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Why won’t men wear their masks over their noses?

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Estonia gets its first female prime minister, it’s time to examine Vicki Hollub’s legacy at Occidental Petroleum, and men can’t seem to figure out how to wear their masks. Have a productive Monday.

– Mask up? Last week, the New York Times tried to answer a question that has plagued us for 10 months now: why do men seem to have such a hard time wearing their masks over their noses?

You must have noticed the trend by now. The guy shopping at the grocery store. A family of four walking down the street, mom and kids masked up—but the dad’s mask doesn’t quite reach his nostrils.

Or, like science reporter James Gorman, maybe it caught your eye at the inauguration, when President Bill Clinton, Supreme Court Justice John Roberts, and President Barack Obama all had sub-nose mask slips. (He didn’t notice any women make the same mistake last Wednesday.)

President Bill Clinton’s mask slips below his nose at President Joe Biden’s inauguration.
Caroline Brehman-Pool/Getty Images

“It’s not a Democratic thing. Or a Republican thing. Or an inaugural thing,” he writes. “It’s a male thing. It’s like manspreading, but with masks. Call it manslipping.”

It’s not like women have never pulled their masks down for a moment, but Gorman has put a name to a trend—and he offers a few theories as to why this particular problem seems to plague (no pun intended) male mask wearers. Are men’s noses too big for masks? Do men need more air? But ultimately, he provides evidence debunking those theories, including male doctors who wear masks all day.

Still, wearing a mask wrong is better than not wearing one at all (although, the high viral load in the nose compared to the throat may beg to differ!). And the occasional slip is different than a persistent below-the-nose style.

At the end of this story, we’re left with more questions than answers. Even though “manslipping” has more serious consequences than manspreading and manterrupting, it may—like those offenses—remain a mystery that’s never solved.

Emma Hinchliffe
[email protected]

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