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Got stigma? Maybe, if you have a tattoo
Travis Schott
Antelope Staff
Photo by Josh Moody
Brittany Resh, a sophomore pre-radiology major from Shelton, shows off her peace sign tattoo. Over time tattoos have emerged as a growing trend in U.S. culture.

Are the stigmas attached to individuals with tattoos still prevalent in today’s society?  Unfortunately I believe they are, especially here in Nebraska and throughout the Midwest. But, despite many who still stigmatize those expressing themselves through body art, changes are occurring.

There was a time, not so long ago in “appropriate” America when tattoos were unacceptable in mainstream society. In the past, many Americans, especially conservative Americans, seemed to express certain distaste for individuals with body art. If you had a tattoo, your identity was soiled, you may have been labeled a criminal, a social misfit or even worse, and the “normal” people did not associate with stigmatized individuals.

But the times, they definitely are a changing. A poll conducted by CNN in 2007 showed nearly 30 percent of U.S. college students have at least one tattoo. Although this statistic isn’t overly surprising, there are some variables young college students need to remain aware of before making their first trip to the tattoo parlor.

As a non-traditional college student from generation X, and one who has multiple tattoos in plain sight, I can share multiple stories of how my tattoos have helped and hurt me in contemporary society.

In the “real world,” as it is often referred to by our professors and instructors, who some, in my opinion aren’t qualified to offer opinions on the “real world,” is full of both liberal and conservative employers, and perhaps most importantly consumers with the same ideals.

Some of these more conservative employers may not be inclined to employ individuals with tattoos. It’s no secret body art is often not attractive to older individuals. This could potentially harm your chances of finding a career, or impact any potential for advancement, even job stability.

I’ve been in the “real world,” have owned two successful companies and have experienced an array of adverse feedback because of my tattoos. Before I became my own boss a majority of the time, I wore long sleeved business shirts that were never white because I was afraid I would lose my job. Even when I started my company, I often hid the fact I had tattoos out of fear of losing prospective clients.

Tattoos are not protected by equal employment laws according to Manpower’s Web site. "Employers do have the right to make hiring decisions that take appearance into account that don't include race or gender," says Melanie Holmes, vice president, world of work solutions at Manpower.

Recently I read a 2007 study entitled, “Getting Inked: Tattoos and College Students.” Researchers traveled to multiple universities surveying students with and without tattoos. The study revealed individuals with tattoos were much more autonomous, or independent, and increasingly more likely to engage in risky behavior than those without skin art.

Again, these results aren’t overly surprising. It’s no secret those with tattoos have a unique distaste for conformity and often prefer to “live outside the box.” Some might argue this will inevitably prove harmful in the “real world.”   

I, on the other hand, feel differently. It is this inclination to be different and a willingness to take risks that will inevitably prove most valuable, especially in a contemporary society enriched by competition.

What do you think? Post your comments at unkantelope.com or at twitter.com/unkantelope.

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