2020-08-02 02:54:35 UTC
Are masks giving men a licence to leer? Women report a rise in 'aggressive eye contact’ since
face coverings became commonplace as an expert warns they 'provide anonymity' for threatening
Women online are reporting a rise in 'aggressive eye contact' from men in masks
Social media users are sharing stories of 'so much hard staring happening'
UN Women UK Executive Director said to be aware of 'anonymity masks provide'
Claire Barnett told FEMAIL: 'We need to create an understanding that behaviour like unwanted
and persistent staring is intimidating'
Women across the country are reporting a rise in 'aggressive eye contact' since the introduction
of face coverings in some public places.
New laws introduced over the weekend force customers to wear face masks in all shops, stations,
banks and post offices, while it is also mandatory to wear coverings on public transport.
But many women have been sharing stories online of 'aggressive eye contact' and 'hard staring'
from men wearing masks, with one tweeting: 'Grown men staring at you with a mask on is worse
than when they don't have a mask.'
UN Women UK Executive Director Claire Barnett told FEMAIL: 'As we work to "build back better"
following lockdown, we need to prevent the lack of witnesses of antisocial behaviour due to less
populated public spaces, as well as the anonymity face coverings can provide, leading to further
rises in harassment and threatening actions towards women, girls and minoritised groups.
'This will require widespread changes in attitudes and behaviour - creating an understanding that
behaviour like unwanted and persistent staring is intimidating, and that we all have a role to play
in making our public spaces more inclusive.'
Women are complaining about a rise in intimidating behaviour from men wearing masks, with many
taking to social media to share their stories.
One person commented: 'Does anybody else feel like men are way more aggressively demanding
eye contact in public since we all started wearing masks?
'So much hard staring happening. And I can't diffuse the attention by smiling like women are
conditioned to do. It's weird.'
Another wrote: 'Seriously, we all are wearing masks and some men still keep staring. WTF is wrong?'
'Do men realize that masks don't cover their eyes so we can still ****** See them staring like the
creepy pieces of s*** they are?????' one added.
'A jaunt downtown revealed men do not understand the anatomy of masks,' another wrote.
'The masks do not cover your eyes. I can still see you staring, idiots.'
Claire told FEMAIL that the crisis continues to have a 'damaging effect on women's economic
opportunities, social experiences and health' so it remains 'more important than ever that women
can move freely through public space without intimidation.
She explained: 'As part of our campaign to make the UK's public spaces safer and more inclusive
for women and girls, we're hearing reports of rising harassment and threatening behaviour in the
streets and on transport, in addition to the clearly documented rising domestic abuse within the
'This can be particularly severe for women who also experience another intersecting minority characteristic, like women of colour and differently-abled people.'
Claire went on to say that it was important to be wary that the anonymity face masks provide,
as well as the less populated spaces, don't lead to an increased rate of harassment for women.
Masks have been compulsory on public transport since July 15 after evolving scientific advice
suggested they could help stop Covid sufferers without symptoms from spreading the disease.
But over the weekend, new laws were introduced to make face coverings mandatory in shops,
supermarkets and enclosed shopping centres as well as train stations, banks, post offices,
building societies, bus stations and airports.
Failure to comply could result in a £100 spot fine, although police forces have indicated they will
only respond as a 'last resort'. Scotland Yard said it hopes shoppers who refuse to wear masks
will be 'shamed' into compliance.
A mask can only be removed in a shop for a small number of reasons, such as allowing staff to
check someone's identity or age or to communicate with a deaf lip reader. Shop staff do not
have to wear coverings but it is 'strongly recommended' that employers ask them to do so
unless they have other precautions such as screens.