppression.

As for the dread male gaze, if she thinks that the male gaze hones in on her face, like a laser beam, perhaps that says something about her. Many women can tell you very clearly that the first time they walk down the street and do not attract the male gaze, is not a happy day.


urbane legend said...

Apparently, the right to privacy stops when the iPhone enters the equation.
The responsibility to use that right has stopped for a number of things because of cell phones.

Deana said...

So I work as a nurse at a large medical center in the US. Yesterday I went to the Kroger’s that is used almost exclusively by students and medical personnel from campus.

Store was packed. I had my nursing uniform on and no mask. I was dumbfounded at what I witnessed. Almost every single shopper was masked up. One after another, almost all under the age of 40, many under 25, masks, masks, masks. Men and women.

I agree with the point of your essay here but men, too, are continuing to mask up. Why?

The brainwashing, peer pressure and cultural onslaught has been more effective than I appreciated. It just depressed me.

Sam L. said...

I received an e-mail yesterday from Costco that said masks are not required for entry UNLESS your governor says you must.

Sam L. said...

Ah, "the male gaze"... The HORROR!! The horror... Reminds me of old cartoons where the Wolf spots a woman and his eyes bug out about 4".

Anonymous said...

44 screenwriter who isn’t a big success needs to find a real job.

IamDevo said...

This makes the psychology behind the popularity of Islam among its female adherents rather more evident. I'm struck by the final quote equating masking with "freedom." Also reminded of the power of "Newspeak," of which Orwell warned that the entity (previously thought to be only the official government, but obviously now understood to be any centrally organizing entity) that creates the language and mandates how it is used can control the minds of its citizens.

Mild Bill said...

Two random thoughts
1 I swear that Aimee has been quoted a couple of times in articles Dr. S has linked to.
2 Mask wearing has gotten to be a habit. People were told that they were saving others and themselves, positive reinforcement for that habit. Dr S has often noted the importance of habits

markedup2 said...

With a mask, I don’t have to smile at them or worry about keeping a neutral face.
Clearly not a very observant person. There is a reason one is told to smile while talking on the phone. The shape of one's mouth does all sorts of interesting things to the rest of one's face. Eyebrows can be particularly revealing for "I don't like this" expressions. There is even a word and field of study for this: micro-expressions.

There was also a fairly good TV show about it: Lie to Me.