Indiana Daily Student

OPINION: We should normalize male piercings

Walking into Claire's, a retail store for jewelry and accessories, was a daunting life experience for me. The brand’s locations fit the stereotype of a traditionally feminine store. Growing up with three sisters never geared me up for the anxiety and shame that faced me walking into the store.

Claire's is an integral part in the childhood of the middle-class tween girl. As the youngest boy, having sisters meant I have been to Claire's once or twice before. No matter which location you are at, it is the same. You often have a piercing stand, hair accessories along the walls and earrings everywhere.

Due to my sisters having their ears pierced at Claire's, it felt appropriate that it would aid my stereotype-breaking event.

I have never been a huge fan of needles — they remain my biggest fear today. Claire's provides an ear piercing gun that — while not safer — somewhat lightened my hatred of needles. My friend, a little sarcastic yet somewhat sincere, offered a hand as the woman cleaned my ears for the piercing event.

The employee gave me the dreaded “3-2-1, and you're done.” After the piercing concluded, I started thinking about what comes next. Men with piercings are stereotyped heavily, dealing with harsh criticism. 

In a 1991 New York Times article by Trish Hall, she identified piercings in the right ear became a fad among homosexual men. As early as the ‘90s, Hall suggests the stigma of men with earring disappeared. I disagree. Our society carries the stigma that all men with piercings are not heterosexual individuals.

I haven’t been able to hide my piercings. While various male friends of mine have also gotten pierced, I have to break down barriers for my friends and family who might be less supportive of seeing a college boy with pierced ears.

Easter weekend arose my first experience with pierced ears outside an accepting college campus. I returned to my grandparents for the holiday. My religious upbringing remains of the utmost importance in my values.

My sisters remained unphased by the visual appearance change, only offering support. I found comfort in this, still uneasy about how my grandparents would interpret the visual alterations of my face. However, I decided to leave the earrings in place. 

My grandparents never offered their concerns, comments or criticisms directly. My immediate family were supportive of earrings, but my parents alluded to the temporality of piercings not prevalent in tattoos. Nonetheless, my parents remain slightly conflicted.

"You live in an academia bubble. You will face stigma in the real world," said my father. 

With increasing rates of normality about the subject and an increase in acceptance of self-expression, I was prepared to persevere through any road blocks.

Later, I received a compliment from a hair stylist at Sport Clips, a men’s only barbershop chain. She said, "I like your earrings." Her complement surprised me coming from a male-dominated, heteronormative environment.

The academia bubble failed to comment. I am only in small classes, sit in the front row and am highly engaged — but the more accepting university professors said nothing about my piercings.

My professors, friends and other students learned to support behavior that might seem outlandish to older generations. They want and can make a difference in the portrayal of men with pierced ears. 

Academia is on the forefront of progressiveness, which can be utilized in different ways. We can adapt this within our communities, friend circles and families — normalizing men with piercings.

John Hultquist (he/him) is a junior studying community health with a double minor in urban planning and community development and nutrition.

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