Tattoo or taboo: Many support or condemn the growing body art trend

Lia Hillman, Editor-in-Chief

Every college person wants to make a mark on the world, but for many that mark is seen on their own skin.

“I got [a tattoo] my first year in college,” Lisa Brown from Texas said. “I don’t regret it, but I haven’t ever wanted another one.”

While getting a tattoo is not necessarily a detrimental event, many people do not believe they are a good idea.

“I do not agree with the age of getting a tattoo at 18,” Cindy Robinson from Okla. said. “Before that, kids are too impulsive and make very poor decisions.

There are other concerns with getting tattoos at a very young age.

“Personally, I have seen people who got tattoos young, but they aged, of course, and the tattoos are not even recognizable and look horrible,” Oklahoman Christi Jones-Humphrey said.

Lee Fitzgerald from N.Y. said he doesn’t have any tattoos because he doesn’t know what he would consider important enough to permanently put on his body.

“I’m still growing and changing as a person and will throw away old books, art, clothes frequently without looking back,” he said.

Some people find tattoos may influence job opportunities.

“I worked in an office at one time,” Jackie Price from Okla. said.  “I had to hire a secretary to meet the customers. The most qualified lady had at least two tattoos you could see. My boss wouldn’t give her an interview because of the tattoos.”

Others said the idea of getting a tattoo scares them.

“I am 39, want a tattoo, but will probably never get one because I’m afraid of the hurt,” Sairah Saddal said.

While physical pain is a common fear for tattoos, some people like OBU freshman Taylor Conn are afraid of what others will think.

“[I’m] scared of judgement,” Conn said.

This judgment may be especially worrisome for Christians.

“Biblically, we are advised not to mark our bodies and to treat it as a temple,” one OBU student said. “For that reason, I know my parents wouldn’t approve, so I keep mine a secret. They are very conservative, and I don’t want to let them down, but for me, body art can be used to illustrate my faith. I view my tattoo as a witness opportunity of sorts, so I make sure my attitude and behavior always reflects that belief.”

According to The Harris Poll, 30 percent of Americans had at least one tattoo in 2016.  This is up from the 20 percent in 2012. Many factors contribute to the growing popularity of tattoos.

Most people seem to have tattoos to represent something special or commemorate a person or event.

“I recently got my first tattoo, and after a long time of decision making, I chose to get a quote with my twin sister that was very significant to our relationship,” Lexy Davis of New York said.

“We are best friends and have been there for each other through the good and the bad, so every time I look at it, it makes me smile.”

Amber Cronan Wickham from Georgia has a tattoo to honor her deceased pet.

“I had the idea, and the artist really made it unique for me,” she said.

“It is my actual dog’s paw print. I got it about a month after he passed away suddenly. He was my constant companion for 10 years, and I felt so lost without him. Having his paw on my shoulder helped me feel less so.”

Some people get tattoos to represent significant events in their lives—both good and bad.

Fien Baeyens from Belgium is spending a gap year in China, and recently got her first tattoo before she turned 18.

“I’ve changed a lot in Beijing since I come from a childhood full of depression and panic,” she said.

“I’ve always been in need of happy places. So I decided to get ‘happy place’ in Chinese on my back to have the meaning that they will always have my back when I fall back into depression.”

There are people who get tattoos just because they like the designs.

“Most of my tatts are just images that I have liked, apart from my daughters’ names, which I have on my wrists written in Anglo-Saxen runes,” Craig Brooks from the United Kingdom said.

Jasmine Pettet from Indiana said her tattoos have helped with her self-confidence.

“I have a bunch, maybe something like 40 to 50, and they are awesome,” she said.

“I like decorating myself to look how I feel the most comfortable, so my outside most accurately matches who I am on the inside,” Pettet said.

“It’s helped me a ton when it comes to moving towards solid mental health and self-love.”

While tattoos may have once affected job opportunities, many people say tattoos have become more acceptable in the workforce.

“Do I think tattoos can affect potential job opportunities? Yes. Do I think they should? No,” Kristin Sgarro from New York said.

“I believe that if an employer is against their employees having body art of any kind, then that’s probably not a place you’d want to work for anyway.”

Not everyone agrees tattoos have a place at work.

“I work on campus,” one opponent to body art said. “And, to be honest, I just don’t expect to see administrators or faculty to be covered in tattoos. It isn’t that I would think less of them, but we do work in a conservative setting and that type of expression is just not universally accepted. I don’t think that is good or bad–it is just the way it is,” he said.

“I personally have a tattoo, but it is one I can cover. And even if I am accepting of body art, that doesn’t mean huge tatts on the neck or face are ever okay.”

Employers in general sometimes require employees to cover or conceal their tattoos.

“I work in a hospital and in a private medical office,” Anne-Claire Gibson from Kentucky aid.

“Policy requires all tattoos be covered. I knew that it was a compromise I would make before getting my big tattoo, and doesn’t bother me in the least.”

However, others, like Mandy Paris McCasland, said their employers have no rules against tattoos.

“Nobody cares about my tattoos, and one of my colleagues who teaches a ton has a full sleeve and makes no efforts to hide it,” McCasland said. “I think her students like her more for it.”

Overall, most people think tattoos no longer have a major impact on job opportunities.

“Tattoos are so common now that I feel they are becoming more acceptable at the work place,” Eduardo Baskervill said.

“The quality, taste and placement of a tattoo will certainly make a difference.”

The growing acceptance in modern society towards tattoos also has an impact on their popularity. Whereas 20 years ago, someone may have been afraid to get a tattoo, they no longer feel concerned about the judgement.

“I’m 57 years old and used to be totally against tattoos,” Tammy Miller from Oklahoma  said.

“After seeing the ones my kids have, I changed my thinking. I got my first one at age 54 and now have two and have drawn out my next one.’

Some people said their dislike of tattoos is not driven by the idea of having a tattoo, but rather the tattoo itself.

“I like and dislike individual tattoos the same as I like and dislike shirts or coffee mugs,” DJ Colwell from New Jersey said.

“For example, if someone has a tattoo of a giraffe or a piece of pizza, that doesn’t matter. If someone has a tattoo of a swastika, I probably would not hire them.”

While tattoos aren’t necessarily as negatively perceived as they once were, there are still uncertainties, especially from parents.

“My husband calls tattoos ‘a permanent expression of a temporary feeling,’” Kat Curtis from New York said.

Glenda Baker from Canada said she likes looking at tattoos on other people, just not on her or her children.

“I convinced my 27-year-old and my 17-year-old to respect their bodies and not mess with tattoos – if and only much later in their lives,” Baker said.

However, despite reservations, most parents said the decision to get a tattoo is ultimately up to their child.

“As with any decision, I would hope they had thought it through,” Amy Williams from Oklahoma said. “I would hope that because I allow them and have allowed them to think and make decisions for themselves that they would discuss it with me first.”

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