I’ve debated for months whether or not to write this article. It’s been tough. With my recent permanent ink addition to my body, though, I felt the need to address the prejudice people with tattoos face from their peers, elders, and friends.
Firstly, I am in no way a heavily tattooed person, so I’m definitely not coming from the perspective of someone with multiple visible tattoos. These people have it way worse than me. I have two visible tattoos that I have gotten in the past couple of months since turning eighteen.
I have one going down my spine that says in script “You Are My Sunshine” that I got back in April in memory of my Nanny who was basically a mother to me.
My most recent one is on the front of my shoulder (just beneath the collar bone) and it’s an Australian post mark from the village of Gundaroo with the date in which I arrived on it.
Both of my tattoos are relatively visible, especially during the summer months.
Tattoos weren’t my first experience with body modification. I got my helix pierced when I was fourteen and then my nose pierced when I was sixteen. I recently got my nose re-done this summer.
Though this post mainly focuses on tattoos and the judgement seen given to those who have them, people with other body modifications–such as piercing–also receive some of the similar looks, questions and staring that I may talk about in this post.
I most certainly don’t receive the criticisms that some people with body modifications do, but I wanted to talk about the situation that is occurring in our evolving society.
Body Modification (n.)
Any method of permanently adorning the body, including tattooing and piercing.
Nearly 21% of Americans have tattoos–that means that roughly one in five people that you may know probably have some kind of tattoo. The number is even higher for younger people my age, at around 40%.
Tattoos have been used in multiple cultures for many centuries. For religious purposes, tribe identification, and even mourning, people have always had a reason to get a tattoo–even today. Tattoos recently came back from the dead during the middle of the 20th century which, in my opinion, is why there is still a lot of social stigma around them today. Due to the tattooing practices in the ’70s, there are multiple misconceptions regarding body modification and middle-aged to older people use these diseases and infections seen during that time as a scare tactic for young people wanting to get tattoos.
There are multiple misconceptions and thoughts regarding tattooing including the following.
You could get HIV which could lead to AIDS!!!!
False: Though this happened when tattoos first made a comeback, you must understand that the world of tattooing has changed dramatically. Healthy practices are enforced by the local health department and tattoo studios receive health inspections just like restaurants, except their held on much higher of a standard.
Crystal Buckner, a friend of mine and local health inspector, gave me the insider on how the government grades tattoo studios.
“We don’t give parlors scores. They have to meet all standards like a pass/fail. They get an inspection, an a permit good for one year. The permit is only for that artist and that location. If they go to another shop, they have to get another permit.”
She continued, explaining what she is required to check at tattoo parlors. Checking the equipment and how an artists sets up and breaks down before and after tattooing a client consists of the most important checkpoints, since inspectors are looking to see if the artist is meeting all precautions and requirements. If the shop or artist uses an autoclave, a cleaning device common in studios to clean some equipment, they check their autoclave records and require them to send monthly spore samples to a testing company to ensure effectiveness of the machine.
For the clients, Crystal recommends checking the artist you want to do your tattoo and make sure they’re permitted. Avoid scratchers (people illegally tattooing since they don’t have a permit) and try to find a reputable artist that you know will do a phenomenal job.
Most tattoo studios smell and look similar to doctor’s offices when you go in. Sure, they’re a little different in appearance, but you still see (and smell) just how sterile they are kept. Artists always wash their hands, wear gloves, and sometimes masks over their mouths. They also put their hair back if it’s too long. All areas are freshly cleaned and covered with plastic wrap that is changed for each client. As for the needles and ink, I like to compare their usage to a dentist’s office. When you visit the dentist, they always snap on a new toothbrush head and open a small, individual toothpaste to use to brush your teeth. This happens as well when getting tattooed. Ink comes in small cups that are only used on one client before being thrown away. Needles are never reused; they are taken out of air-tight plastic wrappings and put into the machine for each and every client that day.
The chances of getting any infection today due to being tattooed is nearly impossible and, in most cases, only happens if an individual’s body is overly sensitive. This is why tattoo artists always suggest that you ask your doctor about anything beforehand if you’re unsure.
People with tattoos aren’t smart…or they’re in gangs!
False: A lot of the controversy surrounding tattoo culture is the lack of education or self control among those that are tattooed. Whereas some truth does set behind this statement, for the most part it does not. This in particular pisses me off because I know many people with tattoos and they are all diverse and unique in their own way.
Sure, I know bikers with tattoos, but they’re some of the nicest and most genuine people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. I have a friend with sleeves on each arm and she has two (or three…?) MAs. My dad has tattoos, I have tattoos. So when people put this generalization on people with tattoos it hurts because it doesn’t just apply to “strangers,” it applies to nearly 20% of the population.
Calling people with tattoos dangerous and ignorant is like calling black people lazy. It’s not acceptable.
No one will want to hire you!
False: Whereas this is one of the more true statements, you won’t be homeless or destitute just because you have tattoos. If worse comes to worst, McDonalds is always hiring.
There is hope, though!
Studies show that there may be an increase in bosses willing to hire people with visible tattoos and piercings. With the reach for diversity within the workforce, many employers seek people who can appeal to all markets and this applies to those with body modifications. Our growing generation also paves the road for our future and more and more people my age are getting tattooed. Hopefully by the time we’re working full-time, tattooing won’t be the “kiss of death” in the professional world.
“So-and-so” won’t approve.
Fact: I don’t f*cking care.
I was told this when I got both of my tattoos. One of the first things people say (or ask) when you tell them you’re getting a new tattoo regards other peoples’ “approval.” The thing is, I have the choice to do what the hell I want with my body and if someone doesn’t approve, it’s not my problem. My body, my choice.
They’re tacky and ruin your body…
This is an opinion, like many of the things said to me regarding tattoos. People are more than allowed to have their own views on tattoos and body modification, but that doesn’t mean there should be judgement. Just because “so-and-so” wouldn’t do it, doesn’t mean I won’t. To me, tattoos are art. Tattoo artists are talented and creative and amazing and they put a lot of hard work into designing a tattoo to adorn their client forever. I think tattoos are beautiful and I think people with–or without–them are beautiful also.
If you think tattoos are tacky and ugly, that’s okay. Just please, please try and be mindful of who you say it to.
…especially if you’re a woman.
Fact: I don’t need to give you statistics or charts or studies proving to you how much more harshly women are judged for their physical appearance than men. It’s true, especially with tattoos. Most people have become accustomed to seeing men with a tribal half-sleeve up their bicep, but when a woman walks around town with tattoos on her arms suddenly she’s “unladylike” “not pretty” “too masculine” and “a dyke.” Just because I have tattoos and piercings doesn’t make me unladylike or ugly, I’m just a tough-ass bitch. You’re welcome to call me that.
Women’s bodies are over sexualized and, though that’s a topic for another post, it needs to stop because we find ourselves put under a harsher light in certain situations, especially when it’s body modification.
You will regret it!!!
Another scare tactic used by people when they know you’re considering a tattoo. A good thing about piercings is that they’re not permanent. You can take them out. Tattoos, however, are a different story.
Sure, there are people who have or get tattoos that aren’t the best (and that they may regret later), but who are we to judge what someone–at one point–chose to put on their body. Most people think long and hard about tattoos (rule of thumb being wait a year and see if you still want it) and put a lot of money and thought into getting one. Some tattoos are meaningful, some are just pretty, but people always get tattoos for a reason. Whatever that reason may be, it’s their problem if they regret it, not ours to remind them.
You know they’re permanent, right…?
I’ve had people tell me this with a l o t o f e m p h a s i s. To me, it’s a dumb statement. I’m very aware that tattoos are forever and that’s why I want them. They stay with me for the rest of my life and go with me into my grave. That’s pretty deep (literally and figuratively). Some people may not want to die with tattoos still on their skin, but I do.
They’re only going to get uglier as you age.
False: People are always beautiful no matter their age, skin tone, gender, disabilities, flaws, or body modifications, and if you don’t think they’re beautiful you’re probably egocentric.
You know they’re painful??!!
No effing way. A needle stabbing my skin between 50 and 3,000 times per minute is going to hurt??
This is, by far, is what furiates me the most. This statement is usually the last resort and it makes me feel insignificant. When people usually ask this question, they phrase it like I’m unaware or too innocent to understand, but I know. Boy, do I know.
When it comes down to it, getting tattooed is a personal choice just like getting married, having kids, going to prom, or choosing to abstain from sex until marriage. And it’s really no one’s place to tell us what to do with our bodies.
Image Courtesy Of: emma-ink.tumblr.com