Body piercings have been around for many years and they are used differently depending on the culture. In America, body piercings have been gaining more popularity. There have been more different types of individuals who are getting piercings, which has also been associated with the location of the piercing on the individual’s body. Piercings in America nowadays are certainly most prevalent among teenagers and young adults, around their early twenties, and they are expressive of a specific style and/ or personality that the individual wants to be associated with.
A symbolic anthropologist might see body piercings as representing defiance. When we look at the main age group of the individuals who pierce their bodies it usually varies between high school and college students. During my high school years I went through a phase when I wanted more and more piercings. I now have seven piercings, five of which I got in high school. I was lucky because my parents allowed my phase of piercings, but many of my friends secretly got piercings behind their parent’s backs. This is one way that piercings symbolize defiance from the current American view. High school is a time when people often go through many phases and rebel against their parents. Piercings can be one representation of this transition of rebellious behavior. Piercings symbolize ownership over the individual body and it is semi-permanent with little damage, unlike tattoos. The location of a piercing is also symbolic of an individuals style, and oftentimes personality. For instance, nose piercings may have been very different 10 years ago, but now it is far more popular among boys and girls in America. However, when someone pierces their eyebrow or lip, this piercing is much more associated with a different group of people, or perhaps just an individual who wants to be more original.
A post-structuralist who is interested in questions of power might notice that publically visible piercings tend to decline as an individual gets older. When I have applied for jobs, piercings have been something that must be hidden while working. Many jobs do not allow piercings because it is viewed as less professional, but many piercings may also be hidden and taken out when necessary. This is a view of a crack within a hegemonic system because wherever there is power, there is resistance, and the piercing is that resistance of enforced power. A post-structuralist might mention that disciplining of the of the body results from disciplining of the mind. This idea is represented in having body piercings because people often do take out their piercings by choice, but there is also pressure by society to conform that may cause this.
People who have piercings that are not “normal” may be ostracized, but the piercing is representative of the individual. Piercings are symbolic of what an individual wants to represent, yet it also serves as a crack within a hegemonic system because they serve as a resistance to power that is created by society.