Simi Valley Sophist

The Simi Valley Sophist ruminates on all manner of topics from the micro to the macro. SVS travels whatever path strikes his fancy. Encyclopedia Britannica: Sophist "Any of certain Greek lecturers, writers, and teachers in the 5th and 4th centuries BC, most of whom travelled about the Greek-speaking world giving instruction in a wide range of subjects in return ..."

Location: California, United States

Retired: 30years law enforcement-last 20 years Criminal Intelligence Detective.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The Conformity of Non-Conformity or How I Learned to Love the Tattoo

Fashion, as an expression of how we perceive of ourselves, is universal. Humans are tribal creatures constantly striving to conform to the strictures of the chosen group, including non-conformity to the larger population. Pick a group and check out their conformity. Cowboys wear Wrangler jeans, Western shirts, cowboy boots and hats. Valley girls (is that still a good classification?) dress in their best Britney Spears imitation. You can’t mistake a punker, or a Gothic; they each have their own unique look. The military has its own clean cut appearance with short hair, and frequently tattoos. Orthodox Jews and fundamental Muslims have distinctive beards and often distinctive clothing. Motorcyclists bedeck themselves in characteristic motorcycle gear depending upon whether or not they ride a Harley Davidson or a foreign motorcycle. A subset of the Harley Davidson crowd is the outlaw motorcycle gang group: long hair, scraggly beards, tattoos and often disheveled and dirty.

Employers, both private and public, have the right to expect that their employees meet certain prescribed rules of dress, often to include the covering of tattoos and the removal of most exposed piercings. The County of San Bernardino is in the news today with its latest dress code to include prohibition of tattoos and piercings. Go here to read the article. Need I mention that San Bernardino County is more conservative than liberal? You are not likely to see similar requirements in San Francisco.

At this point, let me put my prejudice right out front. I don’t like tattoos; they strike me as low class. Other than an earring in the lower portion of the ear lobe, I don’t like piercings; they strike me as even lower class. Having made these broad statements, let me begin to equivocate. I don’t mind military tattoos on current or former military personnel. And, I don’t mind a nose piercing on a Hindu woman.

In the American culture, tattoos were traditionally the province of males of lower socioeconomic status. Yeas ago it was most frequently found among the criminal population, military and the circus; classes held in disrepute, to one degree or another.
…tattoos were not respected in its earlier days and were considered as a kind of nonsense thing suitable only for drunkards or sailors and sometimes, criminals too.

Motorcycle gangs, which began at the end of the 1940’s, adopted a non-conformist profile and began tattooing and an in-your-face dress code designed to deliberately offend and shock the public. Street gangs and biker gangs use tattoos as gang clique identifiers. Undoubtedly for shock value, heavy metal music performers, non-conformists in their own right, began tattooing and made it practically de-rigueur. Go here for an international history of tattooing.

Somewhere along the line, tattooing became popular with the Hollywood crowd. I don’t know exactly when it began, but it seems to me that Cher played a big part when she openly displayed tattoos while performing on stage. Now tattoos are everywhere with males and females. Hollywood could well be the most significant driving force in the partial de-stigmatizing of tattoos.

Other than group conformity and/or a rejection of societal norms, what is the motivation to get a tattoo in the American culture? Noted psychiatrist Dr. Stephen Marmer stated on Dennis Prager’s nationally syndicated radio show sometime ago that individuals who have not done anything to earn recognition will get a tattoo as a way of saying look at me, I’m somebody. That explanation seems to fit well with a large number of tattoo recipients, who have neither excelled financially nor professionally. I’d add that it is irrelevant whether the person is actually accomplished, but rather what the person thinks of himself in the realm of accomplishment.

One lady opined that she sees a tattoo as an “adjective” to a person. Certainly that is the case for gangsters and rock stars. They are saying to the public that I’m not like you, and I don’t care what you think. But, that is not necessarily the whole story. The lady added that her son is a Christian and that he has the tattoo “Jesus Wept” on the side of his neck. He uses the tattoo as an opener to witness for his religion.

Piercings have not nearly progressed toward general acceptability as have tattoos, and consequently they are not as prevalent. I find a lip piercing to be particularly repulsive when worn by a food server. The motivation for piercings, other than the female single piercing per ear, is probably identical to those for tattoos. That is except for the piercing in the middle of the tongue. That little job is often adorned with a ball ornament, and its purpose is to enhance the act of fellatio. You might want to inquire of your teenage daughter as to what she does with her device.

So you might say that you don’t care whether or not I approve of your tattoos. That’s fair enough, unless I am your prospective employer. Now I hold the power and I’d be less inclined to hire or promote someone who is demonstrating to me that he does not have enough common sense to understand the ramifications of business and the clientele. So, if you are going to get your tattoo, put it where the sun does not shine and where just you and your intimates can enjoy it.