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| ||Should there be any type of laws to protect modified people against discrimination when seeking employment, or should the employer be allowed to discriminate if he feels the hiring of modified people will damage his company's image?|| |
| ||Voice your opinion: the Reader's Response section.||Return to Round Table index|| |
I think that above and beyond what one would consider to be 'fair' and 'just' laws regarding discrimination, there is no need for policing prejudices against us modified folk. Pretty shocking, huh?
I say this because the laws are there to protect people who can't do anything about their 'minority' status (in other words, they are born that way). Laws against discrimination should be based on sex, age and race. This may sound sort of politically incorrect, but we all know how hiring works - you pick the person you can most relate to (and thus trust), practically regardless of experience or abilities. I'm not saying that this is a good thing, but it is the way it works. And if I owned a business, I would want that as my right.... I should clarify that I am not talking about not hiring a racial minority, for instance, because as bigoted as my above comments seem to be, you really can't help that you were born a different colour than me, and you should not be punished for that. Ugly, but honest.
However, if you choose to modify your body, that is something that is done (hopefully) soberly, knowing that there are going to be repercussions, and usually for the negative. This is something that many of us are having to deal with daily, and this is only the tip of the iceberg.
One day we will reach 'critical mass' and more and more of us will be in some way altered. And we'll own and manage many businesses, where we can hire whomever we want.
In my own decisions, I knew from the beginning that what I was doing would set me apart. You may take this as arrogant, but I know that I have a good head on my shoulders, so to speak, and that I will not have difficulty getting jobs or being successful. And if shit happens, I only have myself to blame, just as it should be, considering that I made those decisions willfully.
No, I don't think there should be laws in effect to protect modified individuals from being discriminated against when seeking employment; if the employer thinks it will damage his business then they have every right to do what they deem best for their company. However, I also think the employer should have a set rule about modifications, no matter the degree. They should not allow some mods and not others. If they're going to allow them, they should allow them all or none. For instance, there's a company in my area that doesn't allow any visible piercings or tattoos on the job: women or men. This even includes earlobes. Some people view this as harsh, but I think it's totally fair. It may not be right, but at least they're fair to everyone. Establishments which allow "regular earpiercing" (they don't define regular, thus giving them the ability to judge what is or is not regular on a case by case basis) and eyebrow piercing, but not septum piercing or labrets are the ones who are truly discriminating.
I also think the nature of the business should have a lot to do with their views on modifications. Places such as call centers, telemarketing firms, or any other job where the associates do not deal with people face to face should not have any problem with modified workers (and most do not), but establishments where the employee is dealing with people face to face should have the right to decide whether or not their employees can be visibly modified. If they feel their clientele would not agree with the employees being modified, thus costing them business, then it is in their best interest to not hire such people, which is their right. Just like private schools can set their own dress codes, a business should be granted certain liberties to do what they think is best for their company without the government stepping in and laying down laws.
In my opinion, any kind of legislation to protect modified people in the work place would turn into the same thing affirmative action laws have: hostility. As if modified individuals don't encounter enough resistance as it is, the last thing we need is a bunch of people pissed off because "someone got their job just because they had a nose ring and some tattoos". Just like people think "the black man stole their jobs" or "the less qualified person got the job because they're a minority, so the company wouldn't be sued", etc etc. laws protecting modified people would create unnecessary flack for the entire community.
Ok, let's lay down a few facts first. Although my mods can be removed for the most part, I could not possibly be happy with who I am. I could definitely say that, on an emotional and spiritual level, my mods and I are inseparable. I hate to think what would become of me if I were forced to remove my mods. I honestly think that my wellbeing would be endangered.
That said, I think that there definitely should be laws protecting modified people from discrimination. I feel that where I stand with modifications, it puts me on the same level as other groups which do have certain protections. If we were to rephrase that question so it is asking about some of these other groups, we would get an almost unanimous answer supporting anti-discrimination laws. The question would look something like this:
Of course, many people will disagree and say that you can't compare modified people to Jews or African Americans. However, modifications have been in my blood since birth, so I feel it is part of my culture, even though it is not my parents' culture. Also, modifications are a tool which I use in order to achieve spiritual enlightenment, so I feel that it is essential to my religious beliefs.
I feel that I, and all other modified people, should be protected in that. African Americans are not allowed to be asked to cover up the color of their skin, we should not be asked to cover the ink in our skin. Just as Jews cannot be asked to remove any Star of David jewelry, we should not be asked to remove the jewelry in our lip (or whatever piercings you may have). I feel that we are entitled to legal protection. I just hope that I will see it someday.
If a law were to be imposed, it would have to ban discrimination on basis of appearance, unless the employer could prove (to a legally satisfactory degree) that his/her business would be adversely affected by a modified employee.
I believe it is wrong to sack or refuse to hire someone because an employer is prejudiced against piercings/tattoos, but to be realistic we must accept that there are certain professions in which the public (and even the modified community) would be surprised, and suspicious of a modified person. I agree this is not the way things should be, but for the time being it is not enough to say "But we should accept a judge with a nose piercing?" or "Why can't a lawyer have visible tattoos?". These things are not options for someone who wants to appear 'respectable' and 'authoritative' in the most conservative sense - in the same way most lawyers, judges, politicians etc do not dress outlandishly or make public their minority sexual preferences - these roles in society demand conservatism and conformity.
However, this conformity is not a fixed value, and as standards of acceptance for modification change, so will their visible presence in every stratum of society increase. If it has taught us anything, the Church of Body Modification must prove that we cannot rely on a kneejerk cry of "discrimination!" - changes in the law are meaningless without the changes of attitude which will allow us to cease the arbitary classification of people according to their appearance.
This might seem far removed from the question of whether a restaurant owner will hire a pierced waiter or waitress, but every judgement of this type relies on the same basic idea: that people who choose to modify their bodies are not respectable, radical, trying to comply with fashion, frivolous or marginal. It is these assumptions which need to be changed, more than any law.
My feeling first off is that the answers to this will depend on the respondent's own personal politics. The socialists vs. the capitalists; you know, that old chestnut.
Looking at this problem it seems to me that you have the rights of a business to practice whatever hiring procedures they wish versus the rights of the individual to have equal opportunity for employment. Also, there are some other considerations, such as what distinguishes a cultural modification from an aesthetic modification, and how these types of restrictions impact society as a whole.
So first, The Capitalist Company versus the Individual. In a perfect world, nobody would care what anybody looked like, and we'd all be happy and that would be it. But since this is the real world things don't work that way. Business is competitive and companies have to be aware of how they are perceived by customers and clients. Billions of dollars are spent in marketing and branding each year, and companies want to represent the image that they make for themselves. If they think it is a disadvantage to hire people with facial tattoos, then they probably won't do it.
So, how far can the concern for image go before it infringes on an individuals' rights? Skin colour is protected from discrimination by law. This of course being something that one cannot change. Weight and height are protected also, providing they do not interfere with job duties. These too are less easy or impossible to change.
I'm just going to put myself out on a limb here and say that when somebody decides to get visibly modified, they accept the consequences of that. One of the consequences is that they may find people react to them differently and give them a hard time. Should this happen? No. But do we all know that it will? Yes. So I say that at this point in time there shouldn't be any law specifically protecting people from hiring practices that work against the aesthetically modded.
That said, cultural modifications are fine. Nose rings, tribal scarring, etc these should all be acceptable. So now we get into, what is a cultural modification? Is there a way to distinguish between my labret and a turban, say? Here, I'm also torn. I think that we too often dismiss our mods as not having cultural significance. We are all part of a community that shares a similar experience. Pop or urban culture and modifications go back a long time. Prison tattoos are part of a culture. I think that when the culture isn't a nationalistic or religious one then we think that it is less valid for some reason, which I disagree. I consider my mods to be culturally significant, but I wouldn't be protected by discrimination legislation, which to me is unfair. So, now, I lean toward the notion that modded people should be protected, as we are part of a culture too.
Finally I think about how these restrictions can impact society as a whole. Anything that allows us to be disadvantaged because of our appearance to is harmful. It makes for an atmosphere where people are judged by appearances, and where the different are mocked and treated with less respect. So now, I think it is our responsibility to not agree with such legislation.
It would be next to impossible to say somebody wasn't hired because of their labret, or their tragus, or their facial branding, so any law to protect business is then even more damaging. I think that protection for people with mods, while in practice may be ineffective, at least begins to lend credibility to the modded and could slowly help to change the world's perceptions and misconceptions about modded people, and about the importance we place on image anyway.
In private business, I think that it is fair for the employer to be discriminating about the "image" his or her company presents. Companies are out there to make money, and this requires assessing the needs and tastes of the target consumer and catering to that group. Many employers will certainly perceive (whether it is correct or not) that their target consumer will not approve of a modified company representative. And in the name of business, they can refuse to hire someone who they think will be bad for (or at least not good for) business.
Unfortunately, body modification is not an "immutable characteristic," like race, gender, or disability, which is one of the basic requirements for U.S. civil rights protection (and a logical one). It is usually a personal choice based on aesthetics, spirituality, sexuality, and whatever else drives people to modify their bodies. The key word there is "choice": we choose to modify our bodies, where people did not get to choose a race, gender, or disability. We have to accept responsibility for the consequences of our choices, whether we like those consequences or not.
It would be wonderful if personal appearance in all forms was protected against employment discrimination. But it's not, and I don't really think that personal choices should be placed in the same category as basic physical characteristics. Modified people affected by discrimination have options open to them that people affected by racism never have.
Luckily, more employers are becoming more open-minded, and modified people are making it into more traditionally conservative places. Plus, if you're good enough at something, you can sometimes find places that look past appearance and focus on skills and attitude. Hopefully, this is the future we are moving toward.
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