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Opinion

Face Masks: The New Symbol of Tyranny?

“A muzzle on human rights”.

IMAGE CREDIT: UNSPLASH

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, face masks are springing into our lives and a day does not go by when we don’t see people wearing them. Whether they are medical face masks or homemade ones in funky prints, it certainly is a strange and almost extraterrestrial reality to get used to.

Less than one year ago, face masks were rarely used in daily life, whereas now, they are everywhere. “Have you got your face mask?” has now become a staple question to ask yourself and others before venturing out of the confines of your home. But how much good do they really do? 

There are mixed messages across the globe which makes it challenging to know what is the right thing to do. For example, in England, people travelling by any mode of public transport must wear a face mask, excluding cruise ships, school transport, taxis and private hire vehicles, with children under 11, the disabled, those with breathing difficulties, and those who rely on lip-reading exempt.

VIDEO CREDIT: YOUTUBE

However, in the United States, there are different rules for different states. For example, in Alaska, there is not a requirement to wear face masks, whereas, in Illinois, residents are required to wear face masks while in public places when it is difficult to socially distance. 

So, what is the right thing to do? There does appear to be a slight shame-culture developing for not wearing facemasks. Many celebrities such as Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon have been posting photos on social media of them wearing a mask with the hashtag #wearadamnmask. It comes across passive-aggressive, and only wearing a mask is not going to stop the virus spreading.

IMAGE CREDIT: INSTAGRAM

Granted, researchers at the University of East Anglia have stated that there may be a “small benefit” to wearing a face mask. So, while celebrities must use their platform for good, guilt-tripping people into wearing face masks doesn’t seem to be the most sensible approach. Of course, people are angry and therefore are trying to drum the importance of controlling the virus into people. Coronavirus is serious. People are dying every day – we should not ignore the facts. But wearing a face mask does not make you immune to the virus and cannot be the sole answer.

What I find irritating is people who shame others for not wearing a face mask when they aren’t wearing their own one properly! The amount of people whose noses aren’t covered beneath the face mask baffles me. Either wear one properly or don’t wear one at all.

Furthermore, wearing a face mask which doesn’t fit you properly is not helping anyone. I don’t think many people will forget seeing Joe Biden having his face mask hanging from his ear at a press conference. What was all that about? No-one could focus on what he was saying, and even he was getting distracted by the mask flailing in his peripheral vision. 

VIDEO CREDIT: YOUTUBE

But has wearing a face mask become a political gambit? In the United States, many protestors and residents have outrightly refused to wear masks, seeing them as a restriction of their freedom. Protestors have gone as far to call face masks a “muzzle”, “the new symbol of tyranny” and a “mind control device”. While they are restricting and symbolically conjure up images of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ in their oppressive appearance, face masks are designed to help prevent the spread of the virus.

FILMING OF THE HANDMAIDS TALE AT THE LINCOLN MEMORIAL/IMAGE CREDIT: FLICKR

In the United States, political affiliation seems to determine whether Americans will wear face masks. A poll conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Health Research stated that 76% of Democrats were “more likely” to wear a face mask compared to 59% of Republicans. President Donald Trump was seen wearing a mask on a visit to a Ford plant in Michigan in May, though was reluctant to wear it when it wasn’t necessary.

But why are people really wearing facemasks? Is it because it’s become a trending style or are people seriously concerned for their health? Whilst there are a large portion of people who wear them out of compliance to government guidelines, there is a worry that some people think it provides them with immunity, which isn’t the case at all.

IMAGE CREDIT: UNSPLASH

Businesses have taken advantage of this new requirement, and buying face masks has become a trend. However, if you’re going to wear a mask, you might as well like the way it looks. Usually, I’m the last person to jump on the bandwagon with whatever is trending, but I do think that face masks can serve a dual purpose. 

1.They reassure other people that you’re taking the virus seriously. 

2. They allow people to express themselves with an array of colours, materials and slogans to choose from.

IMAGE CREDIT: INSTAGRAM

The colourful and fun face masks help to blunt the harsh reality of the coronavirus.

IMAGE CREDIT: INSTSGRAM

Although wearing a face mask is seen by many as a muzzle on human rights, if it is going to help in the tiniest way, then it is worth doing. If people stopped moaning about their lack of freedom, then maybe we would stop the virus from spreading sooner. No-one wants face masks to become the new normal, but for now, wear them when necessary, don’t get too comfortable in them and keep positive. 

Read Tiger King’s Carole Baskin is Selling Coronavirus Face Masks for more information about face masks.

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