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Found this article today, its a few months old but interesting nonetheless.

"What do you think when you see a woman with a tattoo? This is not a question with a right or wrong answer; this is a question of perception. So I guess, the real question is, “How do you perceive a woman with a tattoo in society? Does it affect how you judge her?” Of course it does. As much as a woman’s blond hair or pretty face leads her to be judged. But a tattoo isn’t the result of DNA, it’s a choice, an assertion. But how did tattoos become taboo for women, and most importantly where can we go from here?..."

GUEST POST: FEMINISM & TATTOOS: A WOMAN’S RIGHT TO INK

Posted by Ashley on November 3, 2010 at 9:08 am.

When Janet approached me with this guest post topic, I was really interested. I’ve always been intrigued by body modifications, particularly tattoos. I have one myself (it’s small and on my foot), but stopped there, mostly because there is such a stigma about women with tattoos, and when I got mine I was a junior in college, still very worried about my job prospects. I remember agonizing over the size and placement of the tattoo – it needed to be small enough and placed somewhere that was easily covered if I needed to cover it for a job interview. I did cover it, too, frequently because I was worried about what people would think of me.

So, needless to say, I was really excited for this guest post, and when I read it, I was even more excited to share it with you! I think Janet brings up some very interesting points here about women and their choices when it comes to their bodies. And many of these points can be applied to other choices women have, as well, and other stigmas we face.

What do you think when you see a woman with a tattoo? This is not a question with a right or wrong answer; this is a question of perception. So I guess, the real question is, “How do you perceive a woman with a tattoo in society? Does it affect how you judge her?” Of course it does. As much as a woman’s blond hair or pretty face leads her to be judged. But a tattoo isn’t the result of DNA, it’s a choice, an assertion. But how did tattoos become taboo for women, and most importantly where can we go from here?

History

Thousands of years before Christ, women were getting tattooed. Evidence of body art has been found on the mummified female bodies of both Egyptians and Greeks. The designs and reasoning behind the tattoos vary from culture to culture but the existence of markings is common. Early theories postulated that mummies with these tattoos were marked as women of ill-repute, “dancing girls” or of a lower class. But there are other factors which poke holes in this belief. The nature of the art implies that it may have been done for spiritual and protective purposes. Also, many of these women were buried in close proximity to royals, which could indicate higher status. And at least one body which was initially believed to belong to a concubine was later determined to have more likely been a priestess.

Throughout history though, tattoos have been used to denote some less than reputable activities. In Ancient China, criminals, bandits and prisoners frequently possessed tattoos. In Japan and other countries women engaging in the oldest profession used tattoos to tacitly communicate their role. But while histories like these denote tattoos as an indication of lower class, in other cultures, like the Philippines, tattoos on women were considered a thing of beauty. Unfortunately, when tattoos became commonplace in western culture it was with predominantly negative connotations. Religious beliefs surrounding tattoos have also done little to elevate the status of ink. Judism, Muslim and Christianity all frown on body modification for both sexes. These pervasive religious beliefs, combined with the history of tattoos on women help us understand the origins of the negative stigma associated with women and tattoos.

Stigma

We’d like to think a lot has changed. But ancient stigmas have managed to find their way into modern culture even though tattoos have had a long history on women in the US. They were popular among women in the 20’s even the “higher class” women. In the 60’s tattoos ran rampant on women in hippie culture. Today, celebrities and public figures of all kinds are sporting different forms of body art. All around us tattoos are pervasive in our society and yet we find that there are still negative stigma’s attached to tattoos on women.

Perhaps the greatest indication of this truth is the most famously labeled female tattoo, “the tramp stamp”. This particular icon is identified as a tattoo of any kind on the small of a woman’s back sitting slightly above (or below) the line of her pants. Women who have this tattoo are often branded as sexually promiscuous. Is it a fair assumption that women with these tattoos have gotten them to entice men or to advertise their willingness to engage in sexual activity? No probably not. Sure, art on the lower back is easy to reveal by wearing crop tops or low-rise jeans, and yes there are probably some women who have chosen that tattoo because of its sexual overtones. But it is also a location which can be easily covered by typical work clothing and it is a place which is unlikely to be drastically affected by pregnancy or weight change. Unfortunately the practicalities associated with tattoos on this part of the body are ignored in favor of the more popular, and degrading stereotypes.

To Remove or Take a Stand

The fact is, even now women receive more negative reactions to their body art than men. Whether it is because of the historical connotations or the modern stigma that still remains attached to women with ink, the fact is it is yet another battle for free expression. Even in a world so vastly more conscious of equality, women must still fight for their rights in both overt and subtle ways. A woman’s right to ink remains one of the latter.

A recent study from Texas Tech suggests that women are much more inclined to seek tattoo removal at some point in their lives than men. They also found that in many cases the decision to do so came from outside influences. Women who got tattooed early in life are later attempting to undo them. The reasons vary, but they seem to be predominantly linked to careers and life changes, like marriage and children. But is this a sign of women acquiescing to a society that views tattoos as out of place on respectable women? Although to be fully fair, men do undergo some of the same job and family pressures to conform to a particular image that often does not include tattoos. Perhaps it only seems that women are under greater scrutiny for their body art. But when you consider the history of tattoos, and how frequently a woman’s character is judged by her ink it’s hard not see an imbalance.

Tattoos are, in their own right, yet another way for women to assert independence and their right to equality. It is our right to express ourselves in any way we choose, in voice, in writing and in art, including body art. We can only hope that someday a woman can freely get a tattoo, anywhere she wants without fear of social repercussions. Perhaps, one day we will. We can only hope that in that same day we will be able to wear what we please, earn equal wages for the jobs we perform and not fear that our credibility will be undermined by our looks. And that will be a very good day

Guest Post: Feminism & Tattoos: A Woman

For all the ladies out there, do you feel like you are percieved differently due to your tattoos? Heavily tattooed women, if you didnt notice a difference with your first few pieces, have you noticed something different the more covered you become?

I want to hear from the gents as well! What do you think? Do you noticed more women getting slag about their work than men?

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what i seem to notice is that the only men with balls big enough to date a heavily tattooed woman are heavily tattooed themselves, but i might be wrong of course, this is just what ive noticed.

most tattooed folk will attract a few looks when out and about but people cant help but downright stare when they notice tattooed women, in the summer i dread wearing shorts knowing all i'll get is questions, and i cant stand answering the same shit over and over again. though i'm always left alone when im waking around with stewart (my other half), it might be to do with the fact hes even more heavily tattooed, over 6" tall and is usually frowning at them already haha.

i guess when im on my own, people dont seem to be scared of me as they seem of him, if im alone, they will ask more readily expecting a sweet young girl to just be that, sweet, and kindly answer their questions.

its that that particularly that annoys me most, do they really think im gonna entertain them? a complete stranger? just cos im a girl?

what worries me is what the media is making tattooed women out to be. it has always loved a slutty-tattooed-woman scandal. were all sex/fame/money hungry according to them, when in all honesty, some might be, but really, theres WAY more untattooed women that way inclined. but hey, thats another much more elaborate post i cant put my energy into right now.

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most tattooed folk will attract a few looks when out and about but people cant help but downright stare when they notice tattooed women, in the summer i dread wearing shorts knowing all i'll get is questions, and i cant stand answering the same shit over and over again. ....

i guess when im on my own, people dont seem to be scared of me as they seem of him, if im alone, they will ask more readily expecting a sweet young girl to just be that, sweet, and kindly answer their questions.

its that that particularly that annoys me most, do they really think im gonna entertain them? a complete stranger? just cos im a girl?

It doesn't happen that much in San Francisco and Oakland, and I'm pretty good at blocking it out when it happens to me, but it seems to bug me more when it happens to my girlfriends. Once while hiking in Bryce Canyon in Utah, my friend Liz was accosted so many times, including complete strangers grabbing at her arms, that we almost turned back. Another time, at a restaurant in Vegas, an entire table full of men had turned their chairs and were not trying to hide, at all, the fact that they were staring at my friend's tattoos. I was talked out of going over to speak with them. In both situations, I believe it was their mostly covered arms that were what were drawing them in.

Another time, I was eating at the bar in a restaurant with a girlfriend who has a strong chest piece of irises. An older man came by and Asked "Can I ask you a question?" She freaked, "No you can't, I'm trying to eat my meal, get the fuck away from us..." I though her reaction was a little strong at the time, now I understand where she was coming from. He sure as hell wasn't going to ask any men about their chest pieces.

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Wow this is a great topic. Where I live there is not a lot of heavily tattooed people, not that I am heavily tattooed but I do have a good start. I think that my wife gets more looks of "oh my god keep away from her" from people than I do (she has less tattoos than I do, we both are having sleeves done). Of course I have had my forearm tattooed for longer time so maybe I am used to people looking and what not. I think that the most questions of "Why would you do that??" and many others comes from family and non immediate family. So I usually take the time to answer them. The way I see it, I don't care if they have one or not, I am going to do what makes me happy, who knows how long we are here on earth for so don't put things off that you want to do. So if I can educate them on it they will never ask me about it again and they can go on with their lives LOL Out in public only people that are really interested in them seem to ask us both about them.

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For years I was often the most, if not only tattooed woman in my community.

I went back to school when I was 24 and it got pretty tiring hearing myself referred to as the tattoo lady.

My husband was an NCO in the army and we lived on military bases through the late 90s so I think doing tattoos and being tattooed people had a lot of preconceived notions and were surprised that a had a lovely home and happy ,healthy children.

I think people still have some prejudices but now that tattoos are more mainstream- now with the negative comments and opinions ( that people feel compelled to share with me) there's also the positive comments.

People rarely ask me about or talk to me about tattoos , which I'm pretty pleased about.

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Julio, that is so true, I can go out with any number of my guy friends or my boyfriend who are heavily tattooed and I am always the one who gets the stares, questions and people trying to touch me. It's higly annoying, although nothing new. I've delt with it, but it doesn't get any less annoying.

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Julio, that is so true, I can go out with any number of my guy friends or my boyfriend who are heavily tattooed and I am always the one who gets the stares, questions and people trying to touch me. It's higly annoying, although nothing new. I've delt with it, but it doesn't get any less annoying.

Mel Maybe this summer I will notice it more. Right now its way to damn cold to wear a tank top or tee-shirt. LOL (this morning it was -31deg C which converted to F is -23.8)

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not to belittle your experiences, but could it also be that you draw attention because you are attractive? do you think ugly girls get approached about their tattoos or ignored in general...

i know the above sounds shallow but i notice men will come up with ANY reason to talk to pretty girls.

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Maybe, but I notice it with more than just guys, I notice it at the grocery store, the airport security line, never fails my boyfriend will pass through with a bottle of lotion, costco size and I will have the lil 3.4 oz bottle in a plastic bag and they will find something of mine to throw away and won't touch his bag and this is when we are traveling together. Funny thing is, he laughs about it and says only ME, because it's happened every time we travel together.

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Well I live in So cal and its been 70-77 here, but regardless of weather, it's hard to hide neck and hand tattoos, no matter how cold it is.

Ahh yes that would be harder to conceal LOL

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For me, the thing that is the most frustrating is the notion that when a woman chooses to become heavily tattooed the majority of the public seems to think it is no longer necessary to approach heavily tattooed women with proper manners. I actually had a man tell me I had lost my right to privacy because of my tattoos. Honestly, if you're a stranger, what's going on underneath my clothes is none of your business and you're being rude. If you don't know me, why on earth would it be proper to grab, stroke or touch my tattoos? Again, you are a stranger and this is sheer rudeness, and inappropriate. What if someone approached your daughter/sister/wife in this way? Would that be okay? Highly unlikely. When approached in this manner, it is challenging to be nice to people. Although I do believe it's incredibly important to be as kind and patient with folks when asked about the tattoos. I truly believe anytime you can undermine someone's preconceived notions of what tattooed people are about it's a win.

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For me, the thing that is the most frustrating is the notion that when a woman chooses to become heavily tattooed the majority of the public seems to think it is no longer necessary to approach heavily tattooed women with proper manners. I actually had a man tell me I had lost my right to privacy because of my tattoos. Honestly, if you're a stranger, what's going on underneath my clothes is none of your business and you're being rude. If you don't know me, why on earth would it be proper to grab, stroke or touch my tattoos? Again, you are a stranger and this is sheer rudeness, and inappropriate. What if someone approached your daughter/sister/wife in this way? Would that be okay? Highly unlikely. When approached in this manner, it is challenging to be nice to people. Although I do believe it's incredibly important to be as kind and patient with folks when asked about the tattoos. I truly believe anytime you can undermine someone's preconceived notions of what tattooed people are about it's a win.

WOW. I had no idea this shit happened. Seriously- "You'd lost your right to privacy"?!?! What kind of asshole makes that connection to being tattooed? I thought with the mainstreamization of tattooing this kind of thinking had disappeared...

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Same comment here: I'd say my lady gets 100% more attention. She comes home fuming about dudes on the train obviously staring at her tattoos and she even gets approached when we're together. Not saying it's always some lecherous weirdo, but where I'll get asked maybe once or twice during the year, in the spring and summer it seems like every other week she's got a new story. If someone asks her about them, she's always very polite and directs them to the shop and says thank you (since it's always complimentary).

The worst part for her (and I guess uncomfortable for me, too) is getting ogled on the train or in a restaurant. Watching someone's eyes following the lines, or turning their head to see what it is. It's not too bad in New York but there's no accounting for poor manners. Luckily, neither of us have ever gotten the ignorant, accusatory comments. Comes with the territory. But c'mon..

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im so glad it started to pick up on this thread!

I am by no means heavily tattooed, (I currently have 8 pieces in my collection, two of them are rather large however, a half sleeve on my left arm and a good size piece on my calf) and even I have issues with people more often than not. I am all for answer questions about where i got my piece done, who did it, why etc etc etc, most of the time. As traceelinn said, whenever you can change someones preconceived notion about the tattooed community, its a step in the right direction. That being said, im sorry I cant stay at the counter at Starbucks an extra 10 minutes telling you all about my ink. I dont want a 5 minutes grocery run to last 30+ mins. It is unfortunate that onlookers decide they have the right to treat any tattooed person as a circus animal(unless thats what you are going for haha). I am female, and i have always gotten a few extra glances, not that I'm hot shit, i just have boobs. go figure. But tattoo ogling is so much more accosting than normal.

I have plenty of male friends that are more covered that as most have mentioned here, are not approached nearly as often.

On the topic of tattoos and judging. I must admit, I am particular about what I find attractive, I suppose you would say. I have to catch myself at times passing judgement on what I think is a crappy tattoo (concept or execution). That has nothing to do with the sex of the person that has the tattoo. Personally, I dont like vulgar tattoos, I would never want to have something of that nature on MY body, however their tattoo is on them so whatever rubs your buddha.

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WOW. I had no idea this shit happened. Seriously- "You'd lost your right to privacy"?!?! What kind of asshole makes that connection to being tattooed? I thought with the mainstreamization of tattooing this kind of thinking had disappeared...

The guy was most likely some religious fanatic or maybe just some plain old jerk that has no human decency. Either way sometimes you just got to react to the situation at hand and it may not be pleasant. Better to show them how rude they are towards another fellow human.

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Props to my wife for starting a really interesting topic! It is interesting to see the response out there.

I am not a fan of the "if you have tattoos, then you waive your right to privacy." My own mother said that to me once. No one waives their right to privacy simply because they decide to decorate their body with something they warrant as attractive or has some meaning to them. It follows the rule your parents taught you as a child: It's impolite to stare. I don't have that many tattoos [yet], and the few I do have are hidden on a general basis. That being said I don't have to endure the same stares, comments, and criticisms as those that are heavily tattooed. Especially the ladies out there. But, when people find out I have tattoos, I am generally bombarded with the "what is it; where'd you get it; what does it mean?" questions. I don't have a problem answering but, I have yet to get to the point of people stopping me every twenty feet to ask about them.

The notion, I think, the ladies have to deal with is three-fold. First, there is a preconceived notion that women are supposed to be sweet and demure; and tattoos seem to be counter-intuitive to those of this frame of mind. Most of the controlling interest in society is still of the generation, or a strong product of that generation, that women are supposed to behave lady-like. They do not think that a woman can have tattoos and still be lady-like. I know that may sound hyper-conservative, not to mention horribly sexist, but I challenge you to look at it from this point of view. How often, ladies in particular, have you gone on a job interview and accidentally flashed a wrist tattoo? Did you notice if your interviewer changed demeanor once they saw it? If things were going so well, then the tattoo was revealed and you didn't hear back from them; why do you think that happened? Unfortunately, not matter how the culture may be changing, the corporate world is still controlled by those that have an issue with tattoos in the workplace; especially ladies with tattoos.

Second, tattoos on a woman are like adding flourish to art work. As an artist, the feminine form is a masterpiece. There is a reason why they are called the fairer sex. Everyone, regardless of gender, enjoys looking at women. We like how they move, and look. It is a subconscious attraction. When we watch the Red Carpet specials we are there to see the ladies in their expensive gowns, and fabulous hair styles; and comment accordingly. We only notice men if they have a strong charisma, charm, or personality; which is what makes them truly attractive. Otherwise men fade into the background. Humanity has admired a woman's beauty since the stone age. Why do you think that there are more works of art about women than men? Look at the Masters and their portfolios. More often than not women are a prominent focus to their work. Add tattoos to that subconscious attraction and you create a monster that will stop at nothing to absorb every curve and detail. That is what creates the people that ogle as a tattooed woman walks past.

Finally, the last reason is actually quite horrible; but I think it is truthfully worth mentioning. The final reason is that society thinks that a woman that has tattoos is only in it for the attention. Like I said, it is heartless, as I know most women are not of that mindset when they get tattoos. For some reason there is a preconceived notion, again among the older crowd and their lackies, that women who wear "girly" clothes [i.e.: tank tops, skirts, sleeveless dresses, etc] and reveal their ink are being show-offs. I, in no way, agree with this statement, and I do think that the dynamic is changing, but there are a few hold-outs that feel this way.

I want to go on record to say that the above is just guess work on my part. I am not omniscient and do not know what people are really thinking. I am only going on what I have gleaned from conversations with people over the years about the topic; and what I see on a daily basis. Observations and opinions run rampant and, like artistic critique, everyone's interpretation is different. I am part of the culture and, along with my wife, feel that this is a topic that needs to be more openly discussed to break down the perceptions of others; especially the individuals that find something taboo about our artistic expression. It has been said here before: If we can change one person's perception of tattoos, then we have moved a step in the right direction.

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This tattoo forum and LSTers continue to amaze and impress me with their passions and articulate manners in which they positively and respectfully engage with one another on such a spectrum of topics from around the world......thanks for being a part and contributing! keep it coming!!!!!

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