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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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Stony Brook Gets Inked

Body Art, Ink, Tats, Tramp Stamps, whatever you call them, tattoos mean a different thing to everyone. Some people love them, some people hate them. But there’s no doubt that their purpose, meaning and acceptance has changed over the years.

Only recently have tattoos become a somewhat accepted form of self-expression. In the late nineties, the author of the book “Bodies of Subversion,” Margaret Mifflin, describes tattoos as “a way of cutting into nature to create a living, breathing autobiography.” However, in the seventies, tattoos were associated with ‘skinheads’ or with people involved in  criminal activities.

So in today’s world, where does the art of tattooing stand?

To see where tattoos are now, one must first look at the history of tattooing, which dates back to when an iceman was found in a glacier in the Tyrolean Ötztal Alps. He was discovered with short blue lines covering his body. According to Britannica Encyclopedia Online, these markings are considered to be the earliest known tattoos and remarkably, these scars are believed to be a result of an early form of acupuncture therapy.
In other parts of the world, tattoos were used for many reasons including religion, superstition and protection.

After the arrival of Christianity in the first few centuries, the practice was forbidden in Europe, although still used in other parts of the world. In the eighteenth century, British sailors in Polynesia were fascinated by the natives’ inked skin. Later, it became custom to receive a tattoo upon joining the navy to make it easier to identify someone if they drowned. This renewed interest in tattoos stayed specific to certain groups, like the military, until the second half of the twentieth century.

The 1990s was when tattoos first became mainstream. That means  that most Stony Brook students born in the late ’80s or later have grown up with the concept that tattoos are a part of American culture. Today, the United States is the center of tattoo influence in the world, followed by Japan and Europe.

A survey of 60 Stony Brook students was taken on campus to see how many students actually have tattoos or want to get one. Who knew there were so many different opinions about tattoos!

About one quarter of the students who were surveyed said they have tattoos. Of the remaining students who did not have a tattoo, fifty percent of them said they would consider getting one.

Although many students are not opposed to tattoos, the survey showed there  are lots of reasons why others are not interested. Many religions such as Islam, Judaism and some sects of Christianity prohibit or advise strongly against any type of ‘body disfigurement.’
Religion is not the only reason people refrain from getting inked. Many students reported that they were concerned about future employers’ opinions of tattoos. And of those surveyed who said they had tattoos, half of them  said they, at some point, had a negative reaction by an employer or prospective employer about their body art.

In the survey, many Stony Brook students said a reason for not getting a tattoo is because they didn’t want it to affect their chances of getting a job in a professional environment.

The career center gives the following advice about tattoos in the workplace: when in doubt, don’t get a visible tattoo.

It’s not that tattoos will always be a problem, said Joanna Durso, the Art and Journalism internship consultant for the Career Center. says
“If you’re looking to go into a career in an art-related field they are likely to be more accepting than other industries,” Durso said. “If a place of employment has a stricter dress code, it’s likely that their policy on tattoos will be similar.”

So what if you already have tattoos that could potentially be seen by employers? Should you cover them or ‘fess up?

Durso said the answer varies depending on who you ask. If you’re planning on showing your tats around the office, it could be seen as dishonest to hide them in the interview.

On the other hand, you don’t want anything to stand in the way of the opportunity to prove what good work you do, tattoo or not! There’s  really no easy answer.

Regardless of different people’s views, the history of tattoos clearly shows that their meaning has changed over time and likely will continue to change as time goes on.

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