The Scarlett Letter of Selective Masking

From a public health standpoint, mandating masking for those who have not been vaccinated, while allowing those who have been vaccinated to choose whether to wear a mask, is irrational. Vaccination does not prevent the transmission of this virus. That’s a scientific fact. If you are vaccinated, you are just as likely to get the virus from a vaccinated person as from a person who is not vaccinated. And if you or the other person with whom you are interacting is not wearing a properly-fitted respirator, you have near-zero protection from exposure to the virus. The masks that are mandated will not protect you. Again, that’s a scientific fact.

The Scarlet Letter by Doyoung Jung (

Further adding to irrationalism of such a policy from a scientific standpoint is the fact the majority of population has had and recovered from this virus (multiply the number of documented cases by at least a factor of four and look at the number). Moreover, having the virus is better than a vaccine in every respect. Demanding that those with natural immunity who have foregone the vaccine is demanding those who are less likely to spread the virus wear a mask. It makes no sense from a public health standpoint.

Let’s be truthful about what this policy is about: stigmatizing those who have not submitted to vaccination is not because they represent any threat to others but is an authoritarian tactic intended to punish those who have not followed the commands of those in power. As with the symbol Hester Prynne was compelled to wear in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter to publicly mark her as an adulterer, the mask is wearable stigmata intended to shame those who choose not to or cannot subject their bodies to the unreasonable demands of corporations and governments. Stigmatization is a medieval practice. It’s an expression of neo-Puritanism. Neo-Puritanism, alongside censorship (for heresy) and cancelling (or excommunication), is a feature of the New Fascist attitude. It’s a sign of biofascist desire.

I have only worn a mask in public where it is required that everybody wear a mask regardless of vaccination status. I have always recognized that doing so was participating in an irrational practice, but I did so to avoid being punished. There was also a degree of solidarity in there, I must admit. That fellow-feeling kept me from fighting the matter to the extent I probably should have. So many of my comrades were willing to sign up to mandatory mask-wearing. But to punish some and not others is a matter of fundamental justice. That is a matter of discrimination. To be separated from others via the imposition of stigmata is destructive to solidarity. This we must reject.

Show your solidarity with those who are subjected to such irrational demands by writing letters of protests to their places of business. If the corporation where you work has this policy, write me and let me know. I will write a letter and encourage others to do so.

Published by

Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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