Have you ever been in a situation where your capacity is questioned simply by the way you look? Or by your personal choices?
I believe as a woman we go through this kind of judgment every day; we are constantly judged by the way we dress, by the way, we style our hair, by the amount of makeup we apply – if we wear lots of make-up we are over the top, if we don’t care about makeup, we are not feminine enough, or we are a mess and look tired.
Besides all these, rather well-known judgments in the corporate world that we all know are much harder on women than on men, there is something I was not expecting when I graduated from Fashion College, the judgement a woman gets if she likes tattoos and piercings.
Coming from a very creative environment, where all of our personal differences were incentivized, I was shocked when faced the massive prejudice against my looks while searching for a job straight out of college. At that time, my hair had two colors, and I had some facial body piercings and visible tattoos on my arm, wrist and finger.
So there was I, freshly out of the best fashion school in Brazil, ready to conquer the world, with a good education, great skills as a designer and already with some experience gained through hard work. But I never thought that getting a job will be such a tremendous challenge. And not only to get a job but to manage those interviews.
Early on in my job search, I started to notice that I received some strange looks from the recruiters. I let them pass on me for a while, until one day when I had an interview that turned out to be the perfect nightmare. The owner of the fashion brand just looked at me and asked: ”Why so many piercings and tattoos?” she was Korean, and she went straight to the point, something that Brazilians wouldn’t do. So I just answered: “well I like them it’s one way to express myself, I consider them truly pieces of art.” And she just answered me back “wow you look just like Lady Gaga, it’s too much…”
I was so offended I didn’t know how to react. This was the first obvious moment when I was not assessed by my talent, skills or professionalism. I was simply judged by my looks, my taste in fashion and by my choices.
I can’t explain how surreal the experience really was. After that interview, I took off my facial piercings. Not because of the pressure, but because I’ve got tired of the potential risks they mean on my job hunt. Just to make it clearer: one day I was working in a company where my manager assumed that I knew where he could buy drugs, just because I had lots of tattoos. And yes he had tattoos too.
I know that in the past tattooed people were often marginals, out of laws and somewhat challenged people. But we are in 2016 and this stigma has to change. People are not less trustworthy or professional because of their personal tastes and choices or what they decide to do with their skin or hair. We need to combat prejudice in all its spheres. We know that lots of people until today are excluded from jobs simply because of their appearance and we know that people with tattoos and body piercings are treated differently when looking for a job. Should we say: we are discriminated?
So next time we talk about diversity and equality inside corporate boards, we should remember that diversity includes all kinds of people that suffer prejudice in their daily lives: overweight people, black people, woman, Transgenders, disabled people, gays, immigrants, people with mental illness, and the list goes on, yes to people with art on their bodies.
It’s been two years since feminism became part of my life, and it is a cause that I am willing to fight for every day. It brought me trough a lot of studies, research, and deconstruction, conscience, and power.
And it made me a person, who started to question more. And that’s the message I want to share with you here also: before applying for a job, stop for a moment and question the requirements, think twice when a company asks for good looks on a job description, or if they ask for your picture with your application.
Because this seemingly innocent sentence might hide more than a simple request and if you are like me, enjoying a few tattoos on your body you will be quickly judged.
Be aware of the company’s values and check if they apply what they preach about diversity on their daily routine inside the company. We should support and stand for corporations that embrace diversity in all their meanings and work in a place where we know we can make the difference and help the world to be a better place for us and the next generations to come.
And if now, you are in a place where you don’t feel good about yourself, if you see that someone is judged for something other than their professionals skills, don’t be afraid to speak up, don’t be afraid to change, don’t be afraid to be yourself! Because you are the change you, want to see in this world. The change starts with one person standing up for herself; standing up for others.
Photo credit: Annie Spratt
Photo credit: Annie Spratt