In the international news circuit, we frequently see stories of tattoo collectors who've turned down by employers because of the company's policies on visible ink. And up until recently, we believed Kathy Bullen's story of being rejected for her tattoos to be just like the hundreds of others we've come across in recent years. Bullen is an Australian tattoo enthusiast who's collected a number of colorful pieces on her arms, hand and chest that gained attention after applying for a position with her local police station. But, because of her ink, she was turned down and Bullen reached out to a closed group on Facebook to share her disappointment. And instead of sharing their concerns, one user shared Bullen's story with the world via a DailyMail article which has since gone viral.
Bullen had her story shared by a reporter in the group, but upon speaking to Bullen personally, we learned that there were many details that the article got wrong—most importantly, Bullen's stance on tattoo discrimination. Although Bullen was upset she'd been turned down for a job on the police force, she is fully aware of the consequences that come with being heavily tattooed and doesn't believe that she's entitled to employment. We sat down with Bullen to better understand her story and get to the bottom of this sticky situation.
Why did you apply for a job with the police force?
I thought it would be good to have a change and do something worthy in the community instead of a desk job. I was reading through all the requirements online and I came across departments where tattoos were acceptable as long as they could be covered. I have a few on my hand that can’t be covered so I thought I’d make an inquiry. I emailed them and they reached back straight away saying that [my tattoos] weren’t within their guidelines and they wouldn't be able to accept me. It was very short and sweet.
How did you feel about your story being shared to this news outlet?
I was really mad because they made me look like even though I chose to look like this that I thought there would never be an obstacle and I was entitled to anything that I wanted. That’s definitely not true. I respect the decision of the police force and they made it look like I was crying to a news reporter about it. What had actually happened was that I’d disclosed that I was a little bit upset to a closed group of ladies on Facebook. I was disheartened because I’d been working hard and I should have checked that out a lot sooner. Somebody in the group was actually a reporter for the DailyMail, she took all of that and made an article without me even knowing. It was horrifying. The next day, I went to Google something for my boss and my face was everywhere on the internet.
Do you think the media often misrepresents tattooed people like yourself?
Anyone who has their head on their shoulders will understand the gravity of their own decisions. I used to work in the tattoo industry and being as tattooed as I am is not something that I regret. When it comes to civil service jobs, they do it for your safety. Having something so identifiable that can’t be covered up can make it easier for someone who wants to hurt you to find you. So I respect their decision and I’m okay with it. It never should have been as big of a thing as it was.