Body modification in the professional world

I want to thank my nose piercing for the confidence boost. As a young lady, I feel expected to have a physical trait I am unhappy with. For me, I have never liked my nose. After years of contemplating a piercing, I walked into a tattoo parlor, nervous but excited. I left exhilarated. With a new hole in my nose, I felt like a new person — one who not only had a septum piercing, but one who became a member of an exclusive club that expects to be judged on appearance.

Going home, however, was a different story. After a few hours of hiding it from my mother, I showed her the piercing. As I expected, she reacted very poorly to my decision to alter my appearance in such a noticeable way.

I spent half an hour locked in my room, inconsolable, and my mom didn’t speak to me for a day or two. She still mentions my “bull ring” every time I’m around her, but we’ve come a long way from it being “disgusting.”

One of her complaints about my piercing centers on my future career choice. I’ve wanted to be a teacher since I can remember, and there exists an unspoken taboo in the educational community about body art and modifications.

Teachers keep their body art hush-hush, and high school students know they’ve hit the gossip jackpot when they find out their teacher once paid a visit to a tattoo parlor, just like when you found out your first grade teacher didn’t live under her desk. To older generations, tattoos suggest debauchery, untrustworthiness or questionable moral choices. I’ll admit that I like loud music and drink straight from the carton, but that doesn’t make me unqualified to teach.

This is a common message sent to young people with tattoos and visible piercings: Your public method of self-expression is inappropriate for the workplace. In a society where individuality and diversity are cherished and promoted, I’m at a loss for why I still feel the need to hide my septum piercing in job interviews and teaching internships. I experience a legitimate fear of being singled out or prematurely judged before I have the opportunity to prove my worth and ability. My classmates and colleagues with visible tattoos aren’t as lucky, and have to find modest clothing or discrete cover-ups.

We’ve all had great teachers whose impact wasn’t at all affected by their appearance, so why is this cultural precedent still relevant?

Tattooing and body art is becoming incredibly commonplace, and that can be especially seen here at ASU.

Instead of perpetuating our parents’ claims that we got our tattoos and piercings because we’re young, distasteful and untrustworthy, we should promote positive acceptance of body modification.

Reach the columnist at aamentze@asu.edu

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