Air pollution masks prove that women are more prudent than men?

As previously discussed here, air pollution in China, though it is being cleaned up gradually, is the one problem there that U.S. media is not exaggerating (see below for a good one, though!).

Anecdotally, it was women aged 20-40 who were most likely to be protecting themselves with a mask. Although helicopter parenting is no doubt common in Shanghai, it was uncommon to see children wearing masks. It was much more common to see a mother wearing a mask while the precious toddler inhaled filth than vice versa.

As only two out of 50+ gender IDs are recognized in China, I think I can safely refer to “men” versus “women” in this context. Based on observed mask-wearing behavior, I wonder if it would be possible to quantify, via a careful survey, the extent to which humans with one gender ID are simply more prudent than humans with a different gender ID.


10 thoughts on “Air pollution masks prove that women are more prudent than men?

  1. Wearing the masks could also be construed as a subtle form of protest, not a-la Hong Kong, but because it’s probably very unwise to write about air pollution as being a problem in China. Without many options for advocacy and protest about it, the women wear the masks, the men do not (a combination of longstanding male obstinacy and chivalry? and maybe they reason they might be arrested whereas their wives will not?) Puzzling, though, why the women don’t insist the children wear them. Illogical, but again, maybe they don’t want to be perceived as drawing their child into their own activity. If the mother requires the child wear a mask, the husband might feel compelled to wear one also.

    Maybe they just feel more comfortable wearing fashion accessories, in this case functional ones.

    Someone with real cultural experience in Shanghai and elsewhere will now demonstrate how completely all wet I am.

  2. I also wonder what the law is regarding wearing masks to hide one’s identity from the facial recognition systems. It seems to me that could land them in trouble.

    Even in the United States, in many places it is *illegal* to wear any kind of mask, even an air filtration mask, in public – if you intend to break the law in some way. Most of the statutes are written to restrict people from wearing masks to conceal their identity, commit crimes, harass or intimidate, or something similar. But still, can you imaging hopping out of your car in front of a cop going into a bank with a surgical mask on? It sounds like a good way to get stopped and questioned, to me. “I’m allergic to pollen, and this gun is to shoot the pollen, officer.”

    The “prudence” study would be hilarious. I’m sure there is a Social Psychologist somewhere who would love to write the grant proposal.

  3. In Calif*, wearing masks is also a gender specific affair during the fire season, when humans turn their planet into a smoking shithole for 3 months every year. They’re a bit paranoid about it, wearing them in the slightest hint of smoke. There’s a definite tradition of fitness keeping women in relationships while keeping men single.

  4. Wearing the masks is much more to do with protection from SARS, bird flu and etc unless it is a really polluted day. This is common among people from asia in general, especially women. In North American cities with a large asian population you will see asian women wear surgical masks in public.

  5. Is there any evidence that lose fitting paper masks off any protection whatsoever from air pollution? In industrial settings, the only time I’ve seen those style masks used is for sawdust–particles presumably many orders of magnitude larger than the suspended particulate found in polluted air, not to mention whatever harmful gasses are present which a thin paper will offer no filtering.

    • says “Many commercially available face masks may not provide adequate protection, primarily due to poor facial fit. Our results indicate that further attention should be given to mask design and providing evidence-based guidance to consumers.”

      suggests that 84-99 percent of pollution can be blocked by 3M paper masks (as you note, however, the truly loose ones let about 40 percent of the air flow around the side).

      (Anecdotally, I found that a 3M mask fogged up my glasses a lot less than a more stylish mask that I’d purchased at a Shanghai supermarket (these are actually kind of rare in the downtown areas due to the prevalence of home delivery services). So I assume that the fit was tighter.)

  6. Masks, sunglasses, and cloche hats are the standard uniform for attractive young women in Japan who wish to avoid the male gaze. Ear buds complete the look.

    I’ve read that female bicyclists in China wear scary looking masks with filter attachments to discourage cat calls.

    • Yup.
      Or if she didn’t have time to put on makeup.
      Or when he/she rides a bike on a dusty country road in China, SE Asia, or many other places.
      Or if they have a cold: it is considered polite to put on a face mask before going out.
      Men–mostly young ones–wear face masks too: all 51 genders of them!
      Face masks can be a fashion statement. Those are not just old boring surgical/paper masks: they are often made with fancy materials, whimsical shapes, bold colors, hand stitching and even beadwork.

  7. Yet another reason to wear a face mask that I read about recently but forgot to mention:
    when they are going shoplifting in a CCTV-equipped mall.

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