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Feminspire | April 19, 2014

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Why Should My Tattoos Stop Me From Getting Hired?

Why Should My Tattoos Stop Me From Getting Hired?

For young adults growing up in an age of economic instability and change, job prospects are both an exciting and unnerving future we inevitably move toward. There are many things we must take into consideration, so much so that even personal choices such as our appearance can become detrimental to finding work.

College students much like myself must begin to question problems beyond perfect resumes and awesome internships. In a modern-day society where job markets include start-up entrepreneurships, technological innovations, and social media companies, other issues plague the youth of the Information age.

Platforms such as Pinterest, Tumblr and Facebook allow the dissemination of information, trends and ideas faster than was possible 10 years ago. With that, there has been a huge increase in the “alternative” subculture revolving around tattoos, piercings, and other esoteric ornamentations.

This culture of modification usually associated with young people has created a very real problem for those sporting piercings, tattoos, stretched ears, or other bodily adornments. What will the future hold for individuals whose unique look has pushed them outside of the normal sphere of acceptance? Do they face a genuine challenge in entering the world of professionals, and if so, is this an issue they alone should be responsible for?

We’ve all heard the arguments thrown at us over tattoos and piercings, sometimes respectfully and other times far less so. “No one will hire someone with tattoos” is definitely a common complaint one can hear from family, friends, and even complete strangers. With facial piercings becoming more common for individuals of all ages and groups, condescension over more than a few extra holes is now expected as well.

Body ModificationWhile employers and companies have a right to expect prospective employees to be sanitary and well groomed, how much is too much when it comes to discriminating against the body modification community?

First, let’s consider what the concept of body modification means in the 21st century. Body modification, or body-mod for short, is understood as a way of physically altering one’s body, usually permanently or with difficulty in returning to one’s original appearance. Piercings and tattoos are a central and distinct form of modification, yet they are also only the tip of the metaphorical iceberg when it comes to creative — even radical — ways to permanently change one’s body.

While stretched earlobes, nostril piercings, and colorful tattoos are easily recognizable by the general public, it would be incorrect to assume that piercings and tattoos are the only form of modification. Ear-pointing, large-stretched piercings, completely black tattooed limbs, and even eye tattoos are a common occurrence within the modified community.

Body Modification Ezine is a website created by Shannon Larratt specifically for the body-mod community and those passionate about it. Dedicated to providing an informational and entertaining outlet for body-mod enthusiasts, BME is a “comprehensive resource for the freedom of individuality in thought, expression and aesthetic.”

BME also has a blog titled ModBlog where photos and thoughts on modifications practiced around the globe are posted for readers to learn about and comment. Extreme modifications are becoming so common worldwide, an extensive FAQ on eye tattoos was posted on ModBlog recently as a source of information for those interested in undergoing this procedure.

Other websites and organizations exist to unite and educate body-mod enthusiasts, ranging from companies like Bodyartforms that sell a wide range of alternative body jewelry, to the Association of Professional Piercers who work to increase education and safety for piercers, their potential clients, and anyone needing information on accurate body piercing information.

While anyone aware of the resources and organizations created for body modification will realize the choices made are often much safer, healthier, and responsible than stereotypes will allow, do employers and they average person know this?

If you asked anyone on the street what their thoughts were on a heavily modified person, chances are terms such as “crazy,” “irresponsible,” “dirty” or “poor” would be used. No direct correlation to any of this “evidence” is needed when these stigmas are so strong in mainstream society.

It is hard enough being a woman in a culture that pounces on every decision a woman makes on her own. Choices such as to shave one’s body (or to not shave at all), to wear revealing clothing, or to respect one’s religious or personal views and wear a burqa or niqab, or even breastfeed a child or choose baby formula, instead are still considered controversial and ultimately in the sphere of public debate. So why would women make their lives — and potential careers — harder by ornamenting or altering their bodies in radical ways?

Body ModificationBreast implants, small ear piercings, and permanent makeup are all forms of modification, although they may not be considered as extreme as many others practice in the body-mod community. They ultimately do not get the same attention (and criticism) that women with subdermal implants, tongue piercings or two-inch earlobes receive.

Are women, and men as well, worthy of the discrimination they face in the job market because of body modification? Is it understandable to not hire someone due to their piercings, tattoos or uncommon modifications since those are decisions they made on their own?

The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission established laws to bar discrimination against individuals based on certain factors. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 states that it is illegal to refuse to hire someone “because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin,” as well as individuals with qualified disabilities or pregnant women.

Is it stretching to view the possible stigmas against modified individuals as discriminatory? Many modified individuals truly passionate about the subculture take the time to contemplate their decisions, care for their modifications properly, and buy the appropriate tools or jewelry needed, yet they are still judged based on their unorthodox appearance.

This is an issue continually evolving and gaining attention in mainstream society. There are no quick-fix solutions or understanding of what the cultural perception of body modification will be several years from now.

As a college student already contemplating my prospects upon graduation, such ideas remain on my mind in my personal quest for modification. It is a curious and precarious path indeed, and ultimately the desire to display one’s creativity and uniqueness on their skin is an issue as irreversible as the modifications themselves.

Written by Kevynn Gomez

  • Harleen Quinzel

    Go to Denmark. You’ll have no problems finding a job as they don’t mind hiring even heavily tattooed people.

    • Hello

      Finally something uplifting about America.

  • Sahra

    While I understand some companies may want to maintain a certain “brand aesthetic” within retail stores and such, I think they should be much more open in the corporate environment to those who work “behind the scenes”. I’ve been in the fashion industry for many years, I like to pride myself on my aesthetic versatility. I await the day I can confidently go into a ob interview bearing my half shaved head and nose piercing, and the day I can eventually start filling my visible armspots with tattoos of mermaids and seashells.
    I think that day is approaching faster than we expect, at least I hope!

  • Sahra

    PS Let’s take a moment to admire Vladimir Franz, presidential candidate, and heavily modified and tattooed, citizen of Czech; he’s my hero.

  • The Dame

    I dont want to work for a company that looks down on tattoos or body mods, who would? If you’re going to live in the world heavily modified, you’re going to be an open minded person, I would want to work for a company who thinks the same way. Until then, I am my own boss.

    • 70sguy

      You go .. TRUCKDRIVER GIRL.

  • brookstyle

    So creativity and uniqueness are what tattoos display? God forbid we lived in a place where these things didn’t exist. No one would have these virtues.

  • Critter

    Tattoos and body modification aren’t something new. Do your parents have tattoos or piercings? They do? It is hardly new or ‘underground’, in fact, it’s practically sold in a kit.
    My problem with it has nothing to do with appearing dirty or poor, it’s the short-sightedness of it all. It will not look very attractive when you are 50. And you will probably be 50 someday. And regret it.

    • Jamie

      Not many people look attractive at 50 in general. Most people that get meaningful tattoos know the investment they are making in this [mostly] permanent decision.

      • Critter

        So I should accept your ageism, and you Jamiroquai tattoo? Because if I don’t, I’m not open minded?

      • 70sguy

        I am 50 and I still look good.

    • Mandy

      Because “looking attractive” is every person’s only goal in life? How about no.

      • Critter

        So, you want to look alienating and still be entitled to be hired? Because people should see beyond your exterior to see that you are alienating at all?

        • Mandy

          No one (tattooed or not) is “entitled to be hired.” But body mods of any kind don’t just change a person’s competance. They don’t erase a person’s work or life experiance. So why should a person who isn’t following the current conventional beauty standard have a chance to get hired? They deserve the same chances as boring generic cookie cutter people. & besides, not all jobs require you to present yourself to people and be nice to look at. Tech jobs where only your office sees you and you interact via phones, people who work behind the scenes, designers, photographers, artists, there are so many jobs that don’t require you look genericly “nice.” Jobs that require you to be knowledgable about your job mostly. Not every person wants to work at a desk job or sell cars or other such jobs where they are presenting a very specific image that does not include people with any body modifications. My personal example: I have a cousin who works selling very expensive cars. He has 2 or 3 tattoos. He got hired because he can do the job. BUT, he has to wear long sleeves to hide one tattoo. Why? Why should a customer seeing one arm band tattoo suddenly make them change their entire views on this man trying to sell them something? How does this one picture on his arm change his ability to do his job? It doesn’t.

          I personally don’t even have any tattoos myself yet. But I fail to see why a person’s body should automatically put them in a pile marked “do not hire this person because they look different than most people.” Body modifications don’t suddenly mean a person can’t be professional and polite and educated and do a job where they interact with people. If interacting with a tattooed/pierced/ect person makes you (general you) uncomforatable that is your personal predjudices at work and you need to examine why you’ve held on to old sterotypes.

          • brookstyle

            so… You gonna hire a baby sitter for your baby daughter with a bone through his nose and implant horns on his head?

          • Artemis

            If he’s trustworthy, reliable and good with kids, then yeah.

    • Kylee Mattoon

      1) My #1 goal in life is not to be attractive. There are much more important things than physical appearance.

      2) I don’t know why you assume people who get tattoos don’t think about this. I took years to decide whether I wanted a tattoo, and what I wanted, because I knew it was somethingI would be living with in midlife and later life. I chose to get an equals sign because I’ll be proud to tell my grandkids how I fought for marriage equality, and whatever other civil rights issues arise in my lifetime.

      People who get tattoos aren’t stupid – they know just as well as you do how permanent they are. But they think it’s worth it.

      3) If you think you would regret a tattoo at 50, you are welcome to choose not to get one. You are not welcome to assume that others will regret their personal decisions and judge them for it.

      • Critter

        1) we aren’t discussing your entire goal in life. We talking about being hired.
        2) enjoy your equal sign. And sincerely, thanks for fighting the good fight! And remember that battle when we are blessed with the luxury of an equally high divorce rate amongst gays as well as straights. Equality will happen, and we will be afforded the luxury of taking it for granted in twenty years. Equality won’t always be this exciting.
        3) tattoo away! I’m not telling you not too, but I don’t feel obligated to hire you because you are bumper-stickered with tattoos.

        • Michonne

          See, nobody’s telling you you’re OBLIGATED. They’re just saying that not hiring someone exclusively because of their tattoos and the conclusions you draw about them is idiotic.

          • ambambamb

            Hey, at least he’s got a job.

          • 70sguy

            I think it is idiotic to uglify yourself and stupid as well. Why should I hire stupid, ugly people that do not give a crap about their appearance?

    • amber

      why are you so sure they will regret it? and at 50 there bigger problems than having tattoos. Why would tattoos make someone ugly over time? They have a story to tell their grandchildren.

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  • Carly Alison Sutliff

    Interesting article. I think it’s the level of modification that’s important. I work at a daycare in a college town (so naturally most of the children have parents working for the University) and body modification isn’t too big of a deal there as long as it’s not in excess. For example, I have my nose ring (which isn’t too much) and nobody cares really, the only concern is babies trying to pull at it. My coworker who has her Masters has her lip and nose pierced and it’s not a big deal. However it would be if you were completely covered with tattoos and had a bunch of crazy piercing cause I think it’s a health hazard and there are college professors wouldn’t want to send their children off with some person covered head to toe in tattoos and piercings.

    • amber

      tattoos are a health hazards for kids? have you ever heard of guardians of the children they protect kids and yet their hazardous tattoos don’t affect those kids.

  • Chloe Valdary

    Modification is in and of itself a form of discrimination, as it distinguishes between a former state of being and the latter state, namely the modified change. So your argument is a bit nonsensical, since it berates people for discriminating based on other forms of distinction others have made. Modification is not ethnic grouping, nor is it gender, so the comparison is not analogous. Modification is a conscious choice just as discriminating based on that choice is a conscious choice. So morally speaking, what is the difference between these forms of discrimination, save that one makes one feelings get hurt. But the overall faulty premise of this is that one is entitled to a job. And once it is realized that that whole argument is based on that underlying faulty premise, it falls apart.

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  • Stephanie Renee

    You canNOT compare the stigma the body-mod community receives to racism or sexism. While I’ll agree that religions can be chosen to a certain extent (I have chosen mine) there are still a number of “ism” not included in the rights such as heterosexism and ableism. Those are *not* choices and yet employers are still free to discriminate against those in most work settings.

    As you may see by my display picture, I am a hijabi/muslim, and yet I’m also heavily tattooed… can you tell? NO! Because I realized a long time ago that making a decision on body-modification would involve making a difficult decision between job opportunities and creativity. Even before I begin wearing covering clothing for the purposes of my religion, you would not have seen my tattoos which were in more discreet areas (my ribs, mid-back, hip, etc) the body is gigantic, body-mod doesn’t have to be highly visible to be there.

    So yes, if you choose to have visible body-modification, you are CHOOSING to be a “visible minority” and that’s just stupid. As those of us who are part of visible minorities that are outside of our ability to chose, we’ll be able to tell you that our greatest struggle is to make others understand just how much outside of our control these things are. Yet, you make a choice, a very real choice, to visibly modify your body in a way which you KNOW is socially reprehensible, and then you want me to feel pity for you? No! Sorry but no.

    • Brandon Charbonneau

      I respect your opinion but on the same note you come off in a condescending manor to people that choose to get a visually obvious tattoo. You’re freedom of religion falls under our Amendment so yes you can not be discriminated for that and yes there are still bigots that do but when you say that it is “stupid” to do so then you are just as much a bigot as every other person who discriminate about anything. The fact that you have tattoos does not justify your means. Self expression should be judged by no one. Live their life then state your opinion if they made a “stupid” choice

    • amber

      People should have to say if I get this modification I may not get a job. someone’s appearance does not determine their work ethic in any form whether it be race gender or mods. It is all the same.

      • 70sguy

        You are just wrong. Go into an interview for a Wall Street job in jeans. I can assure you , that you wont be hired. You CHOOSE to make tattoos appearance. I think many young people are naive and do not get that there are ramifications for their actions. Their arrogance in their own individuality , ironically, discludes the individuality of the hirer. It truly does go both ways.

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  • Breaking Very Bad

    I wont hire people with visible tattoos and I will google to see them bragging about their hidden ones. Usually on a social media site. I love the way you tattoo folk flaunt your individuality but disrespect my individuality to run a business as classy and profitable as I want. You can not have it both ways. These ladies pics in this article are absolutely disgusting looking. They made their choose for permanent appearance.