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Cultural appropriation and unintentionally racist tattoos in modern tattoo culture...


Isotope
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This is a thread to express your opinions, vent, rationalize, etc.

Since I started getting more tattooed, I've noticed a rise in so-called "social justice warriors" calling out of people and attempting to shame them for what a blogger, by their own estimation, deems to be racist tattoos. Vigilante tattoo shaming, if you will.

I have some strong opinions, but I wanted to open the floor to the much more experience crowd here to give their specific stories or opinions. I'm really really curious to hear what you all have to say!

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Some good discussion here: http://www.lastsparrowtattoo.com/forum/tattoo-designs-books-flash/1845-native-american-tattoos-designs.html

Some people feel one way, some feel another way, we all come from different reference points and the world keeps turning. This is a tricky subject to raise.

I think it's always a conversation worth having, and this is the type of place I'd be much more interested in listening to/reading it, as opposed to the cesspool of internet that lies out yonder. Thanks for the link!

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I try to ignore them, personally. Unless intentionally and obviously a racial/ethnic/religious/national/whatever slur, there are too many people inventing and imagining slights just to draw attention to themselves and gain control over others. There are too many real problems with society to worry about reading something into someone's ink.

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I'm bothered by it sometimes. We all have our own boundaries. An Indian Headdress, for example, is a tattoo I would not wear. I have no intention of calling out someone who would as I don't know their relationship with that imagery. I really like Ganesha as a tattoo image but will probably not have it done because I don't know enough about the meaning. I might get Isis someday as she has mostly fallen off as a current god. Perhaps she will come back someday. My daughter could use a god created in her image to look up to. Like many people I struggle with consistency.

The only caution I would have for all of us, myself included, is to not give tattoos a free pass on some of these kinds of issues just because we like tattoos. It's an easy trap to fall into.

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There's definitely certain things I wouldn't wear just because I wouldn't want to get constantly questioned or accused. I'm not offended by much personally, but I wouldn't want to hear other people's whining every time they catch a glimpse of my tattoo. But I support an artist making whatever art they want, whether it's a painting or a tattoo, and absolutely believe people should have the right to get whatever they want on themselves. So if someone wants to get a severed samurai head tattoo and doesn't mind idiotic SJWs saying it's racist against the Japanese, they should totally have the right to. Even deliberately offensive and racist designs I have no issue with, it's just not something I would want on myself.

I guess the bottom line is no one has any right to tell someone else what they should do with their body, but some people still think it's their place to "educate" people about culture, so it's something to be prepared for if you do want an "offensive" tattoo.

And I don't believe in the whole idea of cultural appropriation to begin with. No one culture created everything, we all have to borrow and share from each other, and I think that's more a sign of respect than it is to say "No, I can't get that tattoo, I'm not Asian/black/whatever." I think that does nothing but create unnecessary divisions.

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Ugh I could write so much on this topic but I have to get ready for work soon. I'll put it in a nutshell though. First of all, my opinions on this topic are constantly evolving and changing. I also strongly believe that in the USA, the people in power in this country are deliberately manipulating the media and the police force to create strong racial tension that will eventually break out into rioting, giving the state the opportunity to declare martial law (whole other topic of discussion). So with that being said, cultural appropriation and race are hot topics and very sensitive and close to home for a lot of people, also creating a complex of white guilt among many people (bullshit), which is where a lot of the internet social justice warriors come from. No seriously, next time you see someone yelping on the internet, just for curiosity, take a look at their race. So from my perspective, many of these concerns and emotional triggers are definitely valid, but also being blown up to push the buttons of the public to engage in certain hot topics and ignore other extremely disturbing shit that is happening behind the curtain (GMO engineering, climate engineering, drone warfare, DARPA, CERN, etc).

So if a tattoo is offensive to you, guess what? The internet isn't the place to get into it. Talk to the person wearing it, you don't know the reason that they got that tattoo. It could be satirical, or it could be legitimately ignorant. You may have the chance to change your own point of view or influence someone else's.

As for the whole white privilege/guilt thing in regards to cultural appropriation, everyone should be aware of their privilege so as to not capitalize on it and marginalize other people, everyone should generally be good to other people, and nobody should feel guilty about things that their ancestors have done because guess fucking what? You weren't there for it, you had nothing to do with it, and you can't change the past.

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Here's an article that might be of interest in terms of defining cultural appropriation: Fashion's Cultural-Appropriation Debate: Pointless - The Atlantic

Another one: http://everydayfeminism.com/2013/09/cultural-exchange-and-cultural-appropriation/ (unsure about what exactly "western culture" means in this context though, if there is such a thing as a western culture, so there are some issues w/this article)

It's tricky because many people who try to comment on cultural appropriation specifically within tattooing often don't know anything about tattoos (I'll include myself here, trying to do better). Knowledge complicates things. I agree that this isn't a great conversation for the internet, though here we are, and I have learned more by talking to artists in person about religious iconography and stuff like that. I do think cultural appropriation is a real & worthy issue, but a lot of the discussion around it is pretty unfortunate.

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But isnt 'not giving a fuck' also part of the tattoo community? I thought people accessed too tattoos because you can create/make whatever u want.

I think what you're saying is partially true. I know that tattoos are no longer seen to be nearly as deviant as they once were, (in fact, I'd say having one or two small tattoos is mainstream), but at the same time, the industry of tattooing is still associated with the whole societial-rebel scene of not giving a fuck. I think that as far as individuals go, however, the whole stereotype of the "deviant, doesn't-give-a-fuck" attitude is modernly only applied to those of us who choose to get sleeves or any visible multitude of tattoos, because that isn't "normal" yet.

But stereotypes are just stereotypes. Even if someone has a multitude of visible tattoos, they could still give a fuck about what other people think. Those types of people probably are very careful about choosing tattoo subject matter because they are afraid of offending someone if they have a dream catcher on their arm, but aren't related to aboriginal roots in any way.

Personally, I'm a bit in the middle. If I wanted a pinup girl tattoo or traditional flash of a mermaid bearing her nipples, but was afraid of offending the strict feminists in the world who might think pinup girls represent the objectification of women, I'd disagree with them, but I'd still give a fuck and recognize that those people exist, so I'd get the tattoo somewhere it could be easily hidden.

I think most people with tattoos give a fuck to a certain degree. Hence why a lot of us squabble about the ethics of facial/neck tattoos. If we didn't give any fucks at all, we'd be content to let anyone get tattooed where ever they wanted, with whatever subject matter, by a scratcher in your friend's kitchen.

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  • 6 months later...

And I don't believe in the whole idea of cultural appropriation to begin with. No one culture created everything, we all have to borrow and share from each other, and I think that's more a sign of respect than it is to say "No, I can't get that tattoo, I'm not Asian/black/whatever." I think that does nothing but create unnecessary divisions.

I've thought about it a lot. After all, isn't a large amount of artists who tattoo 'Japanese' imagery for example not Japanese themselves? And no one seems to get upset about that I think the key here is respect and also an acceptance that some people (especially of religion your image is connected to) might take offence. I'd agree there's no way to know a person's personal connection to an image, but I don't agree with overtly racist hate imagery I'm afraid.

- - - Updated - - -

As for the whole white privilege/guilt thing in regards to cultural appropriation, everyone should be aware of their privilege so as to not capitalize on it and marginalize other people, everyone should generally be good to other people, and nobody should feel guilty about things that their ancestors have done because guess fucking what? You weren't there for it, you had nothing to do with it, and you can't change the past.

True

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I met a woman several years ago and found out later she was Native American. To me it was just who she was and not the point to my liking her. The thing is I've learned things about her culture and her family's struggle due to their heritage that I never knew happened in the modern day. She's a beautiful, accepting, open minded, intelligent, loving woman who happens to be one of the most important people in my life. I wanted to get a Native American image tattoo to commemorate my friendship with her and then found myself feeling that it was necessary to get her permission. Not sure where that feeling comes from but because of that feeling I've simply decided that if I needed to have her permission then in someway it was not MY tattoo. I may talk to her about it someday but for now I just love her and her friendship and continue to learn about her and her family's ways. Just my two cents on why I will not cross the cultural appropriation line...not now anyway. We'll see where things lead down the road. I do feel that someone should ask themselves why they want an image that has nothing to do with their own self. But it's just my thoughts and I wouldn't judge someone for their thoughts.

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I've never understood the whole "cultural appropriation" thing. I think it just smacks of whinging for the sake of it.

"oh x demographic is taking away our culture by having that hairdo/tattoo/whatever"

Just seems a little childish to me.

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery so if I like the style or imagery of a given culture/religion/whatever I don't understand how it can be seen as offensive to have that tattooed on me.

I wouldn't however have a tribal tattoo, as I don't belong to a tribe and I don't think I have the right to wear those markings, in the same way as I wouldn't wear an army uniform. I won't judge others who have tribal e.t.c though as that's their choice not mine.

In short, I think whatever you want is fine unless it's something blatantly intended to be offensive (swastikas e.t.c) but even then, that's their choice, not mine.

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I've never understood the whole "cultural appropriation" thing. I think it just smacks of whinging for the sake of it.

"oh x demographic is taking away our culture by having that hairdo/tattoo/whatever"

Just seems a little childish to me.

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery so if I like the style or imagery of a given culture/religion/whatever I don't understand how it can be seen as offensive to have that tattooed on me.

I should really know better to engage with this topic on here, but here it goes, in the spirit of fostering an intelligent discussion about tattoos:

There's a Canadian Inuit filmmaker who made a documentary a couple of years ago about trying to learn about the virtually forgotten tradition of Inuit tattooing before she got tattooed herself using the traditional skin sewing methods. Why were the traditions forgotten? Because there was a concerted effort on behalf of the church and the state to eradicate indigenous culture, that was deemed to be "cultural genocide" by a recently-concluded Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Families were torn apart, countless lives were destroyed, languages were all but lost, cultural practices vanished. The legacy of this endures. There are people who are trying to revive the languages and traditional practices like tattooing. I mentioned the filmmaker in particular above because she has deliberately limited the distribution of her documentary precisely because of fears of cultural appropriation. Her reasoning is that the revival of traditional Inuit tattooing is so fragile that if this style of tattooing is appropriated it might discourage the people who are rediscovering their own traditions. I can see why this woman might think it offensive that a non-Inuit person would get an Inuit tattoo just because they like the style, and I don't think she'd be wrong. It's certainly not "childish".

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This is an interesting thread. I am planning to get a neotraditional lady head heavily influenced by "hollywood voodoo"... I say Hollywood because as far as I know, real voodoo is quite subtle by comparison... I'm talking about having skulls and bones and magic involved. Is this cultural appropriation or simple fantasy?

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I don't get offended by people who get viking imagery or symbols, I think it's cool that people think my country's history is cool enough to permanently have under their skin. Just don't be a pussy with a viking tattoo.

Or doesn't that count because vikings were white?

Anyway, I won't get your culture tattooed on me unless I think it's fascinating and cool. Yes, I think your culture has cool elements to it. Be it warrior spirit, honor code or fascinating lore with sick creatures. If I want a warrior that represent the Maori culture (as an example), that would be because I think they have the most badass warrior culture on earth. It's a complement to every single Maori that has ever lived, and not an attempt at stealing, degrading or destroying their culture.

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I don't get offended by people who get viking imagery or symbols, I think it's cool that people think my country's history is cool enough to permanently have under their skin. Just don't be a pussy with a viking tattoo.

Or doesn't that count because vikings were white?

Anyway, I won't get your culture tattooed on me unless I think it's fascinating and cool. Yes, I think your culture has cool elements to it. Be it warrior spirit, honor code or fascinating lore with sick creatures. If I want a warrior that represent the Maori culture (as an example), that would be because I think they have the most badass warrior culture on earth. It's a complement to every single Maori that has ever lived, and not an attempt at stealing, degrading or destroying their culture.

Ta Moko designs are based around genealogy, social rank and status, accomplishments, and so on, so I could see a hypothetical situation where you got a Maori tattoo because "they have the most badass warrior culture on earth" and ended up getting a tattoo that describes somebody else's life and family. Would Maoris be offended by this? I don't know, but they'd probably think you're a dumbass for getting a tattoo of something that you're engaging with so superficially.

I do think the same goes for Viking stuff. If you're going to get magical staves tattooed on you, it's probably best to understand what you're getting and what it means. The trend a few years ago of people getting Masonic imagery is another example of this: you might think it looks cool and mysterious and occult, but people who know how to read the imagery know you have gibberish on you and you come across as a moron as a result. I don't see how getting a tattoo just because it looks cool and having no understanding beyond that is any different than somebody getting kanji while not understanding the language.

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