Some part of our world, a long time ago, decided that girls are not allowed to decorate their bodies. In my culture, we pierce all babies’ ears when they are young, girls and boys alike. As they grow up, girls keep their piercings while boys usually let it close.

In the whirlpool of youth, you don’t know what a piercing is. As a little girl, you know that your mother will put in pretty gold or sparkly earrings for you when you go to a party. She will show you how to match it with your dress. They are normal, expected even because when you take them out your mom clicks her tongue and tells you that your face looks boring without them.

Sure. That’s fine.

Two years ago, I asked my parents if I could get my second piercing on my ears because I had been seeing the idea of it floating around and somehow it had wriggled into my head. I thought it would be exciting, and it would look beautiful when healed, and I could change them up. That would be fun. But I was immediately shot down when my dad rolled his eyes and gave me a curt ‘no.’

I was shocked. I had found a place nearby that wouldn’t be too expensive, I was old enough to take care of the piercing myself without accidentally getting it infected. I had asked politely. What more could he want?

I was told “you’ll lose the innocence of your face. It’s going to look ugly on you.”

It took me a year of buttering up and convincing before I was finally allowed to get my second piercing. I painstakingly slaved over applying the disinfectant twice a day every day, and it’s healed just fine now, so I obviously did something right.

I want to decorate my body. I’ve had these conversations with close friends, the discussion of what kinds of things we would paint on our bodies. One friend wants pastel flowers on her skin. Another wants a black and white design somewhere inconspicuous. I want something that will mean something to me.

Girls with tattoos are seen as rowdy” or rough.” Girls without tattoos are seen as pure. Piercings beyond the normal two or three are immediately seen as excessive or attention-seeking. The judgment involved in body modification tells girls that they aren’t respecting themselves if they choose to decorate. As if strangers are the ones who decide how much respect a girl must have for herself.

Collectively, we encourage a poisonous mindset that convinces women that they have no control over what they do to themselves. The prominent restriction when it comes to body modification is that of society. Tattoos and excessive piercings are deemed unprofessional, white collar work being restricted to only those who have not altered their body, despite body modification signifying commitment and responsibility, often a symbol of personal esteem.

This falls in the same line as communities viewing with scorn women without ‘ideal’ bodies; the mold that we present and promote, covering with distaste bodies that do not appeal to us. It comes down to this: society believes that bodies belong to the collective. Society may be composed of individuals, but the individual is a part of the whole before it is singular. Therefore, the individual is only autonomous to an extent and belongs to the group once it shows signs of disconformity.

It is the way of thinking that decimates individuality, creativity, and confidence; all the things that make a strong and successful society.