Tattoos are self-expression, not unprofessional

Hannah Carroll, Campus Carrier Staff Writer

At 18 years old, I made a permanent decision. In celebration of having finally reached the age of ostensible adulthood, I went and got a tattoo. I had been contemplating this decision for a long time; however, my mother still attempted to deter me from following through with it. She was not a fan of tattoos in the slightest and worried I would begin associating with the “wrong crowd” if I began accumulating them.

The values of my mom express a concern that is apparent in a large portion of society: there is a social stigma attached to tattoos and those who have them. It may not appear consciously to some people, but a sense of disapproval lies in the judgment of many, especially those of the older generation.

I’ve seen it myself while growing up. My mother would see someone with a sleeve of ink and warn that I better never get one. Members of my church’s congregation would become visibly uncomfortable any time a visitor came that displayed visible tattoos. My best friend’s mother paid her $300 to never get one. The parents of other friends instructed them to wait until they had moved out and were financially independent.

There is no denying that there exists a certain disdain towards body art. I’ve heard those who possess tattoos be described as heathens and uncivilized. Somehow, tattoos became associated with rebellion and the unlawful. They appear to others a reflection of the owner’s worst characteristics, with them being automatically branded as impulsive, disorderly and misguided.

Honestly, it’s laughable how ironic this mindset of society is. In my experience, people with tattoos have been some of the nicest, most charismatic and intelligent individuals I’ve had the pleasure of encountering. I have never once felt threatened or belittled going into a tattoo parlor or simply conversing with someone who had tattoos. However, I’ve felt myself to be scrutinized and disregarded by people who claim to be the civilized and cultured ones. It is those who place harsh judgment and form uneducated opinions that have been the most narrow-minded, rude and bigoted people I’ve ever met.

Unfortunately, this attitude toward tattoos has infiltrated the workforce as well. Tattoos are discouraged by employers, and those who already have them must keep them covered at all times. People who may desire a tattoo are reluctant to ever get one in fear of damaging their chances of attaining a position or job that could level unfair assumptions of their character based on the simple fact that they have ink on their skin. If I had a dime for every time I heard, “I would get a tattoo, but I’m scared what employers would think,” I would be able to afford my next tattoo.

Of course, this isn’t true for all corporations and employers. Many creative career fields are accepting of those who have tattoos, such as designers and artists, and embrace that sense of individuality. Companies like Google also have a certain appreciation for self-expression and uniqueness for their employees, making their workspace an environment of approval lacking judgment.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the coin, other careers suffocate individuality for the sake of uniformity and professionalism. We live in a world where competence has a certain image, and, unfortunately, tattoos are not pictured.

It is reasonable to say that for a professional work environment there must be a certain code to adhere to for the sake of orderly conduct. Just as there is a dress code and appropriate clothing that is approved, there should be guidelines describing appropriate tattoos that are not mandatory to conceal. However, I don’t believe that “appropriate tattoos” is synonymous with “no tattoos.”

There are suggestions of a predicted shift in the ideals of corporations and firms that will eventually allow for tattoos to be accepted in the workplace. For this impending transition to occur, though, there has to be a deconstruction of the misconceptions surrounding tattoos.

To put it simply, tattoos are art. And just like with any other art form, there is a piece of the artist bound within it. Body art is merely a reflection of personal tastes and interests that can be made visible for anyone to see and showcase a certain aspect of who this person is and what they value. Tattoos tell stories, if only you know how to listen. It is entirely unfair and prudish to view them as only a lack of discipline and an indication of a poor work ethic.

People who possess tattoos are just as capable and adequately qualified as those who don’t and should be only judged by their level of performance. Whether or not they have tattoos should not even be considered.

Life is already mundane and monotonous as it is; being constricted and confined within a box slapped with the label of “professional” does nothing to make one feel more like an individual. It’s so easy to feel as if you’re only a part of a large corporate scheme and nothing that makes you who you are truly matters, which is why it is critical to allow for at least some act of expression. Therefore, I hope the stigma that is currently attached to tattoos is shaken soon and employees will have the freedom of expression without the risk of being deemed unprofessional. Acceptance will be what frees people and allows them the opportunity to make the decisions they truly want to.

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