The left's pandemic purity culture

But you don’t need to wear two masks for a year after vaccination, months past the point when vaccines will be accessible to all who want them. That’s not care and justice; it’s performance of purity per left purity culture.

Likewise, using a masked photo as a profile picture on social media accomplishes nothing for public health. Maybe, early on, before mask mandates or knowledge of the usefulness of masks were widespread, maybe then such a photo set a good example. At this point, it reads as performance. Or think of the stories — you’ve likely heard some, but here’s one — of people yelling at strangers for going without a mask during outdoor exercise in which the transmission risk is extremely low. That too is a purity culture performance. It’s that “more and more radical lifestyle” Beck characterized where you can’t do anything less “without contaminating yourself.”

In the pandemic, of course, literal contamination is in view. But then, a purity culture is often on guard against entirely real risks and wrongs. Among the aims of conservative purity culture was protecting children from STDs, teenage pregnancy, heartbreak, and sexual assault. Just as it’s possible to promote a traditional Christian sexual ethic without the trappings of purity culture, so it’s possible to be responsible about public health in this pandemic without left purity culture moves like post-vaccination double masking through the spring of 2022.