Body Modification Hypocrisy

This is another subject that bothers me, personally, and something that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. It’s all about the hypocrisy in the vast world of body modification. This is probably going to sound like a rant, and in a way, it probably is one. So, sit tight and just hear me out.

Remember that body modification is defined as just that: modifying the body. This can range from anything very mild and temporary to something very severe and permanent. But a lot of the hypocrisy comes from the fact that some are “acceptable” and some are not, and those that are deemed acceptable are usually even more dangerous and permanent than the non-accepted ones. It drives me batty sometimes.

Society and religion tend to dictate which modifications are deemed appropriate and which ones aren’t. Or to what degree certain mods are acceptable. For example, it’s acceptable to color your hair, but only in certain colors. But hair color is hair color, it’s the same thing, it’s modifying your hair to be some color that it is not naturally. Or it’s acceptable to pierce your earlobes, but if you pierce your earlobes more than once it’s not acceptable. What’s the difference? It’s the exact same thing, just more of them. So why is it okay to perform a certain body modification, but only to a certain degree?

A lot of that last sort of hypocrisy comes from within the body modification community itself. I hear a lot that stretched ears are fine, but only to a certain size, otherwise it’s “gross”, or people look trashy, or people start making all sorts of assumptions about who they are and their lifestyle. All the time I hear something like “I like stretched ears, they’re cool. OMG! Those huge ears are so gross! I bet they don’t even have a job with ears like that, they probably live on welfare, at home. Way to ruin your life. Man, whoever does that must have serious daddy issues, because why else would they stretch so large if they didn’t want attention?” That’s not okay with me.

Or I hear that certain piercings are okay, but others are dumb or gross or ugly. You don’t have to like a certain piercing, or piercings stretched to a certain size, that’s your right as a free-thinking human being. But just because you don’t like it doesn’t make it gross, or dumb, or ugly. It just means you don’t like it, so don’t do it. That simple.

Earlobes can be gross at any size if you don’t take care of them. Lobes can be just as gross and ugly at 4mm as they can be at 40mm, but remember that “gross-ness” is an issue of hygiene and aftercare, and not of aesthetic preferences. Remember to separate those two aspects before you judge something to be “gross” or not.

Or the fact that a certain number of piercings or tattoos suddenly makes you “know what you’re talking about” or that you’re “really” tattooed. I hear this sort of thing all the time: “You only have two piercings other than your ear lobes? You have no idea what you’re talking about! Try having 30 piercings, then maybe I’ll listen to your advice!” Why does volume of piercings mean anything? Maybe all they wanted were those two piercings. Just because you don’t have a lot of piercings doesn’t mean you don’t know what you’re talking about when you give advice, so long as the advice itself is good and productive. A backyard mechanic could only own two or three cars, but that doesn’t mean they don’t know what they’re doing when they give you advice on how to fix your own vehicle. Maybe they only CURRENTLY have 2-3 cars, but have repaired and sold dozens of them previously, worked in a professional mechanic setting for decades, educated and studied the work for decades, and spend all their free time associating with others who are into the same hobby. Volume of something shouldn’t dictate how knowledgeable one is on that subject. So long as the advice given is sound, correct, beneficial and helpful, that’s all that should matter.

Or when someone with only one small tattoo isn’t seen as awesome or as cool or as “really” tattooed as someone who has 60% of their bodies covered. “You’re not tattooed if you only have one small piece of flash, or one kanji character, or whatever. THAT’S not a tattoo. You have to have at least both arms completely sleeved, your neck completely covered and at least one leg totally sleeved, THEN you’re really tattooed.” Once you’re tattooed or pierced, you’re a part of the modified community, end of issue. How severely you’re a member shouldn’t be relevant.

It also bothers me that the accepted forms of body modification are actually MORE dangerous, and their potential complications and consequences more severe, than the unaccepted kind. I’ll never understand why invasive surgical procedures you need to be put under full anesthesia for are more widely accepted, or even encouraged, over something as simple and minimally invasive as a piercing or tattoo. Botox is a very poisonous toxin injected into your face to paralyze the muscles and fill in wrinkles and lines, and women are flocking in droves to have this procedure done, sometimes at as young as 20 years old. It’s the botulism toxin, the same severely poisonous bacteria that you get from bulging and enlarged cans of food. I don’t care how diluted it may be, it’s still poison you’re injecting DIRECTLY into muscles and blood systems. How is that more okay to do than a simple lip piercing? Some people even have their leg bones surgically broken and elongated to become taller. Some women will have their little toe removed to wear super narrow pointed toe shoes.

Men don’t usually go to such extremes as women do, because there usually isn’t as much pressure on them to be a certain way. But men are not immune to unrealistic bodily standards. They will go to extremes to bulk up on muscle, to the extent of taking dangerous and harmful steroids to achieve the bodies they want. Or they’ll go on risky and dangerous diets to lose weight. Some will also undergo cosmetic surgery to get fake muscles like calves or pecs, some will get nose jobs or chin enhancement implants, all in an effort to reach body image ideals, or what they believe will make them ideal. 

Cosmetic surgery is more body-altering than tattoos and piercings are. Tattoos and piercings don’t physically change your features and your figure to the point where you are not recognizable as the person you were before, and cosmetic surgery does. Some of the harder modifications, like subdermal silicone implants can change the features, but they aren’t meant to look convincingly real, like cosmetic surgery is.

The one that really gets to me is breast implants. Our society tells women that you’re really only as sexy as your cup size, so big breasts are encouraged so much that teenagers, sometime as young as 14 and 16 or even younger still, are going under the doctor’s knife to get bigger breasts. If you want them done for your own sake, then go for it, but I really don’t think it should be done just because society tells you that you NEED them in order for a man to love you. This very invasive, very dangerous, and very expensive procedure is more socially acceptable than a tattoo. This procedure is actually encouraged by our society, while a tattoo, no matter its size or subject matter, is condemned, or at least frowned upon.

The other aspect of body modification hypocrisy that really bothers me is this so-called “cultural appropriation” term that everyone is throwing around lately. It’s basic explanation is that certain people can’t have certain modifications if they don’t belong to the culture that the mod “originated” in. A big area of contention is stretched ears, or any other stretched piercing. The idea that people throw around is that these originated in African cultures, and that no one outside of African descent should have stretched ears. This is so wrong that it astounds me that people think this way, even in 2012. Otzi the Iceman, found in the Italian Alps in 1991, is the oldest mummy ever found, dated to have lived over 5,300 years ago. He was also revealed to have been of white, or Caucasian, descent. And guess what else he had? Stretched earlobes, to about 11mm. There have also been many European cultures to have stretched ears, including many Germanic tribes, the Scots, and the ancient Celts. Also, many Native American tribes have been known to have stretched ears, the Inuit included.  There is hardly a culture on the planet, past or present, that has not had stretched ears. Pretty much every culture on earth has also had some form of tattooing, piercing, or scarification in their history.

I guess the point of this post is to remind people to think before they judge or speak. Think about how you might belong to the same subculture or group you hate on. Do you color your hair? You’re in the same category as that girl with the pink hair you just condescendingly told to “touch up her roots”. Do you lie in the sun in the summer to tan, or spend time in the tanning bed? You’re the same as the person who gets solid black work tattoos. Do you work out to specifically lose weight or gain muscle? You’re the same as the person with implanted muscle enhancements and breast implants. Have you had metal braces in the past to straighten your teeth? You’re the same as the person with several facial tattoos, gold grills, or dental implants. Do you tweeze your eyebrows? You’re the same as the person who shaves her eyebrows off and tattoos or draws them back on. Do you shave your face or legs or other body hair? You’re the same as the person who shaves the sides of their head and styles the rest into a Mohawk. ALL of that are forms of body modification. Remember that before you start accusing someone of “ruining” their body with forms you haven’t chosen to do for yourself. Just because YOU wouldn’t choose it, doesn’t make it wrong. By condemning people for making choices in the same culture you also belong to is being hypocritical. Don’t be a hypocrite. 

I’m not dead, I promise.

Been a long time, I know, but a lot has been getting in the way. Had a cold for quite a while, then my birthday hit, then a lot of bills and costly things came up, then stress stress STRESS! Then my depression flared up again, then more stress… you get the idea.

Working on new posts, but they’re going to take a bit. A lot to think about, a lot to cover. But trust me, I WILL be updating again.

Balancing work and body mods, finding the happy medium

Back from the holidays! Hope everyone had great and safe holidays, got everything they wanted, and ate lots of food! I know I did! Now, back to the important stuff.

One very important part in everyone’s life is picking their career of choice, the job that will hopefully last them the rest of their lives, and provide them with fulfillment, joy, and financial security. But what if that career interferes with your love of body modification, or vice versa? How do you balance your love of body modifications with your need for a job?

This has long been one of the big arguments between those who are modified and those who are not. “How do you get a job looking like that?!” or worse yet, “You’ll never get a REAL job looking like that!” The answer is much easier than you may think.

I’m just going to come out and say it. Tattooing your hands, face, neck or other very visible area, stretching your ears to large sizes, or piercing your face several times is probably a bad idea in general, unless you are already VERY secure in your lifelong job of choice that allows such things. Very few industries allow visible tattoos, piercings or large stretched ears, so if your ideal job is teaching, politics, real estate, or anything else that tends to deal with the public or that puts you in the public eye, don’t get modified in any area that can’t be easily covered up by clothing. Simple as that.

Hiding tattoos is usually pretty easy: wear clothes that cover them. Wear long sleeves, long pants, higher collared shirts, etc. You can find things that are light weight and airy, so you don’t sweat your butt off in the summer, like silk or linen, and sells individual sleeves that can hide tattoos as well. I have a full length set, and my only complaint with them is they’re not really helpful to people with skinnier or narrow arms, like mine, so they don’t stay up as high as they should. If they made them in various sizes, I’d probably like them more. I compromise by pinning them to my shirt sleeves when I need to wear them.

Another option is makeup, but this isn’t ideal. Girls especially will know that makeup of any kind easily smears, runs, and can even stain clothes. No matter how well you put something on, no matter the products you use, it will still smear if it’s rubbed on something, and can still run if it gets wet. Dermablend is one makeup brand that is designed to be tattoo coverup makeup, and I can tell you right now, it’s not ideal. It smears on everything, stains whatever it touches, and is a pain to wash off. Regular makeup remover pads or cloths or liquids don’t work very well either, it really does require scrubbing. So makeup isn’t really a viable option for day to day tattoo covering. Save it for special occasions or once in a while treatments.

Piercings have their own hiding methods. But again, if you plan on a career in the public eye or dealing with the public, don’t get pierced in visible areas. Many places allow for fairly free ear piercings, meaning you have a lot of piercing options there, but I wouldn’t stretch any of them. The septum is probably the only facial piercing that can be hidden completely; just flip the jewelry up into the nose and it’s gone.

If you already have piercings and are looking to get a job, invest in some good quality retainers. Retainers are glass or plastic pieces, usually clear or flesh-colored, that hold the fistula of the piercing open while remaining as unobtrusive as possible. I’d strongly suggest glass instead of plastic, however, but both have the potential to work just fine. These are not perfect solutions because retainers can still be seen sometimes, but they do help. You can also get flesh colored or clear beads or half-dome shapes to screw onto existing metal jewelry, this is great for tongue piercings. Again, though, this doesn’t hide things completely, but they can help sometimes.

Some people are lucky enough to be able to take jewelry completely out of piercings and have the fistula remain open. Most aren’t that lucky. The rule for piercings is always “If you want to keep it, always have jewelry in it.” You can’t count on being one of the people who can remove jewelry and be just fine. You can have a piercing for several years and once the jewelry is removed, it can vanish in minutes. I’m one of those people. I had an industrial piercing for over 5 years, and when I took it out, it was completely gone within 30 minutes. My 8 month old vertical labret was gone in less than 10 minutes when I took its jewelry out. So you really can’t rely on piercings staying open no matter how old, or well healed, they are.

Jewelry choice can also minimize how much a piercing is noticed. A 2mm metal bead or gem in your lip jewelry will be much more pleasant to look at than a 5mm acrylic striped bead or spike. Sometimes they can even go unnoticed if they’re small enough. Some jobs allow for certain visible piercings, usually a nostril stud or a lip stud, but they don’t allow you to wear rings in them. In that case, don’t argue, just wear the stud. You’re being allowed to keep, or even get certain piercings, on the job so don’t look that gift horse in the mouth! Wear a small bead or gem, wear a nostril screw instead of a ring, it’s a very simple and easy to work with compromise. Save your rings and bigger jewelry for when you’re not at work.

Always remember that jobs should come first, and your ability to get a job is only limited to yourself. YOU decide what job you want and can get, not your modifications. Your likelihood of getting a high paying job is entirely up to you, but you do have to understand that these industries have standards that their employees need to live up to; there is no getting around that. While some industries are becoming more and more accepting of body mods, they are far from being fully accepted. So if you’re applying to be a teacher, and your biggest competition has fewer qualifications and even less education than you do, but you have a large tattoo on your throat, the people in charge are probably going to choose the non-modified, but less qualified, individual. It sucks, but that’s the way it is.

Modifications don’t invalidate any schooling you have, they don’t make you less able to perform your job, or somehow make you unable to do your job at all. I will never ever say that they do. But, in this image-driven society that we live in, how you look makes more of a difference than how you actually perform your job. It sucks, it’s unfair and even stupid, but that’s the way it is. You have to keep this in mind when you’re getting modified.

Certain workplaces are more accepting or willing to work with or around body modifications than others. As stated earlier, most public eye or public interaction jobs, like nursing, doctors, dentists, teaching, real estate, sales, law, customer service, anything that causes you to interact with the general public usually won’t allow visible modifications of any kind. Keep any modifications you already have, or plan to get, hidden by clothing, or wear your smallest and most unobtrusive jewelry possible. Some companies in these industries are more lenient than others, but you can’t be sure which individual ones will be accepting and which aren’t. So until you are sure, don’t get modified in visible areas. It is fairly easy to balance work life and modified life, you just have to be more careful in what you choose to get and where you place it.

I have known several people who sacrifice their job prospects to indulge in body modification, and to be perfectly blunt, I think it’s a terrible and even childish idea. The mindset of “What I look like shouldn’t matter, it’s how I work that should!” is a great pipe dream, but also completely unrealistic and naive. Our society is more concerned with how you look than how you perform, how educated you are, how many years of experience you may have, and it doesn’t show any signs of changing soon. Honestly, job security, making money and being successful are more important than getting the currently en vogue modification of the moment. You can get modified at any time in your life, so it’s more important to have a good paying and fulfilling job first and foremost. If your chosen industry is more accepting of body modifications, then congratulations, go nuts, whatever. But some aren’t that lucky.

You may feel that right now you NEED to have this certain modification or you may die, but you really do have to think about what you plan to do with the rest of your life. You can’t rely on the economy improving, you can’t rely on society changing and becoming more accepting, you have to bend yourself to fit in to at least some of society’s rules. The idea that you can do whatever you want and people will just have to accept you isn’t 100% true, or even wise. Yes, people should accept you for who you are and how you’ve chosen to decorate yourself, but they don’t have to HIRE you just because they accept your personal life choices. Job life and personal life are two separate, different things, and you need to remember that and work around it.