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Mill On Tattoos

December 3, 2010

When reading the blog prior to this one, titled Peer Pressure vs. Personal Preference, something sparked into my mind. Mill, as well as the constitution, states that we have the freedom of expression and the right to make our own choices. If this fact stands true, then why are we as individuals stifled from making these choices and expressing ourselves?

The first example of this that comes to mind is that of tattoos in the workplace. Yes, it is slightly a mundane topic that has been debated about verbally and through academic writing. Nonetheless, it is a subject that I am passionate about (mainly because I have two rather large tattoos). Having tattoos in the work place has been deemed unprofessional, but why? Bikers aren’t the only people with tattoos anymore, in fact they are becoming more popular than ever before. Yet, in a professional setting they are still not allowed to be shown. With this “rule” it makes it hard for people with tattoos to find jobs in a professional setting.

I do not think Mill would agree with banning tattoos in the work place simply because it goes against his beliefs of freedom of expression and the right to make your own choices. If I personally want to have a visible tattoo on my foot, and become an attorney where my foot tattoo will be seen in a professional setting, then I should be able to. Plus, when I had to sit for two hours in excruciating pain while a needle was being dug into my skin, you better believe I am never confining my foot tattoo in any shoe.

(My actual foot tattoo is featured below)

18 Comments
  1. fvenzor permalink
    December 3, 2010 11:40 AM

    I think, like most things in America, the change will come with time. It is true that now more than ever tattoos are becoming more prominent and more accepted by society but I still wouldn’t become to anxious about a workplace revolution. Professional settings are usually dominated by long standing traditions and the chances of that quickly diminishing because more intelligent and accomplished people are getting tattoos is highly unlikely. I do hope that one day you will be able to find a great job at anyplace you or anyone else wants, if they are qualified, and be able to express yourself freely.

  2. Jorge Rodriguez-Larrain permalink
    December 3, 2010 12:39 PM

    I think that Mill would agree with the ideas shown in this article. Tattoos are a form of expression, therefore, they should no restrictions, and should be allowed to be shown in a workplace. However, in the workplace, people should follow the company’s rules.

  3. Trevor Cookler permalink
    December 3, 2010 1:33 PM

    I agree with the ideas posted in this blog. Along with Mill’s ideas, the freedom to express tattoos should never hurt anyone in a work setting. The only instance that I can think about that would cause some trouble would be if a tattoo displaying something that is offensive to others is shown in a work place. That along with if the company or social institution has a specific rule in your contract against tattoos.

  4. awodarczyk permalink
    December 3, 2010 3:39 PM

    As Trevor pointed out, the one objection to this idea is if the tattoo is harmful of offensive to anyone in the workplace, or in the profession as a whole. Although that can become a potential problem with Mill’s view, I do believe your post points at a good topic regarding Mill’s beliefs on freedom and personal expression. I agree that a personal tattoo is the personal form of expression and therefore should be allowed in most cases if not all. It seems sooner than later this problem with become such a bigger issue as more young people continue to experience thier freedom with tattoo. At some point in time work places and jobs will need to revamp thier rules on personal tattos. Instead of restricting any tattoo, maybe allow one or two visible tattos if not harmful towards anyone.

  5. Lorna Malja permalink
    December 3, 2010 7:10 PM

    Such an interesting blog, i like this alot. People should be judged by the way they present themselves and how qualified they are for the job. If they have 2 or more visible tattoos then so what? If they can do the job accordinaly and are successful then tattoos should not be an issue. However, if they have so many that people cannot take them seriously in the workplace, then this could be an issue. Employees need to look professional and not trashy. So if they have tattoos all over their necks and arms, then that is way extreme. A few tattoos are acceptable, after all, we are allowed to express ourselves in some way!

  6. reedmarcus permalink
    December 3, 2010 7:25 PM

    I think this is a really interesting topic and something that is very relevant in terms of comparison with the ideals of Mill. Presentation is a key factor in production. For instance, when going to an interview, most people try and dress their best and cleanest to impress the company that he or she is trying to get a job for. However, for the most part, tattoos certainly make a statement with most people that gives a negative connotation to that person; especially in the workplace. Employees must be professional at all times and this includes their physical appearance, something that Mill certainly would agree with. There are places for tattoos which certainly allows people to express themselves, however they should be covered in the workplace so that professionalism is a constant.

  7. adamarcher permalink
    December 3, 2010 11:42 PM

    Since the human perspective on art, tattoos included, is entirely subjective and dependant on change in social opinion, it is not a matter of right and wrong as much as it is on preference. Tatoos are not something that effect the overall morality of society and do not oftenly have a positive or negative impact on ones health. Personally I beleive that marking ones body is usually distateful and foolish, given that ones beliefs and ideals change over time, and what you once may have thought was totally sexy, bad-ass and hardcore in your teenage years might disgust you when is is grey and droopy in your late sixties.

    Howeverl, I digress, since the issue is tattoos in the workplace, and not the social acceptability of tattoos in general, the prohibition of of tattoos is entirely up to the manager or policymaker of the company. Oftentimes they will have a valid, specific, and subject specific reason for not allowing tattoos. If they beleive that their clientell, for instance, is averse to public tattoos and that such displays on their employees would cost them business then they have every right to prohibit them. Indeed, if the specific corporation is a private company then the owner’s aversion to public tattoos would be enough to validate such a prohibition. As justification for this, if you are considering tattoos as a form of personal expression, which they certainly are, this issue becomes a near perfect example of Kant’s restrictions on Public and Private Reason. When acting for an institution outside of your own personal reason you are obligated to adhere to the holdings of that institution – this is Private Reason.

  8. Melissa Glassman permalink
    December 4, 2010 10:45 AM

    Interesting relation between tattoos and Mill’s “Freedom of Expression”. I have always had a kind of bias opinion of tattoos as I am Jewish and we are not “allowed” to have any permanent marks on our body in order to be buried in a Jewish cemetery; however, my personal opinion is that people should have the ability to permanently mark themselves if they wish. It is their body and they should have the right to express who they are. Tattoos in the workplace…this is a difficult subject as it is clearly quite subjective yet possibly offensive to those people who are professional and successful yet still wish to present their “expression”. Personally, I don’t think I would choose to not see an attorney because of his tattoos; however, I can understand why some people would. I would say it depends on the image of the tattoo, if it isn’t offensive, people should have the ability to express themselves just as Mill has taught us.

  9. darriensherman permalink
    December 4, 2010 2:36 PM

    This is a very intriguing post. I would agree that Mill would argue that tattoos are a “freedom of expression” and therefore a qualified applicant in a workplace should be judged based on their skills and not on their appearance. However, this is a tricky subject to argue. Although it is an empowering feeling to get a tattoo and express your opinion visibly to the world, it does carry a stigma. Tattoos and even facial piercings present an unprofessional quality and an intimidation to people. Some would argue that one can express their “freedom of expression” in other ways that aren’t as permanent or offensive. Such as dress, hair style, music, or the car one drives. I wish this wasn’t the case about the stigmas tattoos and facial piercing carry around, but one should be mindful of the content and the place of the tattoo in terms of being taken seriously in a working profession.

  10. saralustberg permalink
    December 4, 2010 3:35 PM

    I really like this post and the issue it brings up. I answered “no”, when asked in the poll if I think tattoos are appropriate in the work place. I answered no because the norm in the society we live in today is that tattoos are inappropriate to show in a working environment, however I actually think that tattoos are a great freedom of expression. As much as I enjoy tattoos and the special meaning they have to that person, there is still a part of me that believes they are inappropriate to show off during work. Society has taught me to think this way, and if more people began showing their tattoos at work, I think this entire notion about tattoos was slowly disappear. Having part of your tattoo showing isn’t hurting anyone, and as many people would say that it makes them feel uncomfortable in their work place, I believe that to be a silly statement. I don’t see how being able to see someone tattoo is grounds to feel uncomfortable. I also agree that Mills would support the author of this post in her personal expression to show off her tattoo.

  11. jaclburr permalink
    December 5, 2010 1:05 PM

    I agree that tattoos are definitely a form of personal expression, and people should be able to get as many as please them. I also think Mill would be for this, and that people should not judge others on having tattoos or not, unless the particular tattoos are offensive for personal reasons. However, I do see that in some professional settings, employers are searching to get a specific response from customers, etc., and how they might see tattoos as hindering this, as they know that some people will make judgements on them.

  12. Katelyn Salowitz permalink
    December 5, 2010 1:47 PM

    I have to agree with this post regarding allowing tattoos in the workplace, while not all tattoos may see “work-place appropriate, I still believe that people should have the right and opportunity to express themselves and I believe Mill would say the same thing. However, if the tattoo was disturbing for the workplace atmosphere and the company felt that the tattoo would be distracting….for example a Nazi symbol on one’s arm..I could see the not hiring of an individual. Companies have images to keep up and if a tattoo is not an image the company wants to convey then I don’t see the problem in not hiring the person. Regardless though, people still have the right to express themselves freely, I would just advise thinking about what tattoo to receive in case the company doesn’t feel the same way you do about an image.

  13. jungle12 permalink
    December 5, 2010 4:57 PM

    This is a very interesting blog post and I would have to agree that Mill will not want tattoos banned from the workplace because it is a form of expressing oneself. However, in today’s society having a tattoo in a professional workplace is very unethical because a tattoo can be distracting to other co-workers and can be offensive if not taken the right way. I believe this “no tattoo” rule is to protect everyone in the workplace from being judged on what is inked into one’s body.

  14. Molly Niedbala permalink
    December 5, 2010 5:12 PM

    I think a distinction needs to be made between public and private. In public, I agree you should definitely be able to show off your tattoo. Let people talk about it. If it offends people, at least they’ll be forced to think a bit about why they’re offended. Controversy inspires thought, and in public, I believe Mill would be all for letting your tattoos show freely. But when it comes to private business, other factors need to be taken into account.

    The objective of a private business forum is not to inspire debate about what is or is not professional – it’s to make money. And if customers are put off by employees with tattoos, that’s why tattoos aren’t allowed – not because they’re not professional. If the tattoos espouse ideas contrary to a business’s declared goals, they distract from those goals. If they’re offensive, other employees might complain. And if a rule was made that only “offensive” or “distracting” tattoos should be banned, who would draw the line? It’s much simpler for businesses to simply forbid their employees from showing their tattoos. With respect to your example, lawyers can’t have visible tattoos because the jury’s opinion of the cases presented may be swayed by them. Should they be? That’s up for debate. But it’s undeniable that they are. It all comes down to what’s best for a private business and that business’s goals. That’s the difference.

  15. Jeff Safenowitz permalink
    December 5, 2010 8:33 PM

    This is a very interesting post. I agree that Mill would think that tattoos should be allowed in the workplace, as they are a form of self expression. Some of the main factors that need to be discussed with regards to tattoos in the workplace are size, location, and content of the tattoo. A small tattoo on ones foot would be far less of a distraction than a large neck tattoo. With that being said, there is no way an employer can say some tattoos are allowed whereas others are not. At the end of the day, the employer has the power to make the rules, and if they specifically make a point to ban tattoos from the workplace, then no tattoos will be allowed. The past summer, I had a job in which they specifically made a point in the contract to ban tattoos while at work. Although I do not have a tattoo, it was interesting to see my co-workers attempt to cover up their tattoos while at work. If it were up to me, people would be allowed to express themselves however they so pleased.

  16. ann900 permalink
    December 5, 2010 8:57 PM

    I think that Mill would agree with this post because he is all for freedom of expression but I think that at this time, we need to follow the rules that the workforce makes. I have a tattoo and I find it very easy to hide. So if you are interested in a job where you are not allowed to have tattoos, is it really that hard to get it in a place where it can be hidden with work attire?

  17. joshuacy permalink
    December 5, 2010 9:13 PM

    Wow, I can’t believe that so many people are against self-expression in the workplace. I guess companies have the “right” to not hire you because of your “unprofessional” tattoos….. well, actually, I’m pretty sure they don’t. Isn’t it illegal to hire someone based on “gender, race, sexuality” etc? Is personal appearance not part of that law? Weird.

  18. Samantha Eisler permalink
    December 6, 2010 1:46 PM

    I definitely agree that Mill would be for tattoos as he is a supporter of self expression. However, realistically I don’t think that they are really conducive to the work place. Just as you probably wouldn’t come to a professional working environment in jeans or sweats, the same goes to coming with a full exposed tattoo. There is a general guideline for working attire, and while outside of work you are more than welcome to get as many tattoos as you’d like, or spend the day in sweats, its just appropriate in the corporate world.

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