By Ashley Mott, Arts and Entertainment Editor
Over the past few years, the number of people with tattoos have grown exponentially. People have donned their bodies with this type of artwork for centuries, but they have only just recently became widely accepted in modern society.
If you were transported back in time to say, the 60s, the reaction to tattoos would have been horrendous. People would be called heathens and despicable, some were even told they would burn in hell for the disfiguration of their bodies. However, this is a stigma that many people in Gen Z have been trying to fix.
While, in my family, I have never really faced discrimination against my tattoos, I have had comments from outsiders. Once, a man yelled at me in a farmers market in a city more than two hours away from mine that tattoos were the sin of the devil and that I would pay.
Now despite this outburst, I believe the ways of the world are changing and so are people’s outlook on this art form. That said, after talking to a few Cleveland State University students, I have found that while many in our generation is accepting of tattoos, there is something still ingrained in all of us to cover up and hide them when it comes to the professional world.
“Every job interview I go to, I cover up just in case someone were to see my tattoos and completely dismiss my application. People are very shallow like that in the professional world, and it is quite unfortunate,” John Eppich, a soon-to-be graduating film major at Cleveland State, said.
Unfortunately, Eppich is not the only student at the university who feels this way. When interviewing for a major program on the campus, Morgan Spell, a second year student in the STEM field, also felt the need to cover up her tattoos for professional purposes.
“I didn’t feel like they would judge me if I had them. I just thought I would look more professional if you didn’t see them. So, I wore a blazer, but it wasn’t like ‘Nobody will ever know I have tattoos here,’ because I wasn’t planning on hiding them all the time. I just thought it would look a little better if I didn’t have all my tattoos out,” Spell said.
This is a sad reality for so many students. Even though this generation is pushing boundaries and changing the way the world as a whole views tattoos as a whole, there is still something ingrained in the generation that professionalism equates to clean and clear, ink free skin.
While many fields still dictate that you can’t have tattoos visible for safety precautions, many that don’t have that requirement still don’t feel inclusive.
“I have to hide [my tattoos] for the most part, [I] can’t have anything below my wrists or on or above my neck,” Colton Porter, junior criminology major on the topic of becoming a detective in the future, said.
Not having visible tattoos in that line of work is understandable, however, being in a music, medical or fine art field and having issues with job prospects because of non-offensive and non-excessive body art is hurting the already declining workforce. The ability to work well, be cheerful and kind, uphold a large workload and help others is not impaired because of a butterfly on someone’s arm or a flower on their hand.
“At my current job (Starbucks), it’s been great! At least half of the employees there have tattoos, and most of them are visible. Our boss even has tattoos, so it’s all very welcoming,” Chelsea Cruea, a fourth year music therapy major, said.
“In my clinical work for my field, it’s a bit different. As students, we have to follow a policy of either covering up tattoos or if they’re unable to be covered, getting a signed waiver from our clinical site that they’re okay with them.”
Even though tattoos are actually a really good tool to help connect with children in a hospital setting, it is still frowned upon in a lot of fields that work with the public in such a manner. Having to have a signed waiver because of an art piece limits the ability of students to gain the best education they can due to something that can be simply covered up.
While it is easy to see where people can be upset about tattoos for religious reasons or because some may be offensive, it is often found that most people get tattoos of things they care about, like their religion, and very rarely get offensive symbols tattooed on themselves.
“The first time [I had a bad reaction from someone], I was at a high school friend’s graduation party and this guy looked at me like I was some sort of monster.
‘Look what you did to the skin God made for you,’ he said. I knew her family was quite religious, but I never expected that kind of reaction,” Eppich said.
“I’ve also been asked how I stay employed by strangers on the street which is very fun. Tattoos most certainly shouldn’t affect employment opportunities. There isn’t anything wrong with having a tattoo that isn’t overtly offensive. I’d understand a company not hiring a person with a swastika on his arm, but of all the tattoos I’ve seen, I’ve only seen two people with swastikas and overtly racist or offensive symbols on them.”
The world is slowly starting to change their views, and many of the students agree. However, just based on these life experiences, it is clear that there is still a lot of progress to be made.
“I do think the stigma around tattoos has changed in the past 10 years. A lot of people usually associated tattoos with gangs or prison, or I don’t know, being trashy, essentially. But more people have opened up about it being an art form instead of just being ‘somebody went and got ink stabbed into their skin, so they’re a bad person,'” Spell said.
These Vikings are continuing to wear their artwork with pride and change the stigma one tattoo at a time.
“My favorite tattoo memory would have to be getting my Cleveland Skyline done. It was really fun getting to talk to the artist about video games and stuff. My good friend went with me, and we had a blast chit chatting throughout the session. I remember when it was done being in awe of how good it looked.”
— John Eppich,Spring 2019 Graduate, Film major
“My favorite tattoo memory would be, the amount of time it took me to beg my mother to sign for me to get a tattoo. She just kept saying no, kept saying no, until I was like ‘It’s a tattoo with your birthday on it,’ and then she was like ‘Oh, okay that’s fine!’ and I was like ‘That’s all it took? That’s all I had to tell you?”
— Morgan Spell, Second year, Nursing major
“I’ve gone to the same tattoo place for both of my tattoos, and I plan to continue going there. I’d say my favorite memory is coming back for my second tattoo and having the artists help me continue to build upon the artwork that’s now on my body.”
— Chelsea Cruea, Fourth year, Music Therapy major
Originally Published on The Cauldron.