According to Lemma, tattoos have been around for over 5000 years now(149). Across the world today, there are several cultures that haveused tattoos as a cultural identity tool, and at the same time,millions of people have been influenced to copy these cultures andget their tattoos inked onto their skin. However, some people gettattoos for beauty reasons, cult identity, for fantasy or justthrough peer pressure. Over the recent decades, tattoos have becomean issue of controversy in some professions. While others feel thattattoos are not suitable for certain jobs, an almost equal number ofothers are against the idea. Those against tattoos at some workplacescite professionalism, protection of the organization’s image andrepute and the socio-cultural perception of tattoos. Those who arenot against tattoos in the workplace argue that some people havecultures that need them to be inked and that tattooing is a form offreedom of expression. This paper argues that tattoos are notsuitable for certain jobs.
Some professions have a strict code of conduct and dress.Additionally, there are many corporations that have very strictcorporate dress codes and tattoos. Many occupations, such as medicalhealth practice, law practice and managerial positions assert that anindividual has to conduct themselves in a presentable manner, whichis demonstrated by their personality and responsibility. Forinstance, in the field of medical health, many patients stereotypetheir doctors and physicians as well kept, dressed in white and mostimportantly notlikelyto be spotted with body piercing and tattoos.According to the Duke University School of Law, tattoos seem quiteinconsistent with professional standards of appearance (356). Whiledoctors are supposed to act in the interest of patients, beyond theircapacity of administering medical procedures, they are supposed tomind their overall appearance.
Secondly, there are professions which through training andpracticecondemn the act of body-tattooing. Doctors adviseagainsthaving tattoos, for reasons such as blood transfusion purposes andrisk of contracting skin complications such as rashes and skin cancer(Rhoads and Petersen 103). This automatically sets standards for thedoctors to keep. It would not make sense for a doctor to advise apatient not to tattoo themselves, while they themselves have had acouple of tattoos. This would violate the standard code of conduct oftheir profession hence automatically disqualify them in terms ofprofessionalism. In the education sector too, teachers areautomatically restrained from having tattoos because of their natureof practice. Most teachers advise their students to avoid gettingtattoos, mainly because of the peer influencethey might be under(Geldard and Geldard 41). Similarly, this bar teachers from havingtattoos, based on what they teach and how they are supposed toconduct themselves. These are both examples of reasons why tattoosare not suitable for certain jobs, based on their professionalstandards and codes of conduct.
Protectionof company’s image
All companies are very sensitive when it comes to protecting theirimage and repute in the public. According to Cooper, Martin andBurke, a company’s reputation is the most valuable asset it has(4). This means that most management departments will ensure that theworkers under them uphold the company’s image, both on and off thejob. For this reason, the companies would work to ensure that allelements that would ruin their image are avoided. Most people relatetattooed people to illegal organizations, or groups, such as robbersand street gangs or ex-convicts (Kinnear 203). Seeing a tattoo on aperson therefore arouses the feeling of insecurity, and they wouldimmediately want to keep away from them. For instance, in the bankingindustry, it is almost impossible to spot a banker with tattoos. Themain reason for this is that banks would avoid employing people whowould send out a negative image to the public by employing people whowould possibly be related to gangs or would possibly be havingconvicted before. Similarly, in the security logistics industry,companies such as G4S, and others that handle client’s valuablesand money, anything that would possibly relate the workers towrong-doing would make them lose customers and run out of business.Given the purpose of company image protection, the thesis of thepaper is squarely within the context.
The society regards culture to the highest levels. One of the shapersof traditional and modern culture is religion. Christianity has astrong stand against tattooing. For instance, Leviticus 19:28 iscited by followers of the religion as their stand against tattoos. Atthe same time, given the active widespread of Christianity in Europe,there was a decline in the act of tribal tattooing amongst thecommunities (Levy 19). The modern Catholic Church too has a strictopinion about tattoos, especially those which may be regarded asanti-Christian or offensive. The Muslim religion also strictlycondemns permanent tattooing, based on the Sharia laws, so doesJudaism.
Thereligious influence of socio-cultural paradigms makes it unsuitablefor people in certain professions to tattoo themselves. Religionshave set up businesses, and have also established severalinstitutions which hire millions of workers worldwide. At the sametime, there are several businesses and institutions which base theirpractice on religion. The Catholic Church, for example, has employedmillions of doctors in missionary sponsored hospitals and clinics.Similarly, some of the leading financial institutions, such asInstitute of Islamic Banking and Insurance and other banks havecustomized operations standards and guidelines, based on the IslamicSharia law. It is therefore practically impossible to find anemployee of such institutions bearing tattoos, whether permanent ortemporary. Any individual aspiring to work at such placeswouldtherefore be advised not to have any tattoo markings, lest they bedisqualified.
Counterargument 1: Culture
One of the strongest arguments by those who are not against tattoosin the workplace, regardless of the nature of the work the tattooedperson is doing, is that some people have tattoos for culturalreasons.As Sawyer notes “many people obtain tattoos for religiousof cultural reasons” (67).For instance, they argue that tattoos areacquired as a sign of belonging to a certain age group, or havinggone through initiation, or as a mark of their position in the clanhierarchy. A good example of cultures which have a strong attachmentto tattooing is the Maori culture (Levy 20). They have Ta Moko,which is a permanent body and face marking, which are culturalidentity markings. With this argument, therefore, the proponents oftattooing argue that denying them employment would be discriminationon grounds of cultural practices.
However,despite the cultural meaning of tattoos amongst communities acrossthe world, a company, organization or institution cannot logicallyput its reputation on balance. There are several other culturalpractices that have been nullified because they violate anorganization’s code or tradition. Societal cultural influences haveover time conflicted with the organization’s rules and regulations,which have seen to the termination of several employees’ contracts.Additionally, one would not approach an institution with argumentsthat clearly contradict its very own culture. Taking a Shariacompliant financial institution as an example, it would bepractically impossible to convince them to go against their ownculture of zero-tolerance towards tattoos to favor an individual.This holds the argument of the paper that tattooing is not suitablefor certain jobs.
Counterargument 2: Freedom of Expression
Freedom of expression has also been used by the proponent of bodytattooing. According to them, America’s First Amendment providesfor the right to express their opinion freely. This implies that thecitizens have a right to express themselves in a verbal or artisticway. The matter also takes a legal turn, with a federal court onceruling that the art of tattooing is a form of pure expression whichis fully protected by the 1st amendment (Piety 54). Thesame amendment also states that the Congress shall not make any lawsto abridge the freedom of expression. Given this, some decisions bythe Supreme Court have interpreted and expanded it to cover tattooingas an act of expression, which therefore deserves protection by thelaw as provided for by the constitution. Additionally, the proponentssuggest that employers are not supposed to discriminate against thefreedom of expression, thus consider it illegal.
However,just as for all other freedoms, the freedom of expression has itslimitations. Hoffman, Nilkaemper and Swerissen assert this fact
Nonetheless, the freedom of expression is not unlimited. Limitationsmust be placed on human rights when necessary for ensuring thatindividuals do not exercise their freedoms in a way that infringes onthe freedom of others (324).
According to the Freedom Forum Organizations, all entities recognizethe limits of freedom of expression (Shlapentokh and Beasley 136).This is particularly when freedom of expression conflicts with thevalues of others. Some people value tattooing as an immoral act,related to criminal gangs and bad omen. As much as anyone has theright to express themselves freely, the wellbeing of those aroundthem has to be taken into consideration. This is why manyorganizations are justified to protect their employees and clientsagainst individuals who pose a threat or make them feeluncomfortable. For instance, Kurt Westergaard, basing his actions onthe freedom of expression, caused religious and political unrestafter illustrating Prophet Muhammad as a terrorist, wearing a bombinhis Turban (Reuters 1). Similarly, many people would take offenseover the impression of some tattoos. This is the reason why thejustification of having tattoos at any workplace on the basis offreedom of expression is disapproved.
Tattoos have been around for a long time, and will continue beingembraced into the infinite future. Regardless of the purpose ofbearing a tattoo, be it cultural identity, fantasy or religion,issues regarding employment and tattoos will continue to triggerdebate. Those in support of having a tattoo, regardless of theoccupation, have supported their stand by a number of arguments,amongst them culture and freedom of expression. However, this paperhas substantially argued and provided reasons as to why tattoos arenot suitable for some jobs. People come from different religious andcultural settings, which have to be upheld and respected. Similarly,the same constitution that provides for freedom of expression isclear about the limitations of some examples of expression. However,most importantly, institutional codes and practices determine whetheror not one would be allowed to be tattooed or not. For this reason,this paper has satisfactorily establishedthat tattoos are notsuitable for certain jobs.
Cooper, Cary, L., Graeme Martin and Ronald J. Burke.CorporateReputation: Managing Opportunities and Threats. Surrey, England:Gower Publishing, 2012. Print.
Duke University School of Law. Makeup, Identity Performance andDiscrimination.Durham, NC: Duke University School of Law, 2007.Print.
Geldard, Kathryn., and David Geldard. Counseling Adolescents: TheProactive Approach for Young People.London, UK: SAGE Publishers,2009. Print.
Hoffmann, Julia., Andre Nolkaemper and Isabella Swerissen.Responsibility to Protect: From Principle to Practice. Amsterdam,The Netherlands: Amsterdam University Press, 2012. Print.
Kinnear, Karen, L. Gangs: A Reference Handbook. Santa Barbara,CA:ABC-CLIO, 2009. Print.
Lemma, Allesandra.Under the Skin: A Psychoanalytic Study of BodyModification. New York, NY: Routledge, 2010. Print.
Levy, Janey.Tattooes in Modern Society.New York, NY: The RosenPublishing Group, 2008. Print.
Piety, Tamara. Brandishing the First Amendment: CommercialExpression in America.Ann Arbor, MI: University of MichiganPress, 2012. Print.
Reuters. “Kurt Westergaard, Danish Mohammad Cartoonist, RejectsCensorship”. The Huffington Post 9 September 2012. Online.
Rhoads, Jacquline., and Sandra W. Petersen. Advanced HealthAssessment and Diagnostic Reasoning. Burlington, MA: Jones &Bartlett Learning, 2013. Print.
Sawyer, Sarah. Body Piercing and Tattoooing: The Hiden Dangers ofBody Art. Mason, OH: Cenhge Learning, 2008. Print.
Shlapentokh, Vladimir and Eric Beasley.Restricting Freedoms:Limitations on the Individual in Contemporary America.NewBrunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2013. Print.