Piercings have long been a source of contention between conservative idealists and rebellious spirits with a pension for outward expression. While ear piercings at a young age are accepted, and even considered the standard, piercings of the nose, chin, tongue, belly button and eyebrow are regarded as controversial and even shunned at times. That’s why it came as little surprise when critics lambasted 11 year-old Willow Smith for posing with a fake tongue ring on Monday of this week.
This is not the first time disparaging and incendiary comments have been made about Willow Smith. Her style of dress and extravagant hairstyles (from pink mohawks to a more recent yellow buzzcut) have been negatively assessed by many, who think it’s dangerous to give that much creative freedom to a person at a vulnerable stage in their lives.
Willow’s father, Will Smith, addressed naysayers, saying: “We let Willow cut her hair. When you have a little girl, it’s like how can you teach her that you’re in control of her body? If I teach her that I’m in charge of whether or not she can touch her hair, she’s going to replace me with some other man when she goes out in the world. She can’t cut my hair but that’s her hair. She has got to have command of her body. So when she goes out into the world, she’s going out with a command that it is hers. She is used to making those decisions herself. We try to keep giving them those decisions until they can hold the full weight of their lives.”
When I was 16, I got my belly button pierced, to my father and grandmother’s chagrin. My grandmother complained that it was my “life line” and my father noted that I had six piercings altogether (two on each ear, my nose and belly button) and could be a candidate for a wayward teen on “The Ricki Lake Show” (remember that?). I’ve since grown out of that stage: my nose ring taken out and closed up, my belly button ring tucked away under my work blouses for no one but me to see. Still, though they didn’t love the piercings, I appreciate the freedom they gave me to experiment with different styles as I was growing up and finding myself. It did spark in me the love of being unique, confident and artistic, which in some ways led to the career in fashion writing that I have now. It did empower me to be in control of my look and style despite what other people around me may think. Though I was 16 and Willow is a mere 11, I am a testament to the fact that creative license, under the watchful gaze of a parent, can be empowering and freeing to an artistic child. At the same time, a level of discipline and restraint is also needed and finding that balance is difficult and different for every parent.
There is a legal age limit on piercings but as commenter, Beauty Is Diverse points out, you need parent’s consent to get it done beforehand.