Beiwel: The stigma of tattoos should not play a role in the workplace


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Studies show that 11 percent of employers let tattoos influence their hiring decision. 

Maddy Beiwel


wo hikers stumbled upon a human body, half frozen in the ice, while hiking in the Alps along the Austrian-Italian border in 1991. Believing the person they found to be the unfortunate victim of a mountaineering accident, the hikers snapped a picture and alerted authorities.

An Austrian rescue team worked to excavate the man from the ice during the next few days. This was difficult because the weather worked against the team, and meltwater continuously flowed across the body.The corpse was finally free after four days.

Leather, hide, string, straps and hay lay next to the corpse, entombed in the ice. It was discovered during an autopsy that this was no unlucky hiker. It was a Neolithic skeleton from the Copper age preserved by the ice.

Scientists found a series of 61 primitive tattoos on the body that were made by making several vertical cuts in the skin and proceeding to rub powdered charcoal into the wounds.

This is when science discovered the original tattoo.

Throughout centuries, tattoos have had many meanings. In ancient Egypt, some dancers had tattoos celebrating the goddess of fertility and revelry. 

In Rome, tattoos were reviled and only used for branding criminals and people who were put to death. Tattoos changed and became symbols of honor that were worn proudly in battle.

The Crusaders tattooed crosses onto their bodies, so if they died in battle they could be given a Christian burial. Tattooing has long been practiced in Japan, where it was first popularized by merchants and the lower class who were barred from wearing ornate kimonos.

The motivations behind body art are no less varied and no less meaningful today. Domestic abuse survivors often get tattoos to cover their scars, and sexual abuse survivors have been known to view body art as a way to reclaim their bodies.

In today’s culture, the stigma behind getting a tattoo is slowly fading away. Of people who are between the ages 18 and 29, 38 percent said they have at least one tattoo, according to a Pew Research Center study. And the tattoo industry’s revenue has been growing rapidly in the last five years as a result.

More young people are turning to body art, and with this change, the view of tattoos as an indicator of deviant behavior or recklessness is diminishing. And I believe that it’s about time.

About 31 percent of employers said they were less likely to hire an applicant with a visible tattoo or piercing, according to in 2014. 

They can impede the job search to the point they are often called “job stoppers,” but the reasons for this are often split down the middle. 

Some employers are unwilling to hire people with visible tattoos for the sake of public image, even in offices where the interactions are rarely personal and are often over the phone.

I can, in some capacity, understand people’s qualms about tattoos, especially concerning those in the most visible areas like the face and neck. With all the stigmas surrounding tattoos today, it can be daunting to see people with such prominent body art.

But as long as they are not vulgar, profane or offensive, people should try to look past the tattoos of their peers before making any judgements. Why does it matter what a person thinks is important enough to keep on his or her body forever?

As impermanent as the world is, isn’t it admirable when someone says, “I’m going to make sure this is a part of me forever.”

The stigma surrounding tattoos in the business world and in everyday life is surprising and unfounded. 

While studies that merely suggest a link between deviant behavior and tattoos exist, they are not the cut and dry proof of deviance some people believe they are.

Tattoos are first and foremost a type of self-expression, similar in many ways to song writing, poetry and painting. Many people think they are a walking canvas on which they can place mementos from their lives and those close to them.