Print Edition: July 2, 2014
They are almost everywhere you go, blending in as subtly as possible. They are among us. “They” are the individuals in our society with body modifications such as piercings and/or tattoos.
These people are just like the rest of us, yet society treats them as if they all have delinquent tendencies. Employers choose not to hire them, and communities teach their children to avoid them. Yet the only difference between them and us is the ink on their skin or the jewellery on their bodies.
So why does society insist on alienating a group of people based on their modified physical appearances?
Now, I will be the first to say that certain body mods are kind of messed up. I’ve seen people who have sewn their mouths shut, split their tongues in half, and have magnets surgically implanted in their fingertips. Those are not the people I am talking about, because those people have made conscious choices to make themselves purposely unapproachable in everyday life.
I’m talking about the average person you see in line at a coffee shop with a nose or eyebrow piercing, or a few visible tattoos. This person will order a coffee, maybe sit down with a book, meet a friend, and then go home just like everyone else. They are in no way a threat to society.
Here is the thing about people in this world: we are programmed to make judgements of others based on their physical appearances. It is human nature to do so.
So where do we draw the line when it comes to a person’s physical appearance affecting their opportunities?
I believe there are body modifications which hurt an individual’s chance of obtaining certain employment opportunities. If you think a full-face tattoo could go well with a job working the paediatric ward at a hospital, you’re completely nuts.
When you alter your body in any way, you need to consider the consequences that will follow. You can’t expect employers to change their company image to accommodate you. They have the right to present a unified company image to their clientele and they shouldn’t have to change it.
That being said, a person should not be denied an opportunity for employment based on their body modifications. If you are granted an interview, you can discuss the dress code regarding the acceptance of visible tattoos and piercings, and if you are looking for a job, you should be willing to work with your employer and remove or cover piercings or tattoos to accommodate the position.
This isn’t about stifling individuality. Yes, tattoos and piercings can be an outer expression of a person’s inner self, and that is great. No one should be able to tell you how you can and cannot look.
Unfortunately, the society we currently live in is not as accepting of body mods as we might hope. As the younger generation, we will set the standard for workplace acceptance of body modification in the coming decades. And with more young people getting tattoos and piercings, the view our society has will drastically change the way we view differences in people.