Around 50% of The United States’ population has a tattoo of some kind. Of these, the majority are women, having just surpassed men in the last year (Heller). With so many people “getting inked,” you would expect the art form to be widely accepted by those who choose to not have a tattoo, but many women with tattoos are still seen with a double standard, compared to tattooed men and are widely misunderstood.
Tattoos on women were first seen on carnival members who would be gawked at for their strange outward appearance. Between WWI and WWII they gained popularity among men who chose patriotic designs. The popularity declined and was soon seen only on bikers and criminals. Women at this time didn’t have tattoos unless they wanted to be seen as a lesbian or manly. During the 1970s tattoos were once again commonplace and were used by women to show their support for the women’s rights movement and a way of freeing themselves from the previous social norms of the passive, weak woman; now they were expressing themselves as powerful and rebellious (Technology of Ink).
Today, women no longer need to use tattoos to make a social statement. Instead they are using it as an art form to express themselves and accentuate their femininity. People commonly misunderstand and think that everybody is just going along with the current fad, without giving it much thought. And while this may be true for some, many use tattoos to tell a story of their life. Some cover scars from surgeries; others get portraits of their parents or role models, but in the end they all represent the woman’s individuality. Their tattoos are now a part of them, just as much as their hair; a part they wouldn’t give up for anything.
Along with the misunderstanding of the artistic ink as a passing trend, come the social stigmas that label inked women as overly promiscuous, slutty, crass, and irresponsible. If a tattoo is visible they are openly stared at and sometimes asked personal questions. They may be passed over for a job even if they are the most qualified; though, many women who have hidden tattoos covering most of their body hold respected positions, such as lawyers and college professors. Many older generations don’t accept their family members and ask the woman to cover her body up. By having a tattoo you are opening yourself up to judgment by strangers, friends, and family.
Even as someone who has wanted a tattoo for a long time, but hasen’t gotten it yet, I have experienced judgment from people. When I tell people I want a tattoo many will ask, “Why would you do that?” or give me their personal opinion on how tattoos are a “bad decision.” None of these times have I actually asked for their opinion, but they tell me anyways. What people seem to forget is that I want my tattoo for me, not them. I want something that I think will not mar my beauty, but add to it. It’s a decision that isn’t for everyone, but in the end it is my decision.
Tattoos can be a great, permanent way to empower yourself and make you feel more individual and beautiful. Many people may have tattoos, but no one will have exactly your tattoo if you take the time to think about it and make it personal. I believe you should take a year at least to think of one idea, and if by the end of that year you still want the same tattoo, then you can commit. I don’t agree with people who just wake up one morning and go to the nearest tattooist, because it is permanent decision that you may regret if you don’t put enough care into it. But at the same time, you shouldn’t let others judgments stop you from expressing yourself.