• Monday, Sep 28, 2020
  • Last Update : 01:02 am

OP-ED: Why wear a mask?

  • Published at 08:05 pm July 24th, 2020
rmg masks coronavirus
Photo: REUTERS

Should people be shamed for not wearing one?

Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, people all over world have adopted the habit of wearing masks. We all know that the World Health Organization (WHO) has provided several guidelines in order to ensure health safety since the beginning of the pandemic. 

Like wearing N95 masks while travelling, maintaining social distance, washing hands for twenty seconds, using hand sanitizers in case of water and soap management problems, etc. The Directorate General of Health (DGH) in Bangladesh also agrees with the fact that people should strictly follow these guidelines. 

In the context of Bangladesh, violation of such strategies leads to punishment with imprisonment of six months or with fines which does not exceed Tk1,00,000 or both. 

Other countries are doing the same. The UK is following The Coronavirus Act, 2020 that covers all possible issues arising from Covid-19. It might be troublesome for people in the beginning to embrace the “new normal” but now they are almost becoming habituated with the new guidelines of stepping outside. The use of masks, especially, has become a common practice nowadays.

However, the concept of mask shaming is a very new notion that has just arrived in several countries. In some markets of New York, customers are greatly disgraced by shopkeepers and other staff for not wearing masks.

It is of course our duty to wear masks while going to a social gathering, but it is still not clear when to use masks and whether it has to be maintained indoors, maintaining proper social distance. 

However, it often happens that people use masks not only for protection but also to protect themselves from negative comments from the public. We have become used to seeing people wear masks almost everywhere. If it appears that all have worn mask in any office, bank, or any particular place and we haven’t, then we are somehow made to feel guilty.

Research in social psychology reveals that people tend to think about other people’s impression towards them, particularly when they step into a new environment for the first time. Social psychologists divided the matter of social influence into two categories: 1) Normative social influence and 2) Informational social influence. 

Normative social influence means driven by the desire to be liked. Under this category, people want their activities to be accepted by society. People do not want to be judged by the public negatively. So, when they see that all people in a particular area are regularly wearing masks, they automatically follow the behaviour.

Informal social influence indicates motivation produced by the desire to be right. People categorized here retain the desire to establish that what they do is right above all. Such people do not bother about following traditions or judgment or any kind of taboo. 

When it comes to wearing masks, it can be said that such people wear masks because they believe that they need to do so to create a shield against Covid-19. 

The concept of mask shaming has been a topic for months, though no conclusion has been created till now. Research on the origin of mask shaming reflects that the core reasons introducing the thought are basically fear and lack of consistent guidelines. 

The use of the term “fear” describes that people who live are terrified of spreading Covid-19. Lack of consistent health guidelines is another reason. Because of unclear health rules, people are confused about when to actually use the mask. So, some choose the option to constantly wear masks while others do not. 

Nazia Amin is a lawyer and writer.

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