Wed. Jan 26th, 2022

According to a 2008 Harris Interactive poll, 14 percent of Americans (about 45 million people) have one or more tattoos, and the number has been on the rise since then. While being inked up is becoming more and more mainstream, having a tattoo can still get you some raised eyebrows and silent “tsk’s” in the more traditional sect of society.
In about a month, I have an appointment to get my first tattoo. It will be small and concealable, only about two by five inches, and located on my ribs. Being 21, I am far past the minimum tattoo receiving age of 18. I am legally an adult, and I can make my own choices, right?
The other night, I went out to dinner with my parents. On the ride home, I let them know about my tattoo plans. I do not feel the need to tell my parents everything, but because I did not want to cause a scene down the road with a mystery reveal so close to Christmas, I thought it best to make the announcement ahead of time. Naturally, a barrage of questions ensued. “What do you want?, How big will it be?, Where are you getting it? and, You know it’s permanent, right?” were the first words out of my mother’s mouth. But the one that really caught me off guard was, “What will potential employers say?”
I asked one of the managers at my place of work what he thought about employers’ relationships with tattoos. He has a half-“sleeve” (the upper or lower part of an arm or leg completely covered in tattoos) on one arm and is in the process of getting a full “sleeve” (an entirely tattooed arm or leg) on the other. “I’ve been discriminated against for having tattoos in the past. This was about 10 years ago now, since tattoos are becoming more mainstream. But I still get looks from people I’m helping at work,” he said.
But where’s the line in the sand for what is allowed and what is not? My manager said that tattoos are allowed, “As long as they aren’t crude or offensive.”
I agree with his opinion, but the way I see it, if I were in a position of management at a business, face/neck/hand tattoos would also be a bit of a warning sign for me. However, to avoid sounding judgmental or hypocritical, if they prove to be a quality candidate for the position, I would not refrain from hiring them solely on their choice of body art, unless it violated social decency.
This idea brings up the equal-opportunity policies included in most employers applications. These policies protect you from discrimination based on race, age, gender, sexual orientation, etc., but they do not protect you from discrimination based on personal choice of appearance.
There is still a lot of unbalanced power in the world, but with each generation being generally more socially liberal than the last, how long must we wait before “alternative” styles of dress and appearance are commonly accepted, even by our elders?
Dillon Sweigart is a fourth-year student majoring in liberal studies. He can be reached at

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