Why is that when I wanted to get my earlobes pierced at 13 my mum was just as excited as I was. But when I broached the subject of a cartilage piercing, a year later, I was met with looks disbelief and disappointment? Why had I been so nervous to admit that I wanted a small stud only 2 inches higher than my original pair? Was there really much of a difference?
To her, there was. And she wasn’t alone.
There is an unwarranted and frustrating stigma surrounding multiple piercings and tattoos, the stigma that having them directly reflects your behaviour, your morals and your ability to work. Thankfully, I do think it’s a misconception that is more prevalent in older generations. But unfortunately, they are the generations that still tend to be the ones that hold power in the professional world.
A couple of years ago, I briefly worked in a spa where visible tattoos on staff members were strictly forbidden. Now I don’t personally have any, but I remember one of my tattooed colleagues had to wear large plasters on his forearm if he wanted to wear anything other than a long sleeve shirt. The job, I hasten to add, was in the back office with very little interaction with customers. But most days he’d have to cover up with large, unsightly plasters, which were, arguably, far more unsightly than a couple of artistic tattoos. To me, it seemed ridiculous. What seems even more ridiculous is the fact that, according to a 2015 study, 30% of 16-39-year-olds have at least one tattoo. That’s almost a third of young people, but discrimination still very much exists, especially in corporate environments.
In 2017, 33 bosses were interviewed anonymously by researchers at King’s College London, and several agreed they would be reluctant to employ someone with visible tattoos. Considering that the law on workplace equality does not cover tattoos as a protected characteristic, potential employers are within their rights to base their recruitment decisions on body art alone, if they so wish. Not only that but if a company were to have a blanket ban on tattoos and you turned up to work with one, the company would also have the right to fire you, purely for the ink alone.
But if nearly a third of under 40s have some form of ink, and 40% have multiple piercings, surely, it’s time to put an end to this unnecessary discrimination? I do think we’re moving in the right direction and that there has been a positive shift in the way society views these forms of modification. I now have nine piercings in my ears, one in my nose and one in my belly button and my mum doesn’t even bat an eyelid anymore. And while that could be because she’s given up saying anything, I’d like to think it’s because she’s realised that wearing a bit of extra jewellery is of very little importance in the grand scheme of things.
Hopefully, it is just a lingering generational issue that won’t continue to filter down because tattoos and piercings are a form of self-expression and individuality, and in my eyes, they should be celebrated as such.