by Manuel Muniz
There’s a negative stigma when it comes to tattoos.
It is a visible modification to your body that is there forever. If you have parents who are anything like mine, they say it is something that is neither attractive or good for job opportunities. Coming from a religious Hispanic Catholic family, there was plenty of times my equally religious aunts and uncles reminded me that my body is a temple and writing on it is a sin.
Tattoos are often seen as rebellious, irresponsible and unprofessional. According to a Harris Poll, about 29 percent of Americans have at least one tattoo. Tattoos are even more popular among young people, with 47 percent of millennials having one.
Despite the growing trend of tattoos, they still can negatively affect your chances of getting employed. Some employers will not hire someone just because of their body art, which can be a form of discrimination. When a person is seen deviating from the mainstream norms regarding physical appearance, behavior or health, they may be a target to rejection or prejudice.
There are many types of workplace policies in place that can discriminate against people with tattoos. Employers may make an employee cover them with long-sleeve shirts or bandages. Many have been fired because they didn’t cover their tattoos. Many reasoned that visible body art may clash with the image an employer wishes to portray to its clients and customers.
A hidden negative stigma about tattoos might also be racial. There is a disparity in who has body art. According to a study by labordish.com, about 47 percent of Hispanics and 33 percent of African Americans who were polled had tattoos, both well above the national average. Thus, is not too far-fetched to believe that policies against tattoos might have a racial undertone.
But why do people choose to mark their bodies? The answer differs from person to person. Some find a deep meaning and find comfort carrying a symbol or phrase with them, while others view their bodies as a canvas waiting to be filled. Other reasons may include for expression, artistic freedom, visual display of a personal narrative, spiritual or cultural traditions, group identification or drunken impulsiveness.
In an interview with the huffpost.com, actor Johnny Depp said, “My body is my journal, and my tattoos are my story.” A tattoo can reveal a lot about a person, even before they open their mouth. But they can also distract from getting to know the real person. Some may hide behind their body art because of insecurities.
A lot people use their tattoos to tell a deep, meaningful story. But that is not my case. I use my tatts as another accessory, kind of like a permanent ring or necklace. Although my ink does not have a profound meaning, they do tell a story of things I enjoy. My tattoo artist once gave me great advice regarding tattoos. He said, “As long as you like it, who cares what anyone else thinks; it’s your body.”
People who chose to get ink on their body aren’t necessarily ex-convicts, dropouts or social outcasts. Rather, they are important moving pieces of our society. It is important to judge someone for their character and not because they look different and do not reflect what society expects.