Many "minority" groups have long complained about being judged solely on their appearance. People of these groups are automatically stereotyped into a class of certain expectations. The body art community is no exception. From schools to the work force to every day life, people with body art are generally perceived as rebellious, irresponsible, unintelligent and sometimes even criminal.
This kind of prejudice is no more acceptable than judging a person based on the color of their skin, their religion, or their gender. However, it does happen and those with body art are inspected under a close microscope of scrutiny. How we, as members of this community, react to the scrutiny is what will make the difference.
We learn from childhood that trust is something that must be earned. We were also taught that losing someone's trust is much easier than gaining it. Tattooed and pierced gang members and criminals have caused the general population to lose much of its trust for the illustrated people. It is also no surprise that humans tend to be wary of anything that is different from what they are accustomed to.
We are quick to admonish that these people need to change their attitudes, but we need to realize that we are responsible for bringing about this change. A child does not overcome their fear of dogs by being thrust into a cage of angry canines.
Cut the Attitude
I hear myself saying this to my kids a lot. "Cut the attitude." What does it mean? It means get the scowl off your face and stop acting like you're the most important person in the world. No wonder "mundanes" ("blanks" - people without bodyart) are afraid of us - if you walk around looking, acting and talking like a punk, you're going to be perceived as a punk.
We all know you're pierced and tattooed as a form of your self-expression. That doesn't mean you have to be angry at the world. There is obviously a side of you that appreciates creativity and art; nurture that side and stop always being on the defensive. Don't assume every person you meet is going to judge you, and don't assume you're better than them if they do.
Above & Beyond
Maybe you're not the angry type that walks around with a chip on your shoulder, but do you go out of your way to break the stereotype? This is something I personally am conscious of every day, especially when my body art is clearly visible. One time I moved a shopping cart out of the way of a lady that was trying to park her car. Another time I held a door open for an elderly man with a walker. Recently I returned a wallet that was left behind by the owner. These are not extraordinary things, but the look of pleasant surprise on the faces of these individuals proves to me that it made an impression. I did exactly the opposite of what was expected of me, and I earned a point of respect for the body art community.
The Power of a Smile
The simplest thing you can do everywhere you go and to everyone you meet is share a smile. It's really contagious - if you give someone a genuine smile, they are going to smile back. Dogs that walk around with their tails wagging and their tongues hanging out aren't scary. And a person walking around with a big smile on their face isn't going to pose any threat to strangers.
Random Acts of Kindness
There used to be a television show where the hosts would go out to commit "random acts of senseless kindness". They would go out of their way to help someone or just make them smile. For someone who is not outgoing in nature, this isn't easy, but the benefits to yourself and the people you reach will be immeasurable.
I would like for everyone that reads this article to try to go out of their way for just one individual this week, and remember to do it with a smile! Then, email me about it at firstname.lastname@example.org. What did you do? What was their reaction? How did it make you feel? Do you think this could help change the world's perspective on body art, and would you do it again? Your experiences and reactions will be published in a future article for all to read. Good luck!