“You would be so pretty if you didn’t have all those tattoos!” an older woman remarked to me at the store the other day. Her tone was solemn, as if I had been marked for an early death. The only thing that prompted this comment was the fact that I was knelt down reaching for the last spicy flavor Ramen noodle package. I was wearing a tank top, revealing my full sleeve and back piece. Clearly, she felt the need to voice her concern for my future well-being and blatant disregard for my health. Maybe she was worried about me being able to get a secure job. Or maybe she should have just minded her own business.
Tattooing is a tradition that stems back as far as 8,000 years. Peruvian mummies have been found with tattoos. Sailors got tattoos to commemorate their travels on the high seas. The most remarkable fact that I have found is that tattoos were considered avant garde in the Victorian age. Tattoos have exceeding popularity with younger generations, and studies have shown that on average 1 in 5 Americans have tattoos. How does getting artwork tattooed affect getting a job in the future or in your chosen career?
There are many companies that have shown leniency to tattoos, allowing them to be shown freely. Other companies have a policy that dictates that they should not be visible and must be covered with clothing. English Major Joe Antuono ’15 has seven tattoos and currently works at a screen-printing company in Orlando with plans to pursue a career in Journalism. He feels that tattoos are acceptable in modern times: “I don’t think tattoos, unless extremely sexual, violent, or racist, will affect anyone’s career nowadays. Tattoos are an art form like any other, and as long as you’re positive about what your putting on your body, and it doesn’t negatively affect anyone on a personal level (violent, racist, or sexual), it really isn’t anyone’s business except the one getting them.”
English Major Emma Michael ’16 has five tattoos and would like to ultimately own a flower shop and write novels. She does not feel that the prejudices about tattoos will go away anytime soon: “I believe this stigma about tattoos stems from the morphed sense of control over the perception of the bodily figure. The thought that we must hide ourselves is foolish, and censorship of the human form has become distorted. In some societies it has become more acceptable to be tattooed as a whole. However, it is doubtful that until we erase the condemnation of the human body in society and media it won’t be fully accepted.”
The real social argument is this: should your job determine what you have to look like? I feel that when it comes to art and your own personal tastes, a paycheck should not dictate how you want to present yourself to others, but if you wish to mark your body you should be able to have the freedom to do so. In Ray Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man, a collection of short stories is told cleverly through a man’s tattoos, which live and move on his skin in the dark. A quote from that work sums up how I believe people see their own tattoos: “You can’t carry the Earth, or a man, in your pocket. I want a way to do that, carry things with me always so I can believe in them.” In this way, we carry the stories we want to recollect for the rest of our lives.