I have seven tattoos. A broad selection of ink that includes a deathly hallows symbol, a silhouette of Belle from Beauty and the Beast, a mandala, a bird, a quote from James Joyce’s Ulysses and two daisies. They aren’t exactly badass examples of tattoos. In fact I would even go as far as to categorise them as ‘girly’. I’m basically just an Infinity Sign away from being a poster child for stereotypical girl tattoo. I’m completely aware that tattoo artists probably laugh at me when I make my choices. I get it. There are just certain types of tattoos that people automatically associate with women. We’ve all seen the pictures on the internet of tattoo parlours that have a reduced selection of tattoos just for women, because it is assumed that women will only choose a stereotypical girl tattoo like a tribal design tramp stamps, feathers, birds and dream catchers, flowers and hearts – you know girl stuff, because everything needs to be gendered and women are completely incapable of original thought (by the way if didn’t notice that the last sentence was completely sarcastic go and hit your head on a wall and knock some sense into yourself). I’ve also come across, on some of my trawls through random stuff on the internet, tattoo artists actually refusing to these ‘girly’ designs. I mean what is so wrong with these girly tattoos? So what if they aren’t all cool and original, surely it’s up to the artist to make the tattoo one of a kind through their own talent and not due to how cool an image might be.
I will admit though I’ve often made fun of those stereotypical tattoos, thinking that my tattoos are way cooler and more original that theirs, I mean I have a Ulysses quote for god sake I’m like so cultured and cool. But that’s completely not the case – my tattoos could easily be viewed as being as generically girly as any other women. I have a Disney princess on my forearm for fuck sake. Even if the tattoos you have aren’t considered girly, I feel like there is definitive different attitude to women with tattoos than men. If we have typical girly tattoos then we are not cool and completely unoriginal, even if we have tattoos that are completely original if they aren’t hard core enough they become seen as feminine and therefore not as legitimate tattoos. But if we cover ourselves in the same tattoos as men we wouldn’t viewed as beautiful or sexy in the traditional sense. And maybe it is just me but I find as a woman I get asked more questions about my tattoos.
Case in point my Deathly Hallows tattoo. I often have to give an explanation for the deathly hallows symbol to people because shockingly some people don’t know what it symbolizes but mainly I find people asking me why I got it. People instantly roll their eyes as if I’m ridiculous and a little bit stupid for choosing to have that on my body. Some people have a little smirk when I tell them as if they think I’m so adorable for trying to be cool with a tattoo but unfortunately Harry Potter tattoos don’t make you hard core enough. This was even the case when I got the tattoo. When I went in for my appointment, which I had made with two close friends who were having the same tattoo – it was a sisterhood solidarity thing, tattoos-together-best-friends-forever sort of thing, we discovered that they had given our slot away to someone else. They gave us the wrong time on the appointment card and they assumed, based on the fact that we were three women they sort of assumed we backed out, they even looked at us like we had no idea what a tattoo even was and were incredibly condescending. They were almost laughing at the whole situation as if it was so cute that these girls really wanted this tattoo. The artist was a bit nicer about it, he sort of treated me as though I was an idiot until he asked me if I was nervous for my first tattoo and I snorted in response. I was like dude, I’ve been getting tattoos since I was sixteen and I intend to get more in the future – funnily enough his attitude changed towards me after that.
People just perceive some tattoos as being girly, just a way for women to jump on a trend that has moved into the mainstream. But, if more women started to choose tattoos outside of this category they would be seen as being less feminine or intimidating. Some of the first women to be tattooed were considered as part of a counter culture rather than part of the mainstream group of trendy women, and the tattoos they had all over their bodies were far from gendered, so why are we suddenly gendering and criticising women’s choices to get a feather tattoo? It’s not what the art of tattooing is about. For the first tattooed women tattooing was kind of about rebelling against socially constructed ideas of beauty and even though tattoos are now recognised as a legitimate and important form of art, I think the concept of subverting society’s standards is still a prominent part of the culture of tattooing. Different tattoo trends have become really important, such as the semi-colon trend among those who suffer with depression of anxiety based mental illnesses, which allows suffers to express their illness or the trend among cancer survivors and amputees to get tattoos to cover scars or to add something to what they have lost. I think that women having their own particular tattoo trends, whether they are seen as silly, childish, girly or unoriginal is important too. Girly tattoos allow women to have control of their bodies, to choose what they like and have it be a permanent part of them, which is incredibly important in a world where women are still shamed for what they wear, what they say, eat, and what the choose to do with their bodies personally or professionally. If every second woman you meet has the same tattoo, who gives a shit, it’s no different that someone wearing the same Penney’s top, and it means you have something in common.
So ladies fuck it, get the infinity sign or the Disney princess and show them off, embrace those girly tattoos, in fact choose girly tattoos as a way of saying fuck you to everyone else. Solidarity sisters!