Let’s talk about something that I know, and personally
love: ink. We’re talking tattoos. They’re not just for scumbags and sailors
anymore. That’s right folks, wandering in a tattoo parlor you may encounter a
professional or even a *gasp* suburban housewife! You read it right, the
proverbial Mom tattoo has now transformed into mom’s getting tattooed. In many
areas, tattoos are migrating from counterculture to popular culture; but are we
moving forward in our acceptance? That’s what I’d like to examine here.
have tattoos. I don’t keep it a secret but at the same time I don’t put them on
display while I’m at work. There is not a set-in-stone policy regarding tattoos
where I work but we’re essentially asked to be smart about it- to maintain the
level of "professionalism” that my employers expect. I’m happy to
work in a relatively accepting environment but I know that others are not so
lucky. I was discussing this topic with an acquaintance from our industry and
they informed me that at a previous job, they had a very strict tattoo policy
where all visible tattoos had to be covered, at all times. That quick
conversation prompted me to run a quick Google search for "appearance policy
tattoo healthcare” and have come across many healthcare organizations that have
policies that restrict tattoos from being visible. The powers that be are the
ones who dictate what is acceptable for our viewing pleasure – and do not have
to take anyone’s feelings into consideration. Some people argue that it is a
first amendment right issue but truth be told, companies can limit personal
expression on the job as long as they don’t impinge on civil liberties.
Translation: Appearance policies are allowed as long as they don’t discriminate
or hinder a person’s race, color, religion, age, national origin, or gender.
Most companies are interested in protecting the "professional image” of their
organization; which is well within their right.
tattoo removal rose 32% from 2011 to 2012. "Employment reasons” are the leading
factor and have risen a reported 25% from last year, according to a 2012 study
done by The Patient’s Guide1.
been a significant increase in the number of patients who desire tattoo removal
for career advancement or for employment reasons,” says Dr. Eric Bernstein,
laser expert and Associate Clinical Professor at University of Pennsylvania.
"I think this is as wrong as any other kind of discrimination, but
patients tell me that their tattoos are affecting their professional lives.
Many feel that their body could be holding them back and this has
resulted in more folks seeking tattoo removal.”
Interactive2 reports that 21% of
adults in the US have a tattoo, a statistic that has risen 7% since 2008. In
October 2012, National Geographic released an article on the transition of
tattoo moving from taboo to mainstream 3,
the expansion of the industry and the fact that it’s not just "deviants” getting
ink anymore. For something that is becoming so mainstream, it is interesting
how adherent the stigma against tattoos continues to be – especially in the
work environment. Furthermore I’ve noticed that there seems to be a duality in
expectations, appearance-wise, between the photographers and other employees.
It seems that those in entry level positions have a bit more leeway when it
comes to visible tattoos, whereas the more specialized positions are generally
asked to cover up. It’s not just being asked to not have our visible, it’s the
flack we catch when they are that really drives the double standard home. I
understand covering something up for your employer that might be offensive, but
tattoos in their own right shouldn’t be considered offensive. In our industry,
we work with many patients from the "scumbag and sailors” generation but I know
that my tattoos don’t make me any less or more capable of doing my job, and
simply put, I’m not going to stop getting them. I’m just going to have to
invest in some longer sleeves until things change.
my opinion. I’m interested in yours. Please comment with a response to the
questions below or feel free to add any other insight you may have.
are you opinions on visible ink? If you have tattoos, have you run into any
problems with employers because of them? What’s your knee-jerk reaction when
you’re being attended to by someone with visible ink? Do you think differently
about their ability to perform their job?
Brandi Deats, B.S., CRA, OCT-C, has been working for the University of Rochester, Flaum Eye Institute in Rochester, New York for just over 2 years. A fledgeling adult and relatively newly married she enjoys cooking, eating, traveling, and the endless struggle of trying to get her husband to try something other than Labatt Blue.
1. The Patient’s Guide http://http://blog.patientsguide.com/2012/05/study-tattoo-removal-climbs-32-in-competitive-job-market/
2. Harris Interactive Polls: One in Five U.S. Adults
Now Has a Tattoo http://www.harrisinteractive.com/NewsRoom/HarrisPolls/tabid/447/mid/1508/articleId/970/ctl/ReadCustom%20Default/Default.aspx
3. Tattoos—From Taboo to Mainstream http:// http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2002/10/1011_021011_taboo.html