Tattooed and Educated: the inexplicable link between employment and getting inked

There’s no two ways about it, Britain is a tattooed nation. Around 1 in 5 of the entire population sport at least one. Sadly, the stigma around tattoos is still apparent, even in 2016. You only have to Google ‘tattoos’ under the News section to see the kind of thing I’m talking about. The number of posts on ‘The Student Room’ asking people’s opinions on being tattooed in certain jobs is extraordinary.

But, with our generation being the most inked yet, is it not time to shed the stigma? I like to think so. As the tattooed and educated get older, it only makes sense that our nation will cease to believe they are related to lower intelligence.

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Unfortunately still, especially in the workplace, they are deemed inappropriate by some. Even in my own job, which is helping me fund my way through University, I was asked to cover them up ‘if I can’. I was hired with visible tattoos on show, so found it strange that this was included in the ‘new rules’. Further still, only one of my tattoos is actually visible whilst I’m working, most wouldn’t even know about the others.  

This stigma is still carried into several other jobs. Just recently, I read about a young woman who was dismissed as a teacher because of her visible tattoos, none of which were offensive. Does it really matter? I highly doubt it, there’s no evidence that those children would have gotten any better education by a non-tattooed teacher.

The stigma proved itself in our own research via a survey we put out on The Broad’s Twitter account. Of the 30% that said they had tattoos, 15% said they has been discriminated against because of their tattoos. Even more so, when we asked if they thought having tattoos decreased job opportunities, no one said they didn’t think they did. A staggering 84% of our respondents said they believe tattoos do decrease job opportunities but only in certain industries. Even if you were to argue that tattoos don’t affect job opportunities, the fact that such a large amount of people believe they do is still a problem.

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Despite the fact that 78% of our respondents said that someone having tattoos has no effect on the way they thought about them, 11% said a person having tattoos had a negative impact on the way they thought about them. This may seem such a small amount in the grand scheme of things, but the proof is there that the negative attitude to body art is still apparent.

The stigma proved itself again through a YouGov survey conducted in 2015 which found that 36% of Britain’s would view someone with a large tattoo less positively. I question here whether someone having a small tattoo would have the same effect. The irony of this is, tattooed people don’t judge the non-tattooed for not having tattoos. Of course, I personally, have no issues with people who don’t have tattoos, or even with people who don’t like them. You don’t like tattoos? That’s cool, they’re not for everyone. You like tattoos? Oh wait, let me show you mine. The problem doesn’t lie with people not liking tattoos, the problem lies with people judging a person and stereotyping them because they do have them.

So often throughout our lives, we are encouraged to not judge a book by its cover, but at the same time, our senior generations are hypocritical in their attitudes towards body art.

Just recently, a long-standing friend of mine commented that I ‘wouldn’t be able to wear a sleeveless wedding dress’. Why not? Because I have a tattoo on my arm? Why should this make a difference? I think my personal issue with these negative attitudes towards ink, is the lack of reasoning behind them. Don’t get me wrong, people are allowed their opinions, but I feel the need for someone to justify why they view a person negatively simply for their body art. Take the young teacher dismissed for example. If there were evidence to suggest her being tattooed made her a bad teacher, then maybe the dismissal is justified, but as there isn’t, I struggle to see the justification.

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However, as our tattooed generation ages, it’s more than likely that these negative attitudes and stigmas will be shed as the tattooed and educated gain high profiled jobs. I personally feel a sense of pride being inked and having a degree at a respected University – the two are not mutually exclusive. It’s a sense of proving people who do judge by your body art wrong.

I can’t speak for every tattooed person, but personally, if a prospective employer can’t look past the patterns and animals adorning my skin to see the work ethic and skills I have, then they aren’t the kind of employer I’d want to be working for in any case.


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Samm Day is an English Language and Literature student from Sheffield who probably should be writing an essay. Can usually be found in a coffee shop, in her room watching Game of Thrones, or professionally procrastinating.

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