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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

The fad, history and undying presence of body modification

You've seen them: someone with a hoop in their nose, a name written down their arm, a stud through their lip. I think it’s pretty safe to say that in today’s day and age (especially in a college town like Gainesville) we all know at least one person with a piercing or a tattoo.

Think about it. When was the last time you saw Miley Cyrus on the cover of a magazine? Recently, I’m sure. My last count was 19 tattoos for Miley, and those are just the ones I've been able to see in pictures.

Body modification, usually shortened to just ‘body mod’, is common enough, especially in the mainstream media. But just how long has this kind of thing been practiced?

Body mod, believe it or not, has been around for thousands of years. And that’s not an exaggeration; the very first tattoos are believed to have originated over 10,000 years ago. Otzi the Iceman (which sounds like the name of a punk band from Staten Island) was found in 1991 and predates every known instance of inking the skin, having died around 3300 B.C. Other types of body modification come later in history — piercing is thought to be about 5,000 years old — but it’s certainly not a new thing.

So if body modification is such an old and common practice, why does it still carry such a social stigma? Why are those who choose the lifestyle still at a disadvantage with jobs and why are they still looked at like freaks?

Maybe some people think it’s a fad that’s going to die out soon and these young people will take that gross metal out of their faces and be functioning members of society. Maybe some people think it’s unattractive. Maybe some people just don’t understand the appeal.

Here’s what I think: body modification is a form of self-expression. Throughout history, different cultures had different reasons for it, but today it’s a way to display and appreciate art. Have you ever heard the cliche expression “My body is my canvas”? As campy as it sounds, it’s true! And although I may not necessarily appreciate someone’s eyebrow barbell or starfish tattoo, it might mean something more to them.

I think it’s time to stop looking at tattoos, piercings, dermals and the like as something that should be hidden. I think we should celebrate the individual and their choice to adorn their body with jewelry and/or ink. It’s important to understand that not everyone will appreciate the way it looks, but it’s also important to realize that it doesn't matter! Why should we dictate what other people do with their bodies, or let them dictate what we do with ours?

So the next time you scoff or grimace at a girl with a septum ring (it was probably me, by the way), think about this: that person isn't displaying their art for you. Body mod is a personal experience, and what seems pointless to you might be and probably is very meaningful to someone else. And odds are they don’t care what you think anyway.

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