Walking Canvases

They have played a large role in many different cultures, more prominent in some than in others. For some they were a rite of passage, others have them to express their religious practice, and some have them to show their street affiliations. They have been around for thousands of years and their meanings are ever changing and adaptable to any culture, at least I’d like to think so. If you haven’t guessed, body art specifically tattoos are what this is all about.

Tattoos have evolved into something that likely no one in the past could have imagined. Originally used mainly by groups such as indigenous tribes, soldiers, convicts, and sailors, tattoos have vastly and quickly become popular with the group we all know as Millennials. As a matter of fact, in 2010 about 40% of millennials surveyed said they had at least one tattoo and this certainly increased in the following 9 years. So why the huge jump in tattooed people? There’s plenty of reasons but the most popular explanations are that mass media helped push the idea that tattoos aren’t reserved for any group (Tattoo shows, social media, etc.) and the other being that millennials crave a sense of permanence. Everything moves at two-hundred miles per hour, new trends, music, apps, and other things alike are pushed through phone screens 24/7. Researchers claim that millennials get tattoos to showcase and cement their identity, its permanence affirms a link to the past. Now although I agree that both of these are influential to the rise in those who get tattoos, I believe there’s one reason that is neglected. Younger people are seemingly leaning towards being a much more inclusive generation. We have openly pushed for the rights of minorities who have been deemed “different”, so if as a generation they can fight for inclusivity over a much more serious matter why would they feel any different over what most would consider harmless tattoos. This empathetic view of others, in my opinion, has aided in the acceptance of body ink as a whole. Unlike older generations, we no longer immediately view a tattooed person as unruly or a bad influence rather as just a person who liked tattoos enough to get one. But even as common as tattoos have become, they haven’t exactly become entirely acceptable.

In 2010, seventy percent of millennials surveyed said they made sure their tattoos were or could be hidden from view, the big reason being career concerns. Even today in 2019 everyone knows that you may suffer consequences if you opt into getting a visible tattoo for example on your hands, neck, or face also known as “job stoppers”. But why is that? Well, we know why those who are in charge of hiring usually don’t want someone with visible tattoos to be greeting customers or clients due to older stereotypes but that doesn’t really seem like a satisfying response to the question, why? I truly think it’s because older people have such a crystallized state of mind which rarely allows for adaptation to new trends and societies, so I don’t want to blatantly say that the older generation is the only cause of this but if it were to be that millennials were mostly in charge I think job-stoppers would not be a thing.

Tattoo inclusivity is becoming more common within different career paths, one very noticeable one, especially in Miami, is law enforcement, we’ve all seen plenty of cops with full arm sleeves at one point or another. Most retail where the targeted demographic is comprised of younger generations is also usually full of employees with body art and body modification but this isn’t really what we’re concerned over. Those who dream of having white color jobs are those who are affected by this anti-tattoo hiring process. So what can we do about it? Honestly, all we can do is wait. Tattoo culture has spread like wildfire and I have faith that as we move forward in time tattooed people will be more common than non-tattooed people. As a more inclusive group of people starts to become bosses, managers, business and company owners, the more relaxed policies against visible tattoos will become, at least I can only hope. It’s scary to think that you’d be throwing your whole education and career path away over a tattoo but if we all just go out and get tattoos, then they can’t just not hire ALL of us right?

This last part is a direct message to those who have not gotten a tattoo yet but have thought about or are thinking about getting one. Yes, you should. Start off with anything, whether it be big or small, detailed or just a simple line. Find an artist that fits the style you like most. Tattoos DON’T need meaning! It really is ok to get a tattoo just because you appreciate the art piece or even just because you think it’s funny, trust me I’ve done it, as a matter of fact, I have your name tattooed on my leg. Yes, it hurts, no there’s nothing you can do about it, but the pain is only temporary I usually forget how “painful” the experience was as soon I step out of the shop. You probably shouldn’t get a tattoo if it’s part of a deal, you’re very literally getting what you pay for and keep in mind this is permanent. It might seem dumb or obnoxious when someone says “If you get one you’ll probably get another and another” but speaking from experience I can say it’s very true as I’m now going onto my 10th, seven of which have been in the past half year. I was never really good at creating art but that’s okay because, in the end, I got to turn myself into a walking canvas and I can’t wait to see how society adapts to fit myself and all other walking canvases into it.

Author: Eugenio Arce
University: Florida International University

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