Early last week, the Washington Postpublished a column summarizing where we're at right now: "Making men feel manly in masks is, unfortunately, a public-health challenge of our time."
The piece was inspired by Congresswoman Liz Cheney (R-WY), who had tweeted a photo of her father, the former Vice President Dick Cheney, donning a mask, and tagged the photo with the hashtag Real Men Wear Masks.
The piece cited a study by researchers at Cal and Middlesex University in the UK that found men were less likely than women to don masks for a number of reasons: They were less likely to believe they'd get sick with the coronavirus (they are actually more likely to get sick), and "Men more than women agree that wearing a face covering is shameful, not cool, a sign of weakness, and a stigma."
Silly as it is, this is an issue that leaders across all walks of life must reckon with if we're going to return to normal life any time soon. “People need face coverings that make them feel stylish, cool, and — yes — even manly,” Harvard epidemiologist Julia Marcus wrote in The Atlanticlast month.
That's why the campaign launched by Ohio governor Mike DeWine is so important.
DeWine is explicitly tying mask wearing to the most widely-embraced masculine endeavor we have in American society today: watching football.
Will this work on its own? Of course not. People are influenced by those whom they admire, those who they find cool. And, no offense to DeWine, people don't find governors cool.
But people in Ohio think Ryan Day is cool. People in Alabama think Nick Saban is cool. People in Oklahoma think Lincoln Riley is cool. College football coaches have been at the forefront of the public health battle, and they need to stay there. Few men -- especially in the middle-aged demographic -- have the visibility they do.
No one person has the ability to make mask wearing seem masculine among the crowd that views it as the opposite, but if every coach was seen in public wearing a mask, that could do the trick.
As we're all well aware, the clock is tick, tick, ticking on the 2020 fall season, and making masks manly is one of the most important fronts we have in this battle. The promise of a football season could be the most important weapon we have.