Editorial: Is our self-expression at risk?

December 1, 2015

Editorial%3A+Is+our+self-expression+at+risk%3F

Would you hire someone with a neck tattoo? What about someone with gauges in their ears? You may, but sadly many employers would not. Body modifications such as piercings, tattoos and dyed hair are valuable methods of self-expression, yet they can lead to discrimination in the workplace and school. People with body modifications often face discrimination or judgment from others, and they can be rejected or ostracized at their places of business.

In our society, one of the strongest messages we send is to “be yourself.” However, when people’s self expression is limited, it teaches people that being yourself is not okay. It cultivates a culture of conformity, and tells people that it is more important to look how others think you should rather than look how you want to.

Why is it that self expression in the form of body modifications is so frowned-upon? After all, many people we consider role models are tattooed. Famous musicians, actors and even Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have tattoos.

In a society that promotes individuality while discriminating against those who choose to express themselves in a certain way, an unhealthy contradiction is presented. Those who choose to express themselves through body modification are shunned, whereas those that conform are celebrated. This can leave people with the belief that the way they individually express themselves is wrong and it is off limits to them.

Businesses tend to view tattoos and piercings as unprofessional or distracting, and they take measures to prevent them from being displayed at the workplace. People with tattoos are forced to cover them up, people with piercings are forced to remove and hide them; they are pressured to conform in order to fit society’s definition of normal. It leads those with body modifications to believe that their chosen form of expression is abnormal, almost to the point of taboo.

Discrimination is not limited to the workplace, either. In school, people who choose to modify parts of their appearance face judgement from students as well as from staff and parents. Teens and young adults who alter their appearances are often labeled as “degenerates” or “attention seekers” who are just having a phase and will regret their decisions later.

Although there are repercussions to self expression in some circumstances, it is important to young adults that they stay true to themselves, regardless of the outside pressures put on them.

Self-expression in all forms should be encouraged, not frowned upon. It is not up to us as individuals to pick and choose what forms of expression are acceptable. It is not up to us to view someone else as lesser because they choose to express themselves in a different way.

All forms of expression are beautiful and healthy. All forms of expression should be celebrated and encouraged.

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