Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy

Why Would You Get THAT Done?! Stigma Experiences of Women with Piercings and Tattoos Attending Postsecondary Schools Pourquoi Voudriez-Vous Vous Faire CELA?!/Experiences De Stigmatisation De Femmes Au Niveau Postsecondaire Qui Ont Des Percages et Tatouages

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy

Why Would You Get THAT Done?! Stigma Experiences of Women with Piercings and Tattoos Attending Postsecondary Schools Pourquoi Voudriez-Vous Vous Faire CELA?!/Experiences De Stigmatisation De Femmes Au Niveau Postsecondaire Qui Ont Des Percages et Tatouages

Article excerpt

Body modification (BoM; within the current study, body modifications were limited to piercings and tattoos) is not a new phenomenon. Piercings, tattoos, foot modification, scarification, and branding have been a part of human culture dating as far back as 6000 BC with roots in early ancestries across the globe (Doss & Ebesu Hubbard, 2009; Wood, 2003). North American culture glorifies tattoo obtainment with TV shows such as L.A. Ink and Ink Master, and in Calgary, Alberta, tattoo artists have indicated that the practice of tattooing is becoming more "mainstream" and accepted (French & Dirks, 2011; McGinnis, 2012). In fact, statistics indicate that a significant percentage of individuals report having tattoos and/or piercing. In a 2004 national probability sample in the United States, 24% of respondents reported having tattoos and 14% reported having body piercings (not including soft ear lobe piercings; Laumann & Derick, 2006). Leger Marketing (2002) conducted telephone interviews in 2002 of a representative sample of Canadians and found that 18% of Canadians had a tattoo or a piercing, not including soft ear lobe piercings (12% had a body piercing, 11% a tattoo, and 5% had both). Furthermore, 9% of men and 3% of women had a tattoo, and 4% of men and 9% of women had a body piercing. In 2012, an online Harris Poll of 2,016 adults (18+) found that one in five U.S. adults currently has one or more tattoos (Braverman, 2012).

However, despite the increases in percentage of people obtaining a BoM (French & Dirks, 2011; Manuel & Sheehan, 2007; McGinnis, 2012), a larger question remains: Is BoM accepted? It may not be--"common," "tolerated," and "accepted" are all different things. Atkinson (2003) suggested that Canadian attitudes and viewpoints on tattoos (and piercings) are still in flux, meaning that many stigmas (i.e., negative attitudes and assumptions) still exist regarding BoM despite the statistics and its seemingly common occurrence. The dissenting attitudes and viewpoints regarding BoM are illustrated by the findings of Leger Marketing (2002) which indicated that, of those Canadians who did not have any form of BoM, 25% were against tattooing and 30% were against body piercing.

Stigma

Although the definition of stigma varies within the published literature, the popular definition is an "attribute that is deeply discrediting and reduces the bearer from a whole and usual person to a tainted, discounted one" (Goffman, 1963, p. 3; Link & Phelan, 2001). Goffman (1963) noted that a stigma may present itself as a relationship between an "attribute and a stereotype" (p. 4) where the attribute (stigma) "links a person to undesirable characteristics (stereotypes)" (Link & Phelan, 2001, p. 365). Link and Phelan (2001) further indicated that stigma occurs when there is convergence of the following: (a) differences between people are distinguished and labelled; (b) labelled individuals are negatively stereotyped by the dominant culture; (c) categorization accomplishes a separation of "us" and "them"; and (d) the labelling and categorization result in loss of status, discrimination, and inequity. Further, stigma is socially constructed, and occurs when "labelling, negative stereotyping, exclusion, discrimination, and low status co-occur in a power situation that allows these processes to unfold" (Link & Phelan, 2001, p. 367).

Body Modification and Stigma

DiPopolo (2010) proposed that BoM is a form of stigma based on the following: BoM continues to be viewed within a negative light by the general (North American) culture and those with BoM are therefore considered to be part of a minority group. Those with BoM are thus often grouped together (whether appropriately or not) and are subsequently regarded as belonging to a master status group. A master status group is one that includes "persons whose physical appearance, behaviour, or life circumstance is statistically unusual and centrally defining" (DiPopolo, p. …

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