Our society seems to look down on tattoos, piercings on anywhere other than the ears and other “unusual” changes to our appearances. You’ve probably heard that people need to conceal these things in order to work at their jobs. But the way I see it, body modifications (tattoos, piercings and other changes to someone’s appearance done for aesthetic purposes) are perfectly fine as long as they are done safely. If nobody is getting hurt from it, what’s the harm?
Historically and through the present day, some societies have venerated body modifications as much as our mainstream society sees them as strange or reserved for delinquents. In some cases, forms of body modifications are required to conform to society and establish the person as a respected member of said society. In that case, isn’t it rather subjective as to whether or not body modifications are desirable or not?
But since we are still talking about body modifications in the context of our society and not one that is perhaps many miles from here, you might ask, “Why would you do that to yourself in the first place?”
For one, body modifications can be used as a way to express oneself. In our society, they’re often used to rebel against the mainstream because of the attitudes most people have towards them. Others may use them to find or express their sense of spirituality as well.
Take for example, Danielle Stevens, a third-year sociology major who wears piercings on her nose, lip, and ears.
“I like my piercings because it gives visibility to non-normativity,” she says. “I think it can be extended to being a political statement through resisting norms.”
Regardless if they have some intrinsic meaning or not, maybe the person just thinks they look good. They can be used to emphasize a part of the body the person likes about themselves, but the aesthetic purpose might not even go that deep.
“It’s not really about my self image, I just like the way it looks more than anything else,” says Sarah Kaufman, a biopsychology and classics alumna. She has a variety of piercings including five where corkscrew-like wire threads through her right ear.
Of course, anything that involves poking holes into people and the like has the potential for health hazards. So it is imperative to be as safe as possible if you’re going to get that bellybutton piercing you’ve wanted for months (unless bacterial infection is your idea of “fun”).
“Go to someone who is knowledgeable and experienced in what it is you want to get done,” says Kaufman.
She also advises those who want piercings to go to someone who is qualified by the Association of Professional Piercers (APP).
When it comes down to it though, it’s a matter of personal choice. I am not one to criticize someone for not fitting in with society’s expectations. Personally, I believe that being able to express oneself in a variety of ways is a beautiful thing. Even if I were personally adverse to body modifications, I still wouldn’t believe in judging people who didn’t have them.