Upon getting my tattoo, I was interrogated time and time again over how I was going to get a job. Everyone suddenly seemed quite concerned over my potential job prospects -- something they had never been concerned with previously.
People I had never met before stopped me on the street to compliment it and then ask where I worked. They asked if I covered it up for job interviews and if I would ever get tired of wearing long sleeve shirts to work everyday. They didn’t even know my name when they asked these questions.
The question that's been rattling around in my head ever since I was asked one of these questions for the first time was why did they feel it was necessary to ask me this? What right did they have to do so? They didn’t even know me. They knew nothing about my job qualifications or what I wanted to do, so why did they think that I would not be able to get a job? I could tell them that I have already published three books and am working on a fourth and that I'll be graduating in a year and a half with two Bachelors degrees. I could tell them that I've had summer jobs, work at my college via work-study during the school year and that I work as a contract editor year round. I could tell them that I already have jobs, but none of that would matter to them though, as all that they knew was that I had a tattoo and that meant I obviously would not be able to get a job.
I’m not the only one who has gotten these questions. Just about every person I know who has a visible tattoo has been asked similar ones. It’s a common thing. These questions stem from the original idea of tattoos being considered part of a counterculture. They’ve been regularly associated with those who operated outside of the traditional social center. However, that’s changed in the past few decades. More and more people are beginning to get tattoos. In fact, in America, 42 percent of adults have tattoos. That’s nearly half of the adult American population, which means that evidently tattoos have spread beyond the “counterculture.”
On that note, though, 76 percent of employees in the U.S. feel that having a tattoo or piercing will hurt your chance of getting a job. As such, a lot of people will cover up their tattoos or hide their piercings for interviews. This fear of a tattoo hurting your chance of getting hired might actually be unfounded, as 73 percent of Americans say they would hire someone with visible tattoos.
Tattoos are quickly becoming a part of everyday society, particularly due to movements like the semicolon tattoo, so why are we still so hung up on stigmatizing them?
If we want to change the stigmatism that has been placed on tattoos, we’re going to have to start work on breaking down the misconstructions regarding tattoos and work hard at that. The Support Tattoos and Piercings at Work (STAPAW) movement is beginning to work on de-stigmatizing tattoos in the workplace by raising awareness about discrimination of piercings and tattoos in the workplace by conducting surveys, creating petitions and setting up volunteer opportunities.
STAPAW started after a woman was let go for having tattoos, piercings and plugs. She had been hired with them, but after two customers complained about her body modifications, the employer fired her. As such, she and others realized that it was not the employer who had a problem with tattoos or the piercings, but it was the customers, and he was worried about losing customers. The issue was that no one had ever voiced approval for the employee’s body modifications, only disapproval. The woman eventually got her job back thanks to STAPAW and spurred the movement onwards, but her experience is pretty rare. Not many people get their jobs back after being fired for having body modifications. STAPAW is trying to change that, as are many other people around the world.
I think next time someone asks me how I’m going to get a job with my tattoos, I think I’m just going to hand them a copy of my resume with a sticky note attached with STAPAW’s website on it. After all, my body isn’t my resume, as my tattoo has nothing to do with my qualifications to do a job.