Tattoos viewed as risky, meaningful


Are people judged on their exteriors? Is a person’s value only skin deep? Tattoos are only skin deep after all, but in what way are they judged, and how do people react to them?

According to Jeffrey Smith, professor of geography, Tahiti is where tattoos originated. Smith covers this cultural aspect in his Geography 100 class.

“It is an art form,” Smith said. “It is done over 75 percent to 90 percent of the body.”

In the U.S., when Smith was growing up, tattoos were considered undignified, something only poor, blue-collar workers had. Tattoos were also depicted very poorly on television. Now, however, it has become much more socially acceptable.

“[Tattoos are] even considered a sign of maturity,” Smith said.

Katie Gustafson, senior in economics and promotions manager for KSDB-FM 91.9, is a firm believer in the tattoo. When Gustafson was 6, her 16-year-old brother passed away on Christmas Eve after a car accident. Because he died on Christmas Eve, their family has had a fascination with angels ever since. In memory of her deceased brother, Gustafson now has a tattoo of an angel on her shoulder blade. She said she feels that her brother is being recognized when people ask about the tattoo.

“Some people immediately shut down when hearing about the topic,” Gustafson said. “But still, others like to know more about his life.”

She said she has received no negativity on- or off-campus, and people usually react very positively to her tattoo.

On the other hand, Nick Bomberger, freshman in chemistry, views tattoos as a significant health risk, saying that tattoos kill skin cells and can result in skin disorders.

“Given these risks, I think that there are safer alternatives to express one’s beliefs or preserve memories,” Bomberger said.

Tattoos are permanent, he pointed out, and it is very costly to remove them. Bomberger said removing a tattoo is more dangerous than getting one in the first place.

Though he doesn’t think less of people with tattoos, Bomberger said he wouldn’t get one and he wouldn’t suggest one of his friends get one. Some of Bomberger’s friends have tattoos, but he said he is not critical of their decision.

“I do not think it is fit to judge [tattoos]. There is no social leprosy,” Bomberger said.

Bomberger said he understands that tattoos can and often do mean a lot to people, but what is done to the body is not healthy. He noted that there are other ways to memorialize something, such as T-shirts, wristbands or necklaces.