For many little girls, getting your ears pierced at the Claire’s inside your local mall is a rite of passage. Indeed, the national chain says that they have pierced more than 100 million ears.
However, a former employee of Claire’s sparked a viral outcry against this practice when she posted an open letter to her former employer. In the thoughtful, passionate letter, Raylene Marks described how she was confronted with the upsetting situation of piercing a little girl who was clearly stating she did not want to be pierced.
“This child was articulate, smart, and well aware of herself and her body. She expressed that she didn’t want us touching her, that we were standing too close, that she was feeling uncomfortable. She made it clear she no longer wanted to get her ears pierced. She begged, over and over again, for Mom to please, just take her home,” writes Marks. “That child’s message was loud and clear to me: Do not touch my body, do not pierce my ears, I do not want to be here.”
The experience shook Marks, who was accustomed to dealing with reluctant girls who were a bit timid about the procedure but were still excited to get pierced. This was a different experience altogether, as this little girl was very clear that she absolutely did not want her ears pierced. After at least half an hour of this, Marks says her mother eventually took the little girl home without having her ears pierced.
Marks went to her manager the next day to discuss the situation and to clarify what she should do in the case of a child who was terrified and saying she did not want her ears pierced.
“I wanted to know how far we were supposed to take this policy of piercing non-consenting children. ‘So if a mother is physically restraining her daughter, holding her down and saying, ‘DO IT,’ while that little girl cries and asks me not to, do I do the piercing?'” writes Marks. “My manager did not hesitate to respond, ‘Yes, you do the piercing.'”
Marks was so horrified by this answer that she decided to quit her job at the Claire’s location in Edmonton, Alberta. She decided to write an open letter to the company about their policy regarding piercing non-consenting children, and the message has triggered a huge response about the right time to pierce your child’s ears and just how much to coax a reluctant child into it.
Some have come forward stating that they have seen children being held down for piercings at Clarie’s locations and that they believe forcing unwanted piercings teaches young girls that adults do not have to respect their bodily autonomy.
However, others are defending the practice and saying that it’s a minor bit of pain that passes quickly, and that girls are happy with the way it looks when it is over.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children wait to get pierced until they are able to clean and care for their piercings on their own. If you decide to get your child’s ears pierced, experts recommend that you use a topical numbing cream about a half an hour before the procedure, and that you make sure you choose a reputable piercer who has at least a year of experience in piercing young children. Your pediatrician may also offer this procedure, depending on your child’s age.
You can read Raylene Marks’ full letter to Claire’s on Facebook.
Claire’s has not offered an official response to Marks’ open letter yet, but Marks says, “I do not know if what is happening in the Edmonton, Alberta district is happening across North America. What I do know is that when I called the corporate Employee Relations line, the woman who took my call did not say my manager was in the wrong after I told her what had transpired. She only listed the policy that allows an associate to, ‘refuse a piercing in the event a successful one cannot be done.’ There are no policies in place protecting a child’s wishes not to be pierced, or an employee’s right to refuse a piercing based on concern for the emotional welfare of the child.”
What do you think? Should Clarie’s employees be required to follow a parent’s orders and pierce their child, even if the little girl is very distraught and stating she does not want the procedure?