Tattoos & Piercings: Dispelling The Stigmas Essay

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but does beauty determine human ability and intelligence? Does it really matter what someone looks like, or is it the content of their character that matters? What are the attitudes, perspectives, and consequences of people with “semi permanent visual aesthetics.” What stigmas do they encounter and how does it affect the person? What is considered beauty and what is socially acceptable? This question is significant to consider because by exploring this, the factors that produce socially fixed identities and limit the development of new social identities for people with “semi permanent visual aesthetics,” and other subcultures are demystified. We will examine and explore the attitudes and perspectives of both sides. Those with and those without “semi permanent visual aesthetics.” Regardless of which category they might fall into appearance wise, we are all human and we are all unique.

In the article by DeMello, he states that tattoos and piercings have long been part of human history. Humans throughout the course of time have found the desire to mark and decorate their bodies according to aesthetics and beliefs. Tattoos have also been used to mark people in negative ways as well, such as in Germany numbers tattooed on Nazi war camp victims in death camps and in some foreign countries such as Russia, are used to identify and ostracize criminals.. It is not uncommon even today to see “misguided individuals” who have been incarcerated covered in jail style and prison tattoos. Demello states, “Tattoos articulate not only the body, but the psyche as well.” (201) Personally, each tattoo I have on my body has a special meaning or belief of mine involved. In a way my tattoos show how I feel on the inside to the rest of the world visibly. Many individuals who have been incarcerated may use their tattoos to identify with other inmates, both inside and outside of prison. It could be a representation of their beliefs, or even gang affiliations or loyalties. In Japan, one must earn the privilege and right to wear Yakuza influenced tattoos, although the way they are positioned on the body, they can be hidden from the public eye, as it is still considered taboo to be heavily tattooed in certain areas of Japan. Accordingly, it also is used to mark and represent rights of passage and significant events in certain cultures, such as tattoos which are given as an adolescent youth transitions to manhood. It makes it easy to see who is affiliated with specific groups or beliefs. For individuals whom are not part of that lifestyle, tattooing may just be for aesthetics, or personal reasons that only are significant to the individual.

According to Martin and Dula, who put together The Martin Stigma Against Tattoos Survey (MSATS) study, was created, taken by 210 undergraduate students along with a Big Five personality measure, and subjected to factor analysis and preliminary evaluation of validity. Results supported a single factor solution and the 17-item measure demonstrated a high level of internal consistency with Cronbach’s alpha = 0.92. Items with face validity and significant differences between tattooed and non-tattooed participants on MSATS scores provided initial evidence of construct validity. Perhaps dispelling one myth underlying stigma, no significant differences were found in the GPA of tattooed versus non-tattooed college students. (Martin & Dula, 201) Tattoos and piercings have become much more commonplace in our society in the last twenty years. From police officers, paramedics, doctors, or nurses, people from all walks of life are choosing to get tattoos. These are individuals we empower to protect, serve, and care fir us on a daily basis and in emergency situations. The fact that they have decorated themselves with body art does not change the fact they they are highly trained and educated members of our society. A person’s work product, morals, scruples, and ethics will speak for themselves regardless of what tattoos, piercings, or other adornments worn on their bodies. They have become more common and accepted in Western culture including the conservation constraints of corporate America.

Bailey of HuffPostUK is of the opinion that tattooing and piercing is simply “Art.” By tattooing and piercing of one’s body it should not define someone in society’s eyes, they are merely adding to their character. I tend to agree with this opinion, I believe each person is unique and if they want to decorate themselves accordingly it does not change who they are as a person. Many people in society are so wrapped up in their ideal of what the “norm” is, they lose sight of the unique. In my opinion, it could be the way many people are trying to find their own individuality in a cookie cutter society norm. Society expects us to fit into a certain ideal image however, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and is one of a kind to each person. Additionally, it is determined by the individual what the aesthetic and hedonistic value is, along with what level of pain they are willing to endure.

In the opinion of Archita and Kaustav, tattooing can represent individuality, idolizing someone, fashion, scar hiding, marking memory, spiritual meaning, showcasing body, and rite of passage. It can have many and varied reasons, just as unique as the person wearing them. For a sailor, it can mark the locations of where they have sailed as well as how many nautical miles they have traveled. It also can carry superstitions, such as sailors who tattoo roosters and pigs tattooed on their feet since these are land based creatures and believed to get a sailor to land quickly in the event their ship sunk or they went overboard. On the flipside, some sailors tattoo squids and octopuses to their feet since they are highly skilled swimmers. In New Zealand, a tribe called the Maori will mark their faces with a tribal design known as a “moko.” A Moko is specifically to mark their place in society and be accepted amongst their peers. Those whom did not earn the right to wear a Moko were shunned and viewed as the outcasts amongst their tribal society.

Today, in Western Culture many American women will get large tattoos after plastic surgery and child birth in order to hide, minimize, and mask scars, stretch marks, and other physical areas that have become compromised with age, weight loss/ gain, and surgical procedures. Memorial tattoos are a very common practice for immortalizing and paying homage to a loved one and have become part of the healing process while grieving. Military tattoos show rank, areas of skill, trade, and expertise. Some tattoos are simply aesthetic. On Friday the 13th, many tattoo shops will feature $13 flash tattoos for filler pieces on individuals that are heavily tattooed. It current times it has become a trend for many to get tattooed on Friday The 13th, due to it being a lucky number in tattooing, while also being juxtapositioned as an “unlucky’ day in Western Culture. Tattoo shops originally offered these inexpensive and often humorous tattoos for filler pieces on individuals whom were heavily tattooed.

In conclusion, tattooing can be a window into your past, a statement, or fine art. If you look close enough, you are able to read the story of an individual simply by the way they have marked, adorned, and tattooed their body. Being able to communicate without words is a rare glimpse into the psyche of the wearer as well as what beauty is their beholding eye.

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