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.
While 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?
Breast 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