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July 26, 2006

Girl-Watching Notes: Tattoos

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

I'll be a much happier girl-watcher once the vogue for tattoos has passed. Despite the fact that today's girls and young women are unquestionably awe-inspiring physical specimens (big, rambunctious, healthy, etc.), and although they seem to feel driven to show off ever more skin-acreage, the presence on so many of them of tattoos means that all -- well, nearly all -- of my girl-watching pleasure is spoiled.

(A few pre-emptive concessions: Who cares what turns me on? Young women certainly aren't performing for the likes of me. But who stops looking just because he -- or she -- is no longer in his 20s? And isn't having a reaction an important part of looking? As Debknits once wrote in a comment on this blog, more or less: "I'm middle-aged and married, I'm not dead.")

It occurs to me to wonder, though: Will the vogue for girl-tattoos pass? As the years go by, tattoos have begun to seem less like a fleeting thing and more like a standard fashion requirement. Perhaps a corner has been turned; perhaps there's no going back. God knows that the tattoos themselves aren't about to be put on a closet shelf like last season's baseball cap.

Why did respectable girls start thinking of tattoos as cool in the first place? The fact that respectable girls and young women now choose to wear permanent marks in their flesh has been one of the bigger, as well as one of the more surprising, culture changes that I've ever witnessed. I suppose that, among middle-class girls, tattoos started out as tribal markers of funky sexiness -- as a make-believe way of aligning themselves with the downtrodden. Interesting the way that "sex" and "the downtrodden" have become near-synonymous, isn't it? What's that about? And what does wearing a tattoo mean for the girls themselves? Er, the young women? I assume it means something along the lines of, "I'm doing what all the kids who are eager to be participants in the mating-and-dating thing are doing." But I might well be wrong.

I have a general culture-gestalt theory too: The advent of girl-tattoos is directly related to the computer-ification of everything. The computer screen (unlike the movie screen) is changeable, malleable, permeable, interactive. The acts of tattooing and piercing make the body's flesh become changeable and permeable in a similar way. The person wearing tattoos and piercings is saying, in effect, "I am a CPU, and my body is my personal computer screen." Behold YouTube's catch-line: "Broadcast Yourself."

The eternal feminine imperative to self-adorn is hard to underestimate. As the female body becomes ever more exposed, body-parts that were once considered intimate and private have gone public. These days, it seems, every square inch of a girl's body needs to be maintained in a state of camera-readiness. Yet, even in the face of these developments, girls are going to find some way to adorn themselves. If a girl can no longer adorn herself by covering up in alluring ways, then she's going to take a more direct and aggressive approach to making the flesh-goodies themselves appealing. Pierce 'em. Tattoo 'em.

Still, still ... When it comes to my own girl-watching pleasure, I just find tattoos a turn-off. God knows that I've tried to see them in a positive light. I still think fondly of Maria Bello's little butt-tattoo in "The Cooler," for instance. But Maria's marking wasn't a pushily-public tattoo, and the movie and the actress had both taken care to set the revealing moment up to mean something to the audience -- even in a nude scene, dramatic preparation counts for a lot. Perhaps especially in a nude scene.

I can think of a few reasons why I find girl-tattoos a turn-off. For one, I can't help imagining all these currently-young gals 50 years hence, wiling away their nursing-home time with tattoos besmirching their exhausted old-people skin. For another, I don't seem to be able to get past the connotations that the word "tattoo" carries for me: used-up convict, biker-chick, jailhouse guard, drug-addict, abused-and-angry-about-it ... Even the designs and colors strike me as a drag, especially the awful wax-paper blue/green that seems to make up 90% of most tattoos, which seems to me to kill any vibrancy the skin might have had. When a girl wears a big expanse of tattoo -- an entire shoulder or arm's worth, for instance -- she looks to me like she's wearing a coat of dead flesh.

As silly as it is for me to dwell on what turns me on and what doesn't turn me on, the topic raises a more general question that I find genuinely interesting to think about, which is: What's the age cut-off for finding girl-tattoos sexy? Extensive 2Blowhards research (ie., yakking with a few buds) suggests that guys older than 40 are seldom crazy about girl-tattoos, while guys younger than 25 take them as lively signs of sexual willingness -- basically as sex toys. Guys: Does this jibe with your experience? Gals: Have you gotten yourself tattoo'd? If so, why? If not, why not?

Related: I mused about thongs here and here. Here I shared my hunch that women are as preoccupied with baked goods as they are because they basically identify with baked goods.



posted by Michael at July 26, 2006


I've grown somewhat more accepting of girl-tattoos in the last couple of years. It used to be that I assumed that any tattooed woman was in one of two relatively unsavory categories: (1) spaced-out freakish hippie chick or (2) skank. As it's become more and more obvious that many if not most tattooed women are in neither category, my dislike of the things has lessened. A girl-tattoo is no longer an invariable signifier of undesirable social status.
None of which is to say that I *like* the danged things, only that I don't *dislike* them as much as I used to. Some girl-tattoos are objectionable on purely esthetic grounds, especially those dreadful tramp stamps. Others, such as those "tribal tattoos" on the upper arm or Chinese lettering (both types popular among men too) are so common they've become examples of sheeplike, going-along-with-the-crowd conformity ... rather ironic, as I would imagine that most people who get tattoos view them as signs of nonconformity.

Posted by: Peter on July 26, 2006 2:39 PM

Ah, the great questions of our time. Foremost among them, "Michael Blowhard: faux-naive, or genuinely clueless?" I have no idea. But to answer your question, tattoos are attractive because they are some kind of signifier of anything being changeable or malleable, but rather because they are permanent. In order to get a tattoo, one needs self-confidence and belief in oneself and one's identity. And that's always sexy. Not "sex toys" -- get real.

On the other hand, if you don't get a tattoo, often the reason is one of cowardice: you might like it today, but in 40 years you might not. No one finds worrying about what one may or may not think in 40 years' time to be particularly sexy. And if you insist on thinking about what a girl is going to look like in 50 years' time before deciding whether or not she's attractive today, that says much more about you than it does about tattoos. In any case, who cares what some woman in a nursing home has on her skin? What does that have to do with anything?

I also have no idea what you're talking about w/r/t "the eternal feminine imperative to self-adorn" -- after all, historically, the imperative to self-adorn seems to have been mostly male, not female.

And as for your mental connotations of the word "tattoo" -- well, I guess you're just a very verbal guy, and you see a tattoo and you think of the word tattoo and then you think of jails and convicts and whatnot and then you're turned off. But even you admit that tattoos today have nothing to do with jails or convicts or any of that, so obvs you're increasingly going to be in the minority there. In fact, I daresay that most people over 40 don't think of the word "tattoo" whenever they see a tattoo.

But do tell, Michael -- you must have had sex with a tattooed person at some point. Was it really that much of a turn-off for you? Are you really that concerned about "permanent marks"? In which case what do you think of, say, pierced ears?

Posted by: Felix on July 26, 2006 2:59 PM

I posted some of my tattoo thoughts early in June, but you raise some interesting thought-food here.

Our secretary is a mid-twentysomething with a degree from a decent university and has a tattoo near the base of her spine (not to mention a swarm of ringlets along the edges of her ears). So this helps confirm what you said about "respectable" girls.

But what about older women?

My impression is that most post-45 women who have tattoos tend to be in the lower socioeconomic tiers. This could change. I can imagine ladies of a certain age getting discrete tattoos (small, "tasteful" and in places easy to cover up). After all, plenty of gals try to "dress young" -- so why not "tattoo young."

I think tattoos on women look awful, largely for the reasons you gave. Oh well, few trends last forever.

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on July 26, 2006 3:04 PM

While I sometimes find tattoos attractive - and don't bother thinking of whatthey may look like 50 years hence - I think tattooing itself, on men and women, as representing something of a decline. It *can be* a somewhat desperate attempt at self-identification. Doesn't an otherwise attractive middle-aged person with, say, Hindu hieroglyph look a little sad, as if that person were so uncomfortable merely being thatthey felt the need to announce their identity to strangers, in the same way say that wearing some other advertisement for onesel may be?

In a fluid postmodern culture, identity is a tricky business, so why not mark yourself permanently with something announcing what you think/believe/want to be permanent?

That may partially explain Michael's verbal associations - not (only) that the people he associates with tattoos are somewhat marginal, but that their tattoos announce their marginalization. Someone with a tattoo was saying, in effect, I no longer belong, or want to belong, to my former class/religion/economic stratum (in American, this was usually humdrum middleclass). Now that tattoos are mainstreaming, perhaps that means the marginalized (or the marginal-chic?) have become the standard?

This somewhat depresses me because I sometimes think of the Western tradition moving away from (tattood celts and Gauls) to clean Romans/medievals (shades of my college classics degree, I suppose). The spread of literacy, etc. reduced the need for visual symbols announcing our tribal loyalties. While I think the tattooing trend may just be fashion, I think it has somewat disturbing social implications.

Posted by: Gerald on July 26, 2006 3:13 PM

I'm 41 and don't like them. It's not an improvement if the paint is wrose than the canvas.

That said, it wouldn't keep me away from a girl, everything else being equal.

Posted by: Todd Fletcher on July 26, 2006 5:53 PM

I was standing in a coffee shop next to a guy in his 20s who looked kind of low rent in a bicycle-messenger sort of way. As we were stirring stuff into our coffee, we were both looking through the window at a beautiful young woman, a sort of Nicole Kidman's more voluptuous younger sister sort, who was showing a portfolio of her modeling pictures to a middle aged man, presumably an agent.

"Whoa!" said the loser dude next to me.

I assented.

"And she's covered with tatoos!" He pointed out appreciatively.

My guess is that meant that he perceived her, from her tatoos, as having such overly-impulsive short term judgment that even he had a chance with her.

Posted by: Steve Sailer on July 26, 2006 6:16 PM

I worked at a law office where, of the under 30 women, 6 out of 7 had the requisite tattoo on the lower back. As a 30 year-old myself, I agree with Michael's opinion about them. I think they're terrible.

Posted by: Bryan on July 26, 2006 8:20 PM

Tattoos are yucky.

They never enhance anything or anyone.

Always a bad call to have a tattoo.

Posted by: Lexington Green on July 26, 2006 8:24 PM

Peter -- We're all nonconformists now, dammit.

Felix -- Given that I'm not attacking tattoos, why such an adamant defence of them?

Donald -- Few trends are literally engraved into the skin! Maybe the trend will pass, but the tattoos will still be with us.

Gerald -- What an interesting set of notions ... You've got me thinking of tattoos as a symptom or function of post-literacy ... Well, I'm persuaded.

Todd - "It's not an improvement if the paint is wrose than the canvas." Now that's a gem of a line. 41's an interesting age too, where the current tattoo-fad is concerned -- when they came in, you weren't yet an out of it old fart, but you were a little too old to be part of the wave. How did it hit you when you first noticed the trend? "Oh, these kids these days."? "Omigod, a youth trend I didn't see coming and don't fully understand. I guess I'm starting to be over the hill." Something else?

Steve -- That's a great reading of that moment. Maybe girls should give up the tattoos and just wear t-shirts saying "too impulsive for my own good" on them.

Bryan -- But aren't you just the age that should be finding girl-tattoos hot? How do most of your buds react to them?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on July 26, 2006 8:34 PM

Michael, if you didn't see _The Wedding Crashers_, you missed Vince Vaughn's pithy, crude and perfectly delivered offhand remark:

"Tatoo on the lower back? Might as well be a bullseye."

Posted by: Tim R. on July 26, 2006 8:56 PM

"Tatoo on the lower back? Might as well be a bulls-eye."

- Vince Vaughn, The Wedding Crashers

I don't think this advanced the discussion at all, but it's pretty funny.

Posted by: Tim R. on July 26, 2006 9:02 PM

They're not just ugly. They're depressing. How stupid are people, anyway? The designs are invariably of a quality that nobody--and I mean NOBODY--would commit to ornamenting their walls (as on an art print.) If not your walls, why your flesh?

Look through a school yearbook published from anywhere from about 1975 to 1990. What do you see on the women? Hair permanents, on EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM.

Do they look good?

Do they look good?

No--they look like total shit and everybody knows it, now that the hysteria has passed. Well, the tattoo hysteria will pass when the average age of their bearers hits about 30 or 35. Young girls just coming on the market will associate those nasty little things with nasty aging women--and goodbye to one more foolish trend.

Posted by: onetwothree on July 26, 2006 9:23 PM

I don't find them attractive physically, but I get turned on by what it says about their personality -- a bit more impulsive / thrill-seeking than average. How a girl's disposition animates her plastic form is just as important as the shell itself. I like that wild-child, dirty-talkin' attitude. And as I have two of my own (tasteful), it's an easy ice-breaker. Like if you both are out walking your dogs and shoot the shit about them.

I'm 25 btw. And I'll echo the "who cares?" about what she'll look like in 50 years. On that principle, what's stopping you from fast-forwarding 25 years after that, when she'll be a corpse?

Posted by: Agnostic on July 26, 2006 9:31 PM

I'm 40 myself, along with Todd part of that odd demographic that's just a couple of years too young to be a baby boomer, but similarly just a bit too old to fall into the pomo Gen-X slacker ethos. And I like that just fine, actually.

One thing I think Felix got right: tattoos don't strike me as being connected with the computer age, other than as a kind of reaction against it. Their permanence is indeed their salient point; the screen is permanent only in its impermanence.

I found Gerald's point about the Celtic past extremely thought-provoking. Tattooing the body surely does have some primal roots, and that's an issue well worth pondering.

I find them pretty much repulsive, FWIW. Fortunately, they have not really caught on here in Hong Kong; tattoos here are associated almost entirely with Triads/organized crime. You see a few here and there amongst timidly trendy young things, but I suspect most of them are of the wash-off variety.

Posted by: mr tall on July 26, 2006 9:33 PM

So Lower Class.

Posted by: The Social Pathologist on July 27, 2006 5:45 AM

Remember that Helen Mirren has a tattoo on her hand -- linked crosses -- below the web between thumb and index finger and necessarily covered with makeup when she's playing a part. She acquired it as a "wild child" while on location in Africa for a movie. Doesn't seem to ruin her image.

But, hey, what about tattoos on guys? Why is it guys can be rough, scarred, tattooed, hairy, and etc. but women are supposed to be like some porcelain vase with smooth skin? Is it because women are not supposed to have any life experience that might equip them to be critical?

I'm also interested in why there are no "scientific" breakthroughs in tattooland, like better ink and better ways to get it under the skin, though the sleazy waterfront operator who is also equipped to install piercing jewelry seems to be part of the syndrome of something dangerous, irreversible, naughty-- maybe secret except for intimates. (Like HIV or herpes status.)

Prairie Mary

Posted by: Mary Scriver on July 27, 2006 6:40 AM

The tattoo thing started circa 1995 IIRC, during my high school/early college days, so I don't think we can blame computers for it.

As usual, I disagree with Felix about everything. Tattoos seem to be a sign of insecurity, of covering up. And that might be why Michael doesn't like them. When a girl has tattoos, you're looking at the ink and not at her. Even without her clothes, she's never quite naked.

(As for my preferences in chicks, I'll go for any damn thing.)

onetwothree is right about the fad life cycle. Once it works its way down to the ugly people, the fad dies.

Posted by: Brian on July 27, 2006 6:41 AM

I can tolerate tattoos, but piercing is a real turn-off for me.

Posted by: The Monster from Polaris on July 27, 2006 8:17 AM

I love tattoos, as I've said here before. I've got a few of them and will probably get a few more. My wife has a few herself. Of course they're a trend. So what? Trends are just a communal way of connecting with your peers, of feeling a part of something greater than yourself. Some trends last a bit longer and are a bit more culturally significant than others. When the tattooing trend ends (I suppose it has to, although I see no signs of it slowing down), those of us who got inked will have a permanent, and hopefully aesthetically pleasing, reminder of what we were thinking and doing during our 20s, 30s, etc.

Attitudes towards tattoos are typically generational. People older than 40 generally dislike them and associate them with bikers. People below 40 have come of age with them and that biker association strikes us as somewhat quaint. (Although as with everything, there are exceptions to this, some of them on this very comment thread.)

I've never understood passionate reactions against modest tattooing. Usually the reasoning is that people who get tattooed think they're being non-conformist, when really they're just sheep following the herd. That smacks of bitterness and even a little jealousy to me. For one, it's almost categorically incorrect. I know many people with tattoos, and I can't think of one who felt "rebellious" or "nonconformist" for getting one. Mostly, they want to identify themselves with a particular group (the very opposite of nonconformism) AND express themselves visually.

As for sagging tattoos in 50 years, well, who cares? Of course they won't look as good as they did when the bearer was in his/her 20s, but what does?

Posted by: the patriarch on July 27, 2006 9:59 AM

I'd like to expand a little on this statement of mine:

I've never understood passionate reactions against modest tattooing. Usually the reasoning is that people who get tattooed think they're being non-conformist, when really they're just sheep following the herd. That smacks of bitterness and even a little jealousy to me.

The bitterness I think stems from observing people genuinely enjoying something that the observer would never consider for him/herself. It's an invalidation of one's sense of rightness. To that, I say, let it go.

Posted by: the patriarch on July 27, 2006 10:03 AM

"I found Gerald's point about the Celtic past extremely thought-provoking. Tattooing the body surely does have some primal roots, and that's an issue well worth pondering."

Tattooing is VERY old. Oetzi the Iceman had tattooes.

I don't much care for them for men or women but don't waste much time worrying about it. My 24 year-old daughter got one two years ago, but hasn't gotten another and seems to have gotten it out of her system. Same with piercings - she had three (eyebrow, lower lip, and tongue) and has taken them all out. My 20 year-old son thinks they are stupid and would never get one. He isn't as succeptible to peer-pressure as his sister. He's also a tight-wad and wouldn't spend money for one.

I like Jimmy Buffet's line about tatooes: "A permanent expression of a temporary feeling."

Posted by: Reid Farmer on July 27, 2006 10:44 AM

As the youngsters have stated here, none of those kids appears to be thinking about the future at all, which I think most 20somethings are guilty of. I was. (Though I would've realized a tattoo is forever, and not gotten one since even at that age I realized my tastes changed often.)

I think that's the primary answer, they're just not thinking about it. Particularly those girls who get a tattoo on their stomach or around their navel. Have they got a nasty surprise in store after their first child comes.

And if tattoos still mean sexually liberated (i.e. "I'd screw you as just soon as look at you."), what are these girls gonna do when they get married? "Oh, the ring negates the tattoo."?

Watch for the lamenting on blogs in 5 to 10 years about the tattoos.

For the record I, too, find tattoos anywhere from gross to just sad. I saw one girl this last weekend who had two paw prints between her shoulder blades. I wondered what was her message? Was it, "I'll do your dog, too!"?

Posted by: Yahmdallah on July 27, 2006 12:06 PM

A tattoo is essentially a more visible form of self-mortification. That basically says it all, to me.

Mix and Match female motivations for getting tattoos:

1. Lack of impulse control
2. Lack of pride
3. Lack of strong personal identity
4. Desire to buck tradition
5. Beauty marking/accentuation (see Cindy Crawford's mole)

The only acceptable one here for someone with civilized taste is #5. The others are all features that appeal primarily to Biker/Gangster and other tribalistic subculture phenomena. Most men would probably be somewhat attracted to the overall signalling that tattooed girls present (easiness, conformist, need for approbation) but only as a short term issue. One of my long-term female friends who never really received much attention as we were growing up found herself surrounded by men who were interested in her once the men decided they were looking for someone to marry and settle down with.

Posted by: Rendition on July 27, 2006 5:40 PM

I paint a lot, and as a painter I don't like tatoos at all. When I see one on a model, I always delete it. That anyone could think a silly ink stain is as beautiful as human flesh strikes me as odd. I am also under 40 (mid-thirties).

I guess people think its edgy, but how edgy can it be when so many people have them? Conforming in your non-conformity? I think people who get them think that it makes them somehow different from those who don't have them--special in some way.

I don't think they are art at all. Art you sell--are you gonna peel off your skin and sell it to someone if they like it? Or if they get one just like that, isn't that like someone copying a painting (forgery)? What makes art valuable is that it is one of a kind. Also, paintings you can get rid of rather easily--if they are worth something, you can sell 'em. And if not, you can just throw them away. Tatoos? Well......

Sexual turn-on? No. But its not a big deal if its only one, and its not too big. Women with lots of them, I don't like. Kind of like women who smoke--instant turn-off for me.

Its one trend I am waiting for to die out. The other is rap music. I give it another 5 years. Maybe for both.

Posted by: btm on July 27, 2006 10:10 PM

I find tatoos unattractive. Likewise piercing. In general, I have no idea why someone would want to add highly visible blemishes to their skin or otherwise disfigure their body.

Posted by: Peter L. Winkler on July 28, 2006 6:12 AM

My wife and I (both 44) have had this discussion several times. Neither of us can imagine getting a tattoo ourselves, which is probably a function of when we grew up and our current age. But we also await the day - not too long in coming, unless I'm badly mistaken - when the fad has run its course. The slide from "edgy" to "trashy" (and the climb back up) is a hard cycle to overcome.

Posted by: Derek Lowe on July 28, 2006 6:25 AM

Let's face it, kids have never given any thought to the future. It's not in them to do so. No one ever starts thinking about the future until they become responsible for the future of another. Nothing matures a person like having a child.

Tattoos? It's never been about the tattoos. It's about the person who wears them. The purpose of a tattoo or make-up or jewelry or clothes is to draw attention to the person wearing them. To get you to notice them. The best serve to emphasize a person's qualities, the worst drive people away.

Ultimately the goal of personal decoration is to get a person to feel good about himself. More confident, and thus more outgoing and better able to treat others well.

If all you can see is the tattoo, then you're not really seeing at all.

Posted by: Alan Kellogg on July 28, 2006 7:33 AM

Re: youth & impulsiveness -- there are no substantial changes in high-level personality factors like Conscientiousness after 30, and even after one graduates college, personality has pretty much gelled into place. So, there's no noticeable trend of becoming more future-oriented / less impulsive as one grows older. The only ones who believe in this trend are highly conscientious adults, who of course associate with other highly conscientious adults. McCrae & Costa wrote a book summarizing this, though they've written plenty of articles as well.

And re: "How can it be construed as non-conformist or edgy when so many people are doing it?" We have to define "many" -- the human mind is ill-equipped to intuitively deal with big numbers. So, on an absolute level, there sure are lots of folks w/ tattoos. On a _frequency_ level, probably at most 1% of all people have tattoos. Schizophrenia is more prevalent (at ~3%). It's like saying, "There are so many rich people" -- maybe absolutely, but they only make up the top 5% or so of the population.

Posted by: Agnostic on July 28, 2006 12:06 PM

"there are no substantial changes in high-level personality factors like Conscientiousness after 30,"

Are you 30 yet, Agnostic? Don't mean to seem catty, but I've changed quite a bit since I turned 30.

Posted by: the patriarch on July 28, 2006 12:28 PM

Tattoos are visual pollution, yet as pollution goes it's pretty harmless.
I'm 41, so there you go. When I was in my salad days the man-with-one-earring craze was taking off, and I didn't get that, either.

Beyond ears, I find body piercings on women disturbing, though sometimes a nose-ring doesn't do too much damage to the appearance.

Posted by: Jake on July 28, 2006 12:36 PM

As I read your posting, there gathered in my head a response comprising several hundred well-chosen words, polished phrases, subtle observations, and witty bons mots. But doggone it, Michael, as happens so often, you and your brainy commenters said it all and better. May I add just one more thing? Duh.

Posted by: Rick Darby on July 28, 2006 1:53 PM

I'm 25, but I'm talking about the peer-reviewed literature on the topic. After 30, there's little change. There is more change during young adulthood, say going from 18 to 23, but from 30 to 35, not really. You may think you've changed, but our memory is biased in a few ways: for example, we tend to attend to or notice things that pop out of the background (the same principle that works for what we attend to visually), as rare as they may be, and so we might overestimate their true prominence or frequency. But if you'd been given a personality questionnaire when you were 25 & when you were 35, you wouldn't see much difference. Or if neutral observers made notes of you at 25 and 35; if close relatives made the judgment, etc.

A short, easily readable book on this is McCrae & Costa's Personality in Adulthood, which is searchable at the Amazon link.

Posted by: Agnostic on July 28, 2006 2:25 PM

Agnostic, your last comment is adorable.

Posted by: the patriarch on July 28, 2006 3:12 PM

everyone's writing about it these days. this blogger has an entry too about tattoos...far less cerebral, but gets the point across.

Posted by: mike on July 28, 2006 4:41 PM

Patriarch, I agree that Agnostic's comments are very cute. Ah, to have so little life experience and so much faith in the soft "sciences"! Makes me nostalgic.

Posted by: MQ on July 28, 2006 7:33 PM

I am a female with a tattoo and I don't think I fit the description tattooed women are portrayed to be. I strive to be a good wife and make sure the house is clean, my make-up is done and supper is ready by the time my husband gets home. I’m not a skank.( I've kissed a total of three guys and my husband is the only guy I've ever slept with and that didn't take place until after we were married.) I was deemed valedictorian of my graduating class. I’m starting college this fall and have obtained a great scholarship. I attend church regularly and have never had alcohol. I hope this helps to obliterate the stereotypical image of tattooed females.

By the way my tattoo is of a butterfly on my right foot.

Posted by: Carly Sue on July 31, 2006 2:34 PM

One aspect of the tattoo craze that is neglected here is the influence of "roots" -- ethnic co-opting in music, food, dance, etc. To have a "prison" type tattoo (skulls and snakes), a seaman tattoo (hula girl who dances when you wiggle your tummy), military service tattoo (Marine anchor), "cute" tattoo (butterfly or leaf) -- all those are signals.

A Maori or African tribal tattoo says something else, maybe about the person's own heritage -- maybe not. Maybe a message of solidarity with autochthonous peoples. Harvey Keitel in "The Piano" signaled that he'd gone native with his face tattoos and I found them attractive.

Not much interest in patterned keloid-type scarring, for which one probably needs African skin, though I once had a roommate whose skin always scarred in an embossed surface like that. She did NOT like it.

MUCH current interest in such things as the henna painting of hands and festival face painting on little kids. Native Americans have always been into face painting. Some remarkable photo books on this sort of thing.

Once I preached about marking oneself and spoke of tattooing, scarring, piercing. I said, "What's next? Mutilation?" It was a small group and the teens spoke up. "Already doin' it." (A trend that was evidently quickly squelched and not publicized.) Cutting off fingers -- the Plains Native Americans did that to show mourning. Hair-cutting is less permanent but related.

Prairie Mary

Posted by: Mary Scriver on July 31, 2006 6:17 PM

Just like racism I find these comments about body art highly offensive. Guys loosen up and open your eyes to women and their individual choices to express themselves!

Posted by: jane eyre on July 31, 2006 9:59 PM

j. eyre wrote:

"Just like racism I find these comments about body art highly offensive."

It's necessary first to expose inkism so that folks understand how deep it runs through society.

"Guys loosen up and open your eyes to women and their individual choices to express themselves!"

It's too late. Since I read MB's opus woman-as-pastry article, the tattoos all look like bread mold now!

Posted by: Jake on August 1, 2006 11:37 AM

Tattoos are like clothing- Im not going to sit around and bitch about your style, or your style... NO!! Its your body, your temple, yours to do WHATEVER you want with..We have life, and we have freedom.. and No you dont see people riding around with buggies and spearing fish anymore? So should we bitch about "nice" carS? Because they are different and evolving with the times? Pull your heads out, its life, were here for a GOOD time not a LONG time.. "So Do what you want.. Be who you want to be and say what you want to say because those who mind dont matter, and those who matter dont mind."

Posted by: Mac on August 21, 2006 3:59 PM

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