Panelists discuss body art at the end of lecture series

Jenny Caulfield

Junior Creative Editor

More than 70 students attended the panel “Putting Together The Pieces of Body Modification”, which addressed the psychological, legal, and health risks associated with tattoos and piercings last Wednesday in the BTC.

The panel consisted of John R. Ostwald, associate professor at Hudson Valley, Veronica Barber, a third-year student at Albany Law School and Rosemary Ostwald, senior sanitarian at the New York State Department of Health. John addressed the psychological aspects of body modification, Barber discussed the legal standpoint of body modification, and Rosemary discussed the public health risks associated with modifications.

“I thought they had three good different perspectives to talk about it,” said Barber. “I think the health part is super important and people don’t always think about that, they just rush to get something done and don’t necessarily think about those repercussions.”

“Every time you expose yourself to a needle, you put your body at risk of infection,” said Rosemary. The health risks include diseases like tetanus or staph infections, which have side effects like itching, redness, swelling or blood thinning. Allergic reactions to tattoo ink can also occur. Currently there is no test to see if a person is allergic to tattoo ink. Rosemary also recommends not getting tattoos or piercings during pregnancy.

“The physiological aspect I think is tough because, like [John] said, you never really know why somebody does it and I think everybody has their own personal reasons,” said Barber.

John discussed the psychological aspects of modifications including the reasoning behind why someone would get a tattoo or piercing. “The reasons and motivations are complex,” he said. According to John, the reasoning can include rebellion, signs of pride, prominence or wanting attention. Sometimes, the reasons for tattoos can be unclear. “Sometimes tattoos have their own special, personal meaning,” said John. John himself plans to get his first tattoo in January of next year. “It’s going to be a symbolic tattoo for me,” he said.

Barber based her segment of the panel on discrimination based on body modification. According to Barber, courts are not eager to protect something a person can choose to do. “The courts have not dealt with body modification as something that needs to be protected,” she said.

Barber, who has a variety of tattoos and piercings on her body, has personally dealt with discrimination because of her tattoos. Despite seeing her tattoos as an art collection, she reports having to deal with people making split-second judgements based on her tattoos and piercings. At job interviews, she would always cover her tattoos. After often finding herself altering her appearance to meet regulations, she became open to compromise. “It’s part of the game,” she said.

Individual studies student Heather Phillips was one of many who attended the lecture. Phillips has one tattoo located on her chest and one piercing through her nose. “You can cover [tattoos] up, but you should also be proud,” she said. “It’s part of you, it’s how you want to represent it or how you don’t want to represent it.”

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