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I am a localization manager/translator and intercultural consultant living in Berlin (Germany), passionate about languages, cultures, diversity management, body art, dancing, self-empowerment, coaching, effective communication and, last but not least, vegan gluten-free food and good movies.

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Saturday, August 12, 2017

One of the most important steps to take for learning what diversity and cultural sensitivity are all about, Feat. unicorn-like-patterns and tattooed legs

How do you know how does it feel to be a unicorn?
How do you know how does it feel to come from Mars?
How do you know how does it feel to be like Benjamin Button?

Well, you probably don't know how it feels.
And you also don't pretend to know it. (Or this is what I hope for you. Just saying.)

[Being like Benjamin Button:
Analeigh Tipton as Megan 
in the romantic comedy Two Night Stand (2014)
doesn't mean it that way]

Among the aspects of human dynamics that I will always consider fascinating, there is for sure the certainty that most people belonging to some kind of majority display while talking about how does it feel being part of a minority they are not part of. 
They are not part of that minority but hey!, they know very well how it feels anyway and they have a strong opinion about it, sometimes even stronger than the people that are actually part of that minority.

A classical example?
Non-tattooed people, or people with a very tiny tattoo somewhere on a very private body part that nobody is allowed to see before the 15th date, pretend to know how does it feel to be a heavily tattooed person

In Western countries, more and more people that in the past would have considered tattoos as an expression of an anti-social behavior, are now getting tattooed.
Sadly enough, a lot of them often do that for the wrong reasons and show off with pride that one (terrible...) tattoo they got during their last holiday in Thailand or Barcelona or [put an exotic and if possible trendy location here] in order to feel cool enough in front of their friends.

In such a scenario, it is not that surprising that most people still don't get the huge difference between being a tattoo parvenu with a couple of tiny newbie-tattoos for fun and having over 25% of your body tattooed because it is part of your way of life.

They don't get how it feels:
- being typecasted no matter what, in a good or in a bad way, just because.
- being misjudged even before you talk to someone new for the first time, just because.
- being underestimated with often no chance to show who you really are, just because.
- being gazed at, admired, looked upon with disbelief or disgust or astonished curiosity, just because.
- being pointed at on the street, considered a weirdo or treated like a sexual object, just because.

And of course my favorite one: being asked tons of questions by everyone about it. Like, every single day. Just because.

[I really like that old saying:
"Just because you can, doesn't mean you should"
So common sense, and yet so true]

It is always fascinating to me that in the vast majority of cases, the non-tattooed ones are also the ones that, after asking you out of the blue how does it feel to live as a heavily tattooed person, end up being not happy with your honest answer and well-founded take on the matter, rolling their eyes and saying something like: 

"What does it mean that people treat you differently because of the tattoos?! Are you kidding me!? This doesn't make any sense. After all, you know, being tattooed is just so mainstream right now. I mean, nobody cares any longer, it doesn't make any difference".
[The mileage and the correct use of language may vary here]

Really? How do you know?
Thanks to your several-decade-long experience as a non-tattooed person?
Thanks to what your best girlfriend with a very tiny girly tattoo somewhere told you once?
Thanks to some report you heard about on YouTube or on TV, usually brought to you by... erm, let me guess... non-tattooed people?

If this doesn't make any difference, why are you asking in the first place?

Now I am curious.
When was it the last time that a perfect stranger stopped you on the street, while you were just walking around and minding your own business, in order to ask you something like:

Hey! Are those real tattoos on your legs or are you wearing some tights? You know, I was looking at your legs and I had to ask!


Really, you had to ask, sir... What for?!

What kind of difference does it make in your life if a perfect stranger that you will never meet again in a metropolis with 3.5 million inhabitants is wearing tights with a weird pattern or not?

[Yes, I know, it is kind of weird but...
They are my legs. 
Yes, I was born with unicorn-like-pattern on my legs and my feet.
Silly, isn't?]

How do my tattooed or not tattooed legs play whatsoever role in your life and in your peace of mind?
What does it give you the impression that asking a perfect stranger this question is appropriate?
Would you feel allowed to ask strangers questions related to their body parts if they were not tattooed?
What does the fox would say, in such a situation?

I am sure that this happens you and your non-tattooed friends all the time, right?

The next time that you are about to tell someone else that you know how does it feel being something that you are not, think again.
Pause for a second, and ask yourself how do you know and why you are so sure about it. And when it was the last time you have been open to listening to something different about the topic, without bias and prejudices. 

If you are not able to answer these questions, evaluate the possibility that maybe, just maybe, you actually don't know how does it feel and you are putting someone else in a box without realizing it or that you are underestimating which kind of challenges or diverse life experiences they are facing on a daily basis and are unknown or not relevant to you.

And then be proud of yourself: you are taking an important step in the right direction, in order to detect your own blind spots and to learn what diversity and cultural sensitivity are all about. 

Tags: Tattoos, Tattooed people, Alternative ways of life, Prejudices, Clich├ęs about tattoos, Questions about tattoos, Being a minority, Developing cultural sensitivity

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