Masculinity As Radical Selfishness: Rebecca Solnit on the Maskless Men of the Pandemic

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“I grew up with the old axiom “my right to swing my arm ends where your nose begins,” which is about balancing personal freedom with the rights of others and one’s own obligation to watch out for those rights. The maliciously gendered rhetoric of the National Rifle Association, the incels and pick-up artist subcultures, Trumpism, and a lot else have proposed, in recent years, that actually their right to swing their arms doesn’t end and my nose and your nose are not their problem or are just in the way and need to move. Wearing masks, it turns out, is not manly, when the definition of manly is not having to do fuck-all out of concern for others.
There are a lot of other things that turn out not to be manly, including caring about climate change and environmental problems, and even according to some studies recycling (and others, handwashing). Taking care of things is not manly. Four of the worst-hit countries in this pandemic are also afflicted with heads of state preoccupied with meeting the terms of machismo—Bolsanaro, Putin, Boris J., Trump—in ways that conflict with recognizing the gravity of the Covid-19 crisis and responding adequately.
This is a definition of masculinity as radical selfishness, and just as it’s taken a huge toll in American lives by demanding and utilizing deregulation of access to semiautomatic weapons and other implements of mass death, so it’s taken a huge toll by insisting that we don’t have to respond to the pandemic because the “we” that is not responding imagines itself as invulnerable and full of unlimited arm-swinging rights.”

Article by Rebecca Solnit – Literary Hub – 29 May 2020

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