Ask anybody how they feel about tattoos and you are bound to get some strong opinions. I remember the first time I attempted to broach the subject with my mother. I was 16 and set on getting a tattoo on my 18th birthday. She said absolutely not. Her reasoning…only bikers, hookers, and pirates get tattoos.
Exactly how does one argue with that? If you figure it out will you please let me know?
Needless to say it was exasperating and after weeks of debate I made up my mind to get a tattoo whether she decided to disown me or not. But my mother’s perspective, while hilarious and seriously outdated, does bring up an interesting point. During the years my mother was growing up tattoos were a symbol of anarchy and liberation; think Janis Joplin who famously said, "Women with tattoos like to f*ck.". Tattoos bespoke a life of crime, gay advocacy, flower power and radical feminism at its best (or worst).
Which begs the question…have tattoos become our generation’s version of bra-burning?
Look at some of the reasons tattoos are so appealing to women:
Appeal #1: Mom and Dad don’t like them. I’m sure there are exceptions but I have yet to meet a pair of parents excited about the prospect of their daughter getting a tribal band tattooed on her upper arm. Exactly what tribe is she a part of? It doesn’t matter; spiting Mom and Dad is fun.
Appeal #2: Men don’t like them. Sure there are exceptions but research has proven that the average man has more negative attitudes toward women with visible tattoos. It may not be a deal breaker but given the choice they prefer women without the artwork. Well, if we have learned anything from human history it is that women will look for any excuse to give a male dominated opinion the middle finger. “You guys don’t like tattoos? Well too bad, I‘m not getting it to please you.” It’s juvenile, it’s prideful. It doesn’t matter; putting the patriarchy in its place is fun.
Appeal #3: They are a physical right. We should call the shots when it comes to our bodies and tattoos are a visual proof of that fact. Nobody else has any say when it comes to having something permanently printed on our skin because we are the ones that have to live with that decision. Sensing any similarities to reproductive rights? Yup, pissing off radical conservatives is fun too.
Women are still in the trenches fighting for the right to make decisions about their own bodies regardless of what their family, significant other, or government dictates. Tattoos symbolize a small victory within that struggle. At its most basic level, tattoos are a social statement about the control that women DO possess. That when it comes to our bodies, no one can tell us what to do.
Even if we somehow end up looking like a pirate working a street corner.
If you still don’t think tattoos are culturally significant check out this article:
Got Ink? No Drink! Swedish Nightclub Doesn’t Serve Tattooed Women