I've always wondered why tattoos were always considered a big deal in a career or why piercings were frowned upon. Growing up, my dad had tattoos everywhere. He was and is the nicest, smartest, and most qualified person for any job, but when I was young, he had to wear long sleeve turtlenecks to hide the art on his body.
To maintain his job, to support his family, he had to hide himself and fit into this tiny, discriminatory box that society forced him into because tattoos somehow made him less qualified to do your job. Eventually, my dad passed the "probation" period in his job where he started earning benefits and could no longer be fired without a serious cause. The ending of this "probation" period meant that my dad could wear short sleeve shirts, revealing the tattoos on his arms and neck.
Because my dad is a tall, bald, white male with tattoos, people instantly thought of him as a "skinhead," a racist, a biker, and any other related title you can think of. Although he is talented, smart, kind, and qualified, he would have never gotten his job if they knew he had tattoos. Or perhaps, maybe he would have gotten the job, but I whole-heartedly believe that they would have forced him to cover up from the very beginning.
I tell you this because I've always thought of tattoos as art, as a form of expression, as markings that show where you've been and the life you've lived. I knew from a young age that I wanted many tattoos and a few piercings. I didn't want to go overboard, but I wanted to be able to have them without the judgment of employers or the judgment of anyone for that matter. But as I got older, the reality of showing off tattoos began to dwindle as I chose a career.
Journalism made me happy. It's what I found happiness in. But going into broadcast journalism, I knew tattoos would delegitimize my experience, as well as my degree, my knowledge, and my capabilities altogether. It wouldn't matter how qualified I am for that job, because if I have visible ink littered on my skin, I wouldn't be a desirable candidate for that position.
I understand that employers wish to encourage and exploit professionalism within the workplace, and with that, proper clothing attire is necessary and excessive tattoos or piercings aren't sought after. I understand that there is a fine line between acceptable body art versus an unprofessional amount of body art, but I feel as though any signs of tattoos or piercings automatically disqualify you for a position.
For this reason, every tattoo that I have, I purposefully got them in places that you'd never see: a hip, foot, and rib tattoo. I've always wanted a tattoo on my shoulder and even a 'sleeve' tattoo on my arm, but those aren't possibilities for me. It's bothersome to me that I have to sacrifice those until I retire because that will be the only time my tattoos don't threaten my livelihood. Even during retirement, I'll be considered "too old" to have tattoos, so I'll be discriminated against no matter what.
I hope that as a society, we'll learn to become more progressive, more accepting, and less judgmental. I hope that body art won't be considered taboo and that someday, seeing a professional with tattoos in the workplace won't conjure up a second thought. Until then, I have to live in a society where my tattoos must be covered, and any more than an ear piercing is considered horrifying.