Mosaic / January 18, 2017

Stigma fades as students embrace tattoos

Junior Brendan Reeves shows his arm tattoo, still to be fully completed. (Julian Blye/TKS)

Junior Brendan Reeves used his time in an art class he was taking in high school to start drawing up several ideas he had for potential tattoos. Because he had neither the ideas nor the funds at the time, he waited until the summer of his freshman year of college to get it done. Reeves got a decent paying job and, by that summer, he was able to afford his first tattoo. He currently has one completed, one partially completed and several plans for future tattoos.

While his first has some meaning behind it, Reeves does not feel that a tattoo must have a symbolic nature, and that an aesthetically pleasing tattoo with no profound meaning is acceptable as well.

“If your goal is for something to look cool, then that should be enough. You shouldn’t have to ascribe extra stuff to it,” he said. “With other art, you’re partially making it for yourself but also partially for an audience. With tattoos, it’s entirely for you.”

Reeves considers music culture to be responsible for the increasing acceptance of tattoos. He noted that, while different genres of music that were previously thought of as obscure become more popular and accepted, the style and culture behind the artists also becomes more acceptable.

He expressed that as long as people get tattoos that can be covered up with clothing, there should be no problem finding jobs in most cases. In cases of less professional jobs, he noted, even visible tattoos are generally acceptable to employers.

“In working class jobs and blue collar jobs, it doesn’t matter. As long as you get the job done it’s fine, said Reeves. “And I feel like that has moved on to more and more upper class jobs as well.”

While he has never seriously thought about getting a tattoo himself, Associate Professor of Philosophy Dan Wack agreed that the stigma toward tattoos is decreasing, and feels a tattoo shouldn’t prevent someone from employment.

“The major transition for me with tattoos was when I was young,” Wack said. “Growing up in the 80s, it was still a relatively marginal thing, culturally, for somebody to do in the places I grew up.”

Wack assured that, while he himself makes no negative judgments regarding tattoos, he is aware that there are still some employers of higher class professions that have expectations. He links this to a history of tattoos being a depiction of class.

“It said something about your work if you had a tattoo and could be tattooed at your work,” he said. “And I do think that’s broken down somewhat but it’s still there even though tattoos themselves have become more widespread.”

Sophomore Nimay Ravi believes there is still somewhat of a stigma attached to people who get tattoos. He considers it to be easily overcome and steadily decreasing. He addressed that some tattoos are completely concealable, and somebody could have several tattoos without any of them being generally visible.

He credits the increasing acceptance of tattoos to the increase in general popularity of them.

“I think when you find that someone you know has a tattoo you become more accepting of it,” Ravi said. “So more and more people have decided that it’s okay to do it.”

Ravi agrees that there doesn’t have to be a specific story behind a tattoo for it to be meaningful. Ravi said that seeing his sister get tattoos as well as his love for learning about space inspired him to get his first tattoo: a Pulsar map on his calf.

“It’s supposed to show the location of our solar system within our galaxy,” Ravi said. “So no matter where you are in our galaxy, you can find us.”

He described that, because the tattoo consists of fairly simple lines and no color, he didn’t have much difficulty finding an artist who could execute the piece.

While senior Miranda Hallmark does not disagree with people who don’t have stories behind tattoos, she considers those tattoos that do to be more meaningful. One of Hallmark’s tattoos displays the relationship between her and her sister as one of caring for each other despite differences in personality.

For Hallmark, the presence of meaning behind tattoos is driving the increasing acceptance toward tattoos. She mentioned that despite growing up in a religious community and facing judgment, people are more understanding of her tattoos after they learn the meaning of them.

“I know a lot of people who’ve got emotional scars, and tattoos are a way of accepting that for them,” Hallmark said. “It takes a lot of personal confidence to literally wear your heart on your sleeve, and for so many people it’s an expression of so much internal stuff.”

Sam Jacobson

Tags:  culture Knox members Of Stigma Tattoo

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