Monday, November 7, 2011

Permanently Drawn Perceptions?

[Johnathan Clayborn]
This particular entry is part rant-part philosophical question. I had some other topics planned, but I wanted to write about this one and get it out of the way. At work, on Halloween, my company held their annual potluck and costume contest. Many of the departments decorated their whole area, and a few of them all dressed up in similar themes.
One particular costume struck a discord with me. Our Finance Department decorated their department as the “Trailer Park”. They turned their cubicle into a double-wide mobile home and the whole department dressed up as “trailer trash”. (For those foreign readers, “trailer trash” is the American slang term for people who generally low-income, low-education, and in poor-hygiene.)
The particular costume in question was the department director’s costume. Her “costume” consisted of a t-shirt and fake tattoo sleeves. Otherwise, she was in normal clothes. That kind of upset me. Do people still really think of tattoos as belonging to “trailer trash”? I have a tattoo. I’ll probably get more. Both of my siblings have tattoos. I remember my parents, my father especially, being upset that we got tattoos. Are people still so narrow-minded that they equate tattoos to the uneducated?  A good number of my friends are tattooed; a few of them heavily tattooed. I’d say that I probably personally know about a good 3 dozen people with tattoos. These are people that I talk to or associate with on a regular basis. All of them are good people; smart, compassionate, hard-working, not at all what I would classify as “trailer trash”.
As I work in the HR department of my company I sometimes get to read different HR-related magazines. One in particular, Workforce Management, had an article relating to this very thing. The November, 2010 issue had a cover caption that asked “When your top candidate walks into the interview sporting tattoos or facial piercings, will you be ready?”  Immediately I had to read the article. “Ready for what?” was the question that went through my mind. There’s nothing different to have to prepare for, it’s just a tattoo.
Despite the name of the article, it was actually quite good. The article pointed out that a lot of companies and organizations still have antiquated views on tattoos and piercings. The data presented in the article shows that tattoos and piercings are on the rise. Of people born between 1946-1964, 15% of them are tattooed. When you look at the “Gen X” generation (1965-1979), the number jumps to 32%. Of people born between 1980-2001 the number is 38%. That’s almost 4 out of every 10 people.
For piercings the amount of popularity has skyrocketed. For the “baby boomers” (’46-’64) only 1% are pierced. For the Gen X’ers the number is 9%. But for people born between ’80 –’01 (either called “Millennials” or “Generation Y” by some sources), the number jumps to 23%.
So who’s getting tattoos? Well, as I said, I have one, and I’ll probably have more. I’m professional trainer and an IT professional. I’m also studying educational psychology and pursuing 2 doctoral degrees. The article also cites a few other examples of prominent people; a New York attorney named Marisa Kakoulas, a Public Relations executive named Joe Chernov, and a New York physician named David Ores. All three of these professionals have tattoos that completely cover their arms (called “full sleeves” in the tattoo circles).
Justin Johnson is another tattooed professional. He is a marketing director of a company based out of Phoenix, Arizona. He’s started a national organization called the Alliance of Tattooed or Pierced Professionals (ATOPP) in a direct effort to change company policy and public perception about tattoos. And it’s not a moment too soon if you ask me. There are some employers (like the famous In ’n Out Burgers) that resolutely refuse to hire anyone with a tattoo. And there have been a lot of court cases over the last few years about tattoos and piercings. In one case the Red Robin restaurant chain paid out $150,000 in damages to settle a lawsuit. In the lawsuit a former employee claimed that he was fired because he had religious tattoos on his wrist and that the company was discriminating against him.
I guess the main question that I found myself thinking about was whether or not this one person’s association of tattoos with trailer trash was still a widespread thought process, or just her own personal narrow-mindedness. I really don’t care one way or the other; I’ll still get more ink once I decide what I want. But, the article does raise another interesting point; as most of the baby-boomers start retiring and the younger blood begins entering the workforce en-masse, it’s going to be harder and harder to find qualified candidates that are not sporting tats.
And as a closing note, I think that it’s just one more reason that I love the TV show NCIS. Their forensic specialist, Abby Sciuto has dozens of tattoos, and yet she is a highly trained professional who is more than capable of making important contributions to the team’s investigations.
NY Attorney, Marisa Kakoulas

NY Physician, David Ores

Pyrillis, Rita (Nov, 2010).  Body of Work. Workforce Management, Vol. 89, No. 11.

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These blogs represent my thoughts, ideas and opinions. They may be different from yours. You may not agree with them. While I do enjoy a good, polite debate on a topic (where points are countered with other points based on logic, reason and fact), I do not enjoy an argument (where you tell me that I am wrong simply because you disagree and cannot offer any reasons to support your position). I am very respectful of others, and I expect everyone on here to be respectful in return, not only to me, but to each other as well. Disrespectful posts will be deleted automatically. Feel free to share your ideas, but keep it civil, please.