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life after college

Tattoos & Adulthood: Do What You Want With Your Body But Own It

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I was reading this article on Forbes about an increase of tattoo acceptance in the workplace, and being the masochist I am, looked at the comments. The comments section of anything and everything on the internet is where idiots from far and wide gather to showcase their stupidity. Being that Forbes demographic is dominated by conservative, well-off white men, I expect a different brand of stupidity from the comments there than I do on Buzzfeed or Upworthy. The overwhelming consensus in the comments on the article was that tattoos were indicators of poverty, stupidity/conformity and poor taste.

As someone who has two tattoos of her own and is hoping to get a third, clearly, I don’t agree. I don’t think that a tattoo alone can tell you much of anything about a person. A tattoo doesn’t make someone a peasant or a convict, but it doesn’t make someone artistic or enlightened either.

People jump to unfair conclusions based on appearances all the time, and as shallow and wrong as it may seem, before you open your mouth, what other facet of your being does the world have to form an opinion? Whether you like it or not, the way you look says a lot about you.

If it comes down to you and an equally qualified candidate, and you have a unicorn on your neck, an employer may reason that the other contender had the foresight not to modify their bodies in a way that may very well be deemed unprofessional, and therefore valued their careers more than you. And, objectively, that conclusion isn’t completely lunatic.

I think it’s great that tattoo discrimination is on the decline, but people generally need to be more mindful of the decisions they make and the long term affects they will have. You can tell yourself that you don’t want to work for anyone that won’t accept you as you are and pretend that you’re in grade school if you want, but a giant butterfly on your collarbone will seem much less an essential expression of your individuality when you miss out on a 30k increase in salary because of it.

If an employer’s personal prejudices or preferences prohibit them from choosing the most capable candidate, they are failing to do their jobs. But before almost any decision, people are well aware of the stigmas surrounding it and how that decision may negatively or positively impact their lives. It’s part of adulthood. Be discerning. We don’t live in a world free of judgment or bias, and if you knowingly and continuously make choices that will likely put you in adversity’s way, you can’t expect pity or sympathy for the unfavorable circumstances you find yourself in. It is your body to decorate as you please, but it’s the employer’s position to give at his or her own discretion.

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