Tattoos in the workplace – all the world’s a stage

On Tuesday night I went to see a production of Saturday Night Fever at the Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham. I was surprised to see that the chararcter playing Tony Manero had tattoos on his back during one of the scenes where he took his top off, and also that the (female) club singer character had a full sleeve and back tattoos.

Why was I suprised? Well, firstly, because it doesn’t fit in with the 70s timescale of the production – especially not for the female actor. I guess I’d have thought they would be covered with make up. Or, maybe the actors would have been overlooked for the part because of their tattoos not fitting the character they were auditioning to play. Which, quite frankly, I’m very annoyed with myself for even contemplating.

I have tattoos. They’re mainly covered up and I planned them that way. I have a wrist cuff that is generally on show and I don’t even think about it anymore as it’s been there for so long, although in the beginning I was very conscious of it. Occasionally I’ll catch someone looking at it when I meet them for the first time. Not judging. Just looking. I work in a stuffy corporate environment which is very male orientated and I’m aware that most of the people in my office would think differently about me if they knew the extent of my tattoos. Which is really unfair. Yet here I am doing the same about the actors from the show.

I’m not entirely sure what I’m trying to say here. I guess it just shows that tattoo acceptance is still a long way off. That appearance is still the very first thing we see and that we make a judgement – even if it’s not a negative one – without even realising. I certainly wasn’t upset that the actors had tattoos. Surprised, yes, and even impressed. I think it’s fantastic that the show producers didn’t try to cover them in spite of the fact there would be people in the audience who would see it as a negative and judge their appearance accordingly. It’s fabulous that they were up there performing based on talent. I’m conscious that I will cover my wrist for upcoming interviews. I wish I didn’t feel I had to, but if I were to miss out on a job role a little part of me would wonder if that was anything to do with it. Yet there are circumstances where I wear my tattoos with pride; where I will dress to show them off.

Society is still such a judgemental place, and we have to be so many things to so many people that we often can’t be 100% true to ourselves all of the time. Rare is the person who’s worklife mirrors their homelife mirrors their social life. Maybe it’s just part of being an adult. Or maybe it’s part of being an individual – refusing to comply just because we should. Sticking two fingers up to the norm, so that we can be our own norm when the time is right.

Tattooed person Tattooed person 2

Tattooed person 3

Interestingly, when you search Google images for tattooed professionals in the workplace, there are barely any photographs of women.

By the way, the show was really good. Very talented crew – live musicianship on stage incorporated as part of the story gave it a different spin, stunning voices, and some really great dancing (as you’d expect). Considering they’ve been touring since December they were as fresh and sharp as if it were their first ever performance.  The Alex is a joy; still having that olde worlde intimate feel due it’s relatively small size.

Alexandra Theatre
Isn’t this a cool pic? I was wondering what the actors see when they’re looking out at the audience looking at them.
Alexandra Theatre 2
Out of curiosity I googled the female actor. Her name is Cici Howells and she plays numerous instruments including flute, clarinet, sax, oboe, guitar and trumpet. Her talent far far outweighs her physical appearance. Here’s a photograph of her in action in another production; playing classical music with her tattoos proudly on show. Brilliant.
Cici Howells

Her online casting profile mentions her tattoos and that they can be covered up easily. Making it even cooler that the producers of the show chose not to.

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