Identity Through Body Art

Through the dramaturgical model we can look at and study how people present themselves.

Nonverbal communication, such as body art or clothing choices, projects a certain desired image. With this image we make an identity for ourselves – one that is recognizable and shows who we are. By managing our choices of body art (be it with clothing, tattoos, piercings, etc. ) we are choosing how others see and perceive us. We are “performing” our identity for others. Then as a result of performing our identity we are stereotyped by the choices of body art we use.Everyday we intentionally or unintentionally perform our identities through our actions, verbal communication, and nonverbal communication. We perform our gender though our clothing, the use or non-use of makeup, etc.

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Similarly we can perform our identity through body art. By choosing to wear a tattoo on your body everyday is communicating your identity. People craft images of themselves which they want others to see and then place that on their body in a permanent fashion. This is a form of impression management.

You are constructing a certain image for others to view you as.This image can be as simple as trying to persuade people that you are outgoing and friendly. On the other hand, it might be to persuade people to be afraid of you, to show people you are different and unique. This persuasion can also be linked to the “front stage” which Goffman talked about. He says that life is a stage and we are the actors. We act on the stage of life and we perform on both the front stage and back stage. The front stage is the part that everyone else can see. Our bodies, our physical actions, and emotional responses can all be described as front stage aspects.

The way we present ourselves to others is a front stage action. By using body art we are adding to the appearance of ourselves that other see on the “front stage”. So by this we can say that our impression management is being acted on the front stage by the use of body art.

Another reason people use body art to identify themselves is for social identification. It has been said that “social identification leads to activities that are congruent with the identity, support for institutions that embody the identity, stereotypical perceptions of self and thers,… and it reinforces the antecedents of identification. ” (Ashforth 20).

The use of body art can be an indicator of someone with the same interests, same social group, music taste, etc. People naturally classify themselves into various social categories, and body art is one way to distinguish people from a certain category. It is a way for individuals to “locate” (Ashforth 21) each other in everyday life. As we identify with a certain social group/category, we are learning about our own personal identities away from that group.Self esteem is one that that we can identify with and can learn from a social setting. I personally enjoy body art.

I have 6 tattoos ranging from pin-up girls to cans of beer to day of the dead skulls. As a person who shows my identity on my body and identifies with certain social groups I get stereotyped on a daily basis. Stereotypes and identity through body art are linked in that people look at your clothing, tattoos, and piercing and place you in a certain group that they perceive. When people see me they automatically assume that I am a punk kid.They might be true about that, but what comes along with that stereotype is not. In my example, being stereotyped as a punk makes people assume I’m rebellious, non-conforming, and a general peace disturber.

Yet just at looking at how I choose to manage my identity you do not know that I am a second year university student, that I have goals and ambitions, and that I am a very respectful member of society. The stereotypes that people give to others based on their body art is blurred. A person’s identity has more to do than just body art. It is a factor, a means of showing one’s identity, but it isn’t concrete.Society generally discourages stereotyping, although we all know that it happens, yet they do not think about the stereotyping through our outward appearance. In short, a way for people show show their identities is through body art such as tattoos and piercings. We perform our identities through body art and cultivate an image of ourselves that we wish others to see.

We manage our identity through impression management which is performed on the “front stage” of our lives. We also use identity and body art to classify ourselves into certain social categories.This helps us to identity with ourselves and others and helps us to shape our personal identities in general. Even further, people who choose to use body art to express their identity are stereotyped. They are placed into categories which they might not belong, and even further there are certain behaviours that are placed on them for being in that social group.Work Cited Ashforth, Blake E.

, and Fred Mael. “Social Identity Theory and the Organization. ” The Academy of Management Review, Vol. 14, No. 1, Jan. 1989.

pp. 20 – 39. Book. Wood, Julia T. Communication Theories in Action, Third Edition. Wadsworth/Thompson Learning, 2004.



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