The challenge against damaging stigmas — how this adversity is changing the communal perspective on tattoos.

Individuals with visible tattoos are often stigmatized by society. Perhaps this is caused by disdain for particular tattoos such as devils or hate group affiliations, but, should the average tattoo incite an ‘uncomfortable’ response? What some don’t understand is that having tattoos is a form of self-expression and it gives people the freedom to do what they want to their bodies. Even today, however, people are still oftentimes looked down on if they do something to their bodies deemed abnormal. 

In her article “Are People With Tattoos Stigmatized?” Dr. Vinita Mehta explores how despite the ever-growing numbers of people getting tattoos, baby boomers being at 13%, Generation X being at 36% and millennials being at 47%, the stigma around them remains. 

Most would think that with the growing number of people getting tattoos as a form of self-expression, they would grow to be normalized. Yet, considering we have an older generation that places a larger stigma on tattoos than any other generations, and they are the ones in charge of most companies, they work to maintain the standard of what is deemed appropriate in a business setting — which doesn’t include tattoos being visible. 

Dr. Mehta goes on to explain that “stigma, according to a widely accepted view, is a socially constructed relationship between a socially undesirable characteristic and a stereotype.” So, people who go against the status quo of what is acceptable for tattoos then can experience this stigma. 

Oftentimes when someone expresses interest in tattoos they are told to “put it in a place where it can be hidden.” There are a number of reasons for this advice, but a common one surrounds employment. If you go in for an interview and it can’t be seen the likelihood of getting the job increases. The aforementioned article explores this concept in-depth, stating, “Remarkably, one study found that hiring managers would not hire a person with a visible tattoo, because it would taint the company’s image.” 

People shouldn’t be turned away from a job opportunity just because they have a tattoo that is non distracting and isn’t anything controversial. For the people who get tattoos, they don’t want to hide what they put on their bodies. They want it to be seen and show off the artwork, that’s why they paid the money to get it.  

For many people, getting a tattoo is the remembrance of a big birthday. Others get it for sentimental reasons, such as the passing of a loved one. These are usually small enough so they can be hidden easily, and most people get these types of tattoos on the back of the shoulder or ankles — both of which are easily concealed. 

When people get tattoos in the areas that can be easily hidden it goes to show how the stigma against tattoos affects people’s decision making even if they don’t realize that’s what they are doing. But once you start getting sleeves that are harder to hide, but still significant to a person, that’s when people start to get uncomfortable because of the visibility. 

Dr. Mehta also explains how people with tattoos are seen in a negative light, stating, “personality characteristics, low levels of inhibition, and a higher level of promiscuity.” As someone who has eight tattoos, and plans on adding more, this stereotype towards tattoos is a factor as to where I decide to place them. Even though all of mine have personal and sentimental reasons, I still feel like I have to hide them in fear of being judged, even though they are not judgemental pieces at all. 

What many people fail to see is that just because a tattoo piece is bigger it doesn’t mean that it is scary. Honestly, it means that more thought went into that piece and there is probably a story that goes with it. Just like any other type of art. 

It is important to remember that every tattoo has a story behind it, some of those stories might be funny but others have serious reasoning behind them. It is important to realize that not every tattoo has a serious meaning, and that’s okay. 

For some people, they are a memory of how the tattoo was brought onto someone’s body. It could have been a crazy night out and tattoos were incorporated, it could have been a close friend just starting a tattoo career in need of clients so the work might not have been the best. The important thing is that what people put on their bodies is there because they wanted it to be there and it made them happy. 

Instead of reinforcing the stigma society teaches us when you see someone with tattoos, ask them about it, the things you can learn from a person based on their tattoos can be pretty interesting and cool. Just because you personally might be against tattoos on yourself, instead of pushing what you believe onto others, be open and understanding. Embrace that someone in your life loves the sun and moon so much that they are putting it onto their body as art to show off this love for something that many people find intriguing.

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