The latest CoBM news

So the Church of Body Modification has yet another member claiming that their facial piercing is protected by divine right and thus they should not be affected by dress code policies that ban piercings. Sara Yule got a job at a Catholic hospital and decided to her lip pierced. When told she would have to wear a retainer, she insisted that her religion did not permit the wearing of such retainers, and on religious grounds demanded that she be allowed to keep the ring.

SARA YULE (Photo: John D’Annibale / Times Union)

Sara says that she is “looking to make history” (religions always like ambitious and idealistic young heroines). The CoBM — big surprise here — hasn’t bothered replying to email on the subject so far. What I’d love to see is an explanation from anyone on how body modification in this context (a lip ring) is an overtly religious act, versus, say, simply an act of free expression (and the underlying spiritual freedom that all acts of free expression contain). As one of it’s founding members, I strongly feel that the actions CoBM members are not, by and large, “religious” in nature.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I agree with Sara that taking control of your body is an essential part of becoming an individual, and I think it’s terrible that there is a system in place that works to stop people from being individuals. However, part of being an individual is also accepting that sometimes doing the right thing isn’t easy, and that the more free you want to be, the more you have to rely on yourself, rather than expecting others to help you.

I think firing someone over body modification is bullshit. Worse than that though, I think that the fact that “freedom of expression” is not a fundamental and protected right in the United States (it is a right in many other nations), is also bullshit. Sadly though, you can’t use a bullshit religion to fight bullshit laws.

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About Shannon Larratt

Shannon Larratt is the founder of BME (1994) and its former editor and publisher. After a four year hiatus between 2008 and 2012, Shannon is back adding his commentary to ModBlog. It should be noted that any comments in these entries are the opinion of Shannon Larratt and may or may not be shared by LLC or the other staff or members of BME. Entry text Copyright © Shannon Larratt. Reproduced under license by LLC. Pictures may be copyright to their respective owners. You can also find Shannon at Zentastic or on Facebook.

35 thoughts on “The latest CoBM news

  1. [i]Sadly though, you can’t use a bullshit religion to fight bullshit laws.[/i]

    Oh god that’s the masterstroke right there. Not to mention the whole reason that CoBM didn’t and won’t work in this incarnation. It’s NOT a religion. It’s a lobbying group.

  2. It’s odd that she says she had facial piercings years ago and no one cared, but once she got rehired (without piercings) then had them re-done is when she was asked to leave.

    Then again, I see nothing wrong with being offered to wear a retainer, (it’s still pierced, and you still have jewelry in it n’est pas?) so I think the employer was at least willing to compromising.

    But the best line in the article is that she’s “looking to make history”

  3. using religion to hide behind sucks.

    taking personal responsibility doesn’t. she doesn’t appear to be.

  4. Why would a person so deeply commited to their “religion” go to work at a catholic hospital anyway? Seems about like a vegan working at a butcher shop.

  5. The U.S. does provide freedom of expression it’s just limited,like all things…Is it right? I guess for most people it is because they see it as ‘as long as it’s protecting the people i love then yes it is right.’The problem with most Americans is that some of us expect things to just be how we think they should be,but the problems that arise lay in the fact that everyone-no matter how alike- have different beliefs on what is right and wrong;and no matter how large the consensus among us,there is always going to be someone left out…the trick is to never be ignored to the point where people start believing you aren’t important and viable.

    anyway,while i think that the girl is right in that it’s her body,her beauty,and her spirituality;it’s not her money,her business image,and clientele that’s on the line.some businesses have a certain image that they like to maintain,and a certain demographic they cater to so they want employees that can fit in with that demographic…yeah,i would’ve probably quit:/

  6. This reminds me of boys at school who refused to take off their baseball caps on religious grounds as they had “converted to Islam”.

  7. Sade – The US does NOT provide “freedom of expression” as a right explicitly. Thus there is a massive debate inside the US in terms of what is “free speech” (whereas the debate in other countries as to what is “free expression” is easier, because you don’t have to debate the borders of the medium).

  8. “But her situation isn’t so simple. Yule’s religion has no formal deity or buildings of worship.” (From the Times article)
    Does that really matter? A religion does not about a building or a deity to mean something to people. Personally I think look to spirituality over religion but it does not stop me from believing that a religion is in a person not in a church.

    Freedom of expression is seen in the actions of Sara and Her employer. She wanted to have her facial piercing and they wanted to fire her. Both parties expressed their beliefs. I can walk up to a vendor and tell them to “F@#$ off!â€? , I will get fired. I would have made the choice to use my freedom of expression to tell the vendor off. I would get fired if my boss thought my choice was not beneficial to the company. You can modify your body in any way you want as long as you are ready for the implications. Tattoo a swastika to your forehead, pierce your nose, tattoo your knuckles, get a PA, cut off a toe, do what you want. People will react to them however they choice to and you have to be ready for the reactions. Some are positive some are negative. The good and the bad, people in the public eye are scrutinized for the appearance and can be judged because of this. This is not right or just but life is not fair. People used to be openly judged by the color of their skin.

  9. Is it just me or are her pupils dilated to the point of creepiness in that pic? *mesmerized*

  10. I think the reason they were upset after she was rehired she was working in a different area than when she first worked there. I also agree there is nothing wrong with a retainer to be all honest. But then of course I am use to skirting the rules because both my sons have their ears pierced and one has a mohawk and we found ways to work with the rules and let my boys keep what they love.
    They tried to work with her and that is big if one actually thinks about it. So many places wont do even that much.

  11. ugh i was so excited when i heard about the existence of a cobm…its too bad that the reality isnt half as wonderful as the idea.

  12. Yeah, that’s not going to go too far. Just because something is spiritual (and how exactly do you define that when I sure as hell don’t get tattoos for any spiritual reason) doesn’t make it a religion.

  13. Does the hospital expect us to believe that this will affect their business? I’d be very surprised to learn about someone walking into the emergency room in need of medical care- with a gaping wound or some other trauma- seeing the girl at the desk with the lip piercing, and thinking, “Huh! That’s really offensive! I’m not giving this company my business! In fact, forget this- I’m leaving this instant!” Even if people feel that the piercing isn’t appropriate in such a setting (an arguable opinion) I sincerely doubt it will play a role in any decision about whether or not to use the services of the ER. I don’t think it’s a religious argument, but I am glad that she’s trying to hold her ground.

  14. As a nursing student I’m banned by every single authority (hospital, health board, teachers, school) from wearing my facial piercings in a hospital setting. This applied even when I was simply observing, not even touching anything. The reason there is safety, as much as it is sanitation. I sure as hell don’t want my ear ripped open or lip grabbed by a patient. ERs are hectic places where ring-type piercings are not a very clever idea. It is kind that the hospital offered her the use of a retainer, which is obviously safer.

  15. “She was given three options: Take it out, replace it with something transparent or look for another job in the company, Seton Health, according to her account of the 7:30 a.m. conference with hospital officials, 30 minutes before her overnight shift ended.

    All three were unacceptable, she said.”

    Considering they didn’t even ask her to leave the company, I think she’s rather an ass.

  16. There are serious safety issues to piercings and other jewelry in in certain jobs. My dad is an auto mechanic and in his garage you can’t wear any jewelry at all, not even wedding rings are allowed because of the safety issues. I work in a pottery studio and I can’t wear any dangling jewelry or any that can slip off such as necklaces, bracelets, rings, etc. because I could get hurt if a necklace got caught in on of the machines that mix clay and I could ruin the machinery if a ring or bracelet fell in. I think being fired for body modification which has no effect on job performance is ridiculous and wrong, however workplaces have to protect the safety of their workers and customers even if the worker in question doesn’t want to be protected. I think requiring retainers which a thrashing patient couldn’t rip out easily would be completely reasonable in the situation.

  17. It’s ridiculous that she wouldn’t wear the retainer.
    They gave her the option (which many companies wouldn’t).
    It was really rather nice of them.

    Where is her problem in wearing a retainer?
    If my work told me to wear a retainer I wouldn’t hesitate.

    The hospital obviously want to project a certain image. Obviously, they think that a pierced lip in a Catholic hospital is inappropriate. (Not that I necessarily agree).

    She needs to take ownership of her actions and accept consequences.

  18. The super dilated pupils really make her look like a whacky cult member. At least it goes with her bullshit religion.

  19. She chose a job. The job has a dress code. She failed to meet it. She was given a good compromise. She didn’t take it.
    If she thinks a lip ring is worth more than her job, all the power to her, but many may say otherwise.

  20. She was given every opportunity to work around that piercing policy in that job position; they didn’t even want to fire her, they wanted to move her around the company so that it would work for both parties. But no, she had to be an attention whore and make us all look stupid by association. Fuck her. She just made it a little harder for me to get a gainful job in this area.

    (And yeah, big surprise that she’s from Waterford. GE Silicones is based there, must be the water.)

  21. Yes! Someone else noticed the pupils! I swear she’s really a droid. RUN! THE COBM’S ANDROID MINIONS ARE COMING FOR YOUR SOULS! :)

    Honestly… I don’t see what her issue is, if they don’t even mind her wearing a retainer. Ye gods.

  22. This makes me curious. If I have a significant facial scar from a car accident, can a place of employment tell me to remove it or refuse to hire me because of it? What is I have facial scarring that is self inflicted? What about facial tattooing, since that presents no hazard to yourself or patients (once it’s healed)?

    I personally think that business have no right to restrict your appearance beyond a dress code, which means clothing, and possibly whether you take a regular shower or not. If I can do the work required, then my piercings/tattoos or lack thereof are irrelevant. (If it’s okay to say you can’t have tattoos/piercings, what’s to stop a business from saying that you can’t smoke, eat red meat, drink, drive a sports car, sky dive, etc.? These issues all run into and blend with each other; there is no single, clear defining point that makes these issues significantly different.) Here’s a thought; some people are offended by gays, women on positions of authority, non-white people, or various religions. Shall we say that it’s okay to refuse employment to these groups, or move them to a less visible position, because our clientele doesn’t like it?
    Just thinkin’.

  23. But the point is she wasn’t refused employment or fired. They offered three different routes of compromise because they wanted her to remain an employee. That’s a hell of a lot more than you’ll get from most establishments.

    Frankly, I just can’t see how wearing a retainer would be “against her religion.”

  24. I think it’s insane to compare piercings and tattoos to race or sexual orientation. You can choose to have piercings and tattoos. You can’t choose who your parents are.

    If you’re accepting the dress code as a condition of hire (companies have the right to stipulate pretty much anything, after all you’re choosing to accept it in order to work there) and then break that condition the company could rightfully end your employment.

    I agree that everyone has the right to control their body but sometimes you have to pick between what’s more important: your career or your mods. Not everyone can have a career where the two coexist happily.

    Seems to me that she’s been given the option to choose, she’s just not exercising it.

    One more thing: the last thing she is quoted as saying is “But I won’t [remove my piercing] because somebody says I have to.”

    Until you’re the President of the “Free World” you eventually have to abide by someone’s rules. Maybe she should run for office instead of working at a hospital.

  25. To compare body modifcation to race is stretching it, but comparing it to sexual orientation is completely accurate. For the record, I am a gay woman who has been “out” for almost 10 years now.

    Sexual orientation is not something that is automatically and irrevocably visible upon first glance. If you were to put a line up of people in front of an employer they cannot accurately tell what your sexual orientation is anymore than they could tell who has a full bodysuit and a 0 gauge PA. Facial piercings and tattoos visible outside of a long-sleeved collared shirt, are what all this conflict is surrounding. People can make assumptions based upon stereotypes, but there is no real way for any employer to know either your sexual orientation or modification status unless you are openly showing them via visible gay pride items or tattoos and piercings.

    There are plenty of people in the work force who keep their modifications or sexual orientation a secret. I can’t count how many gay teachers I’ve met who keep their orientation a closely-guarded secret because of their jobs. I myself work a job where I can be fired for having visible modifications, despite having a 2 gauge septum.

    I can’t speak for what goes on in the U.S.A., but here in Canada a person cannot be discriminated against due to their sexual orientation, race, religion, country of origin, economic or marital status. Does this mean it doesn’t happen? HELL NO. It happens every day. These laws are just there to make people happy. When it comes down to it, any employer can refuse to hire you or to terminate your employment for any reason (which they aren’t even legally required to give you). Until anti-discrimination laws, especially those in the workplace, are given some capability to be enforcemed this situation will simply continue to repeat itself.

  26. BLAH — SOOO many opinions. No wonder there’s a fucking war raging.

    I’m gunna say something, it has nothing to do with this though.

    Has anyone noticed that the “big cheeses” at the tip top of the war totem pole (you know, presidents, PM’s, and all the people who make the “let’s fight” decisions) are never female? Ever notice how the ONLY people ever to have officially called a war is a man?

    I figured that out the other day after some research and it suddenly dawned on me that if researchers can find a cure for testosterone, then the world would be a peaceful place.


  27. Oh yeah, I meant to add, as my two cents about this thing here..

    When i started getting into body mod my mom, after realizing she wasnt going to talk me out of anything, gave me some advice. I ignored it at first.. but as every year goes on that i am more and more involved, i realised how right she was.

    She told me “You know, you’re going to have to be a very strong person to be as different as you want to be. If you want to be different, you need to be 100% confident in yourself and your modification. Because if you’re not, every single person of the millions of people who are going to challenge your body modifications are going to see right through every fact and argument you throw at them. All they’re going to see is an insecure, unconfident person trying to battle prove your modifications before yourself to them. Be confident, and all they’ll have to question is you, not your modifications. And if they do question you, your answers will be like a brick wall.”

    She was right, my mom.

  28. LeaveThePoliticsToMadmen,your mom is so right and I strive to teach that to my boys with their choices. Granted they cant make many choices now since they are only 5 and 10 but they have made some and they stick to their guns when people question them about it.

  29. “Has anyone noticed that the “big cheesesâ€? at the tip top of the war totem pole (you know, presidents, PM’s, and all the people who make the “let’s fightâ€? decisions) are never female? Ever notice how the ONLY people ever to have officially called a war is a man?”

    Only one thing to say to that: Margaret Thatcher.

  30. It’s all about image. Hospitals are respectable places. And many people feel (unjust logic, of course) that even healed mods are harborers for bacteria. They want to keep their image in society. Though some are leniant…I happen to work with the elderly, with 25 piercings, somewhere in the range of maybe, 8 visible tattoos, and hair that could made into a mohawk on a whim. It all just depends on the business.

  31. killy – again, to me it goes back to your self-confidence. I worked in the recovery room in the hospital for a long time, and as long as i was confident in my skills and did the job right, i never got a negative word from my bosses or co-workers.
    .. if i wasn’t so sure of my skills and always double-thinking my actions, my insecurity would show and they’d pick on my mods. It all comes down tto that.

  32. Wow, this thread wandered far afield!

    1. Leave the lady’s eyes alone. She was being photographed in a stressful situation. If the studio or setting was fairly dark, and there was a sudden light flashing… well, go take a flash picture of yourself in a dimly lit room and see how you look.

    2. Women are not fully capable of declaring war? Men have held most of the power for a long, long time. War is declared by those in power. Therefore men have declared most wars. How many major cities have been founded by women? Hospitals built? Religions founded? The problem might be the heteropatriarchy, but it is not some inherent biological inferiority on the part of men.

    3. IMHO, and the opinion of the law as I understand it in the US, they can discriminate on the basis of looks (including born freaks, tattooed faces, burn victims, etc.) if they can show that looks are part of the job, unless the employee is part of a few narrowly definied protected classes, like race. A car salesman will just not be as effective if she is horribly disfigured or, possibly, even just heavily modded. You makes your choices, you takes your consequences.

    4. Discrimination against mods in the workplace will not be changed in the courts, at least not in the US (and probably not even in Canada, given the Notwithstanding Clause) until companies find it unprofitable to discriminate. When was the last time any of us refused to shop somewhere because the store had a policy against visible ink or piercings? Do we even know the policies of local merchants? Maybe we need to start asking. Boycotts and engaged dialogue change more business practices than any lawsuit.

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