The Taboo of Tattoo

Written By Tara Ramamurthy

Spending 16 years of your life, staying up late at night, with sweat dripping down your face. You are rushing to just finish the papers that have been waiting for your for a week, until the last minute. Spending all the time, exhausting your brain to earn that Bachelor’s degree, only to be utterly rejected from your dream job due to a simple expressive pattern inked on the surface of your skin. How would you feel?

More and more people are expressing themselves in our vibrant community. People all around us are walking down the street with colourful sleeves, parading the astounding pieces of art that makes them who they are. Unfortunately, no matter the colour, design, or miniscule size of the tattoo, the opinions against individuals who tolerate that pain have not changed.

For centuries, tattoos have been heavily associated with a deviant stigma. In 753 BC, during the Roman Empire, slaves who escaped, but were then caught had tattoos forcefully branded on their foreheads to show trustworthiness. In Japan, the vast majority wrongly believe that gangsters and criminals are the only ones to get tattoos. Lars Krutak, an American anthropologist, tells us the earliest written record of tattooing in Japan was when a man tried to overthrow the emperor. As punishment, a tattoo was branded near his eye.

The prejudice against tattoos is not bad as it was a few millennia ago. However, in modern day, employability, something which defines our future, is one crucial aspect unfortunately affected by tattoos. Tattoos should be accepted and should not determine a person’s worth or employability.

According to Workopolis, the Ottawa Convention Center (OCC) kicked out 3 workers from their livelihoods because they refused to cover up their tattoos. One of them, a housekeeper name Nyeme Williams was only allowed to return after covering up with a flesh coloured sleeves. The centre’s spokesman, Daniel Coates,  admits that he has always wanted their employees to come back but they have to oblige to the “employee terms of employment.” How did this affect the employees? It led to psychological damage. “I realized … that it was actually affecting my self-esteem because it was making me feel — even outside of work — kind of ashamed,” another evicted employee,  Caissie, proclaimed.

This is also a problem in police force. In the San Diego Police Department, an announcement was made stating that the officers must cover “excessive” tattoos with their uniforms.

In another survey by Workopolis, 327 employers were asked whether or not tattoos on candidates affected their decision to hire them. The results showed that 77% of the employers might or will be less willing to employ you if you have tattoos. If we look at the public, 49% said their thoughts would not be affected by their tattoos. The employers find tattoos more sinful than the public fearing that it will ruin their reputation.

A tattoo artist by the name Whitney Develle aids victims of self harm by masking their struggles with power, peace and pride. Do employers want employees to hide their new beginning?

Employers must evolve to accept our diverse society. They must appreciate the art of tattoos and respect self expression. They must change their views and employment rules to stand against discrimination. Self expression is praised in today’s world. Tattoos are one way of having a voice. It is art. They should be valued for the beauty the art holds. You don’t have to work at a company that makes you hide your ink. You don’t have to suppress your desire to get tattooed. You don’t have to change your beliefs and opinions. It’s your self-expression, and that shouldn’t change anything.

Works Cited

BBC Three. “Tattoo Artist Who Turns Self-Harm Scars Into Art.” YouTube, BBC Three, 3 Mar. 2017,

Bond, Sarah. “Tattoo Taboo? Exploring The History Of Religious Ink And Facial Tattoos.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 9 Sept. 2016,

“Branded in the workplace; Shoulder tattoos and pierced tongues may have gained acceptance- but not in the office, where firms say, ‘Tone it down!’.” Christian Science Monitor, 13Sept. 2004, p. 13. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, 8 Mar. 2018.

“Controversy over Workplace Tattoos Gets Nasty.” Workopolis, Workopolis, 20 Mar. 2017,

“Getting Inked to Make a Point.” New Indian Express [Chennai, India], 6 July 2015. GlobalIssues in Context, 8 Mar. 2018.

Ink Expedition. “INSIDER.” Facebook, INSIDER, 20 Feb. 2018,

Rogers, Jon. “Body Art.” Pinterest, Pinterest, 5 June 2013,

5 thoughts on “The Taboo of Tattoo

  1. Nava

    This is really powerful! It really made me think about tattoos and the stigma behind them. I never really thought about them and how they affect the people that have them until now! It is really nice.

  2. lotte

    Tara, I loved the unspoken topic you wrote about. The way you constructed it, with a little background information, and I really enjoyed where you questioned the employers’ choice for employees to cover up their tattoos.

  3. Noelle

    I love how descriptive you were in you’re first paragraph to hook the reader. It was a great take on this controversial topic!

  4. Aerin

    I loved how you talked about the stigma behind having tattoos! It really made me think about how just by having art on your body and how that can affect you psychologically.

  5. Becky Naughton

    Great piece! You have really captured your readers attention with your unique style of writing. I love how you say employers must evolve, which in turns means we as humans must keep evolving on this issue and so many others.

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