The U.S. and Germany faced resistance to mask-wearing that connected with other political claims about the nature of freedom and democracy, “government overreach,” gender, and national security. This talk addresses these connections, specifically how masculinity was used to define freedom and national boundaries were used to frame security. Rather than ideas about economic power, which usually separate left from right, anti-mask discourses invoked social power and citizenship, insiders and outsiders.
In both countries, resistance movements to state management of COVID offered populists on the right an opportunity to link anti-expert and anti-immigrant discourses. However, in Germany, more effective national leadership in the crisis, and weaker ties between parties and social movements, even for the AfD, helped make mask-wearing less of a polarized, gendered, nationalistic discourse than in the U.S.
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