Tattoos as Self Mutilation Revisited

So its been a few months since I first wrote about this topic.  Earlier this week I had more tattoos done.  One of them is even a feminist-themed one.  I definitely will be getting more and am planning out my next one which is gonna be really cool.  The only thing is, getting tattoos, means thinking about them.  Means talking about them with others.  I also tend to go on netflix binges and lately I’ve been watching “LA ink” which deals with a tattoo shop owned by Kat Von D in Los Angeles.  I’ve been amazed watching just how often people’s tattoo ideas are directly related to traumatic events they’ve been through.  Near death experiences, loss of their loved ones, surviving an illness.  With all this blowing around in the caverns of my mind I thought I’d expand on what I talked about last time I blogged on this subject.

I briefly touched on the relation of tattooing to other forms of self-mutilation engaged in by women.  Its a serious issue.  We all know at least one woman whose cut the shit out of herself in order to deal with her own traumatized psyche.  For many women tattooing and body modifications are a way of dealing with the trauma they’ve gone though.  I’m not immune to this and its in the forefront of my mind as a survivor of multiple traumas who also wants a lot of tattoos.  An interesting fact I’ve come across as well is that women are more likely to get tattooed than men.  This isn’t surprising for a number of reasons.  For one, women are used to being fully conscious of their bodies every single day, its only natural a woman would then think about and want to decorate her skin.  For another, women are a lot better at handling pain than men are.  We’re just superior in that way (among many others)  Lastly, as women, and as women who are survivors we’re pretty used to having our reality denied.  We’re gaslighted about our own experiences daily.  We aren’t believed when we talk about what happens to us.  Women just aren’t considered credible.  But tattoos, like all of our experiences are fucking real.  This isn’t something that can be denied or put away.  Its there, for everyone to see.  Like the scars of self-mutilation people might look away or disapprove but they can’t be denied.  They’re there.  Its a comfort thing a woman can look at throughout her life.  Not at all an ideal situation but we make the best with what we have in the here and now.

Now I’m going to jump to something else.  When I wrote about this last I got a lot of feedback from other feminists with tattoos who told me of awful experiences they’ve had with men verbally and even physically attacking them because of their body modifications.  When I was around 20 years old, working in a shop one of the customers who was a middle aged man got up in my face questioning me about my nostril piercing (which I’ve had since I was 15).  I was really confused and thought he was genuinely interested in why I wanted the piercing.  I mean I always wanted it.  Ever since I first saw it.  I remember being 4 years old and imagining what I would look like in the future and there was a nostril piercing in that mental image (as well as tattoos).  He wasn’t actually interested in that though.  He just wanted to abuse me for being stupid enough to think I had a right to do whatever I wanted with my body and thankfully a woman who I worked with that was a few years older than me came over to rescue me from the very rude man who felt entitled enough to wear sweatpants in public and question how other people look.   Nothing like that has happened to me with the tattoos yet and thankfully I’m a bit older and can pretty much defend myself from any dickhead man with a stupid opinion.  I do understand now better though what the problem is with men who have a problem with tattooed women.  My friend commented on previous post that tattoos are an affront to the purity which many men fetishize in women.  A woman who has chosen to tattoo her skin has made a very clear statement, whether conscious or not, that she ultimately sees herself as the one who owns her body.  A lot of men have a problem with that.  They don’t like being reminded that we are autonomous beings with hopes, dreams and ideas that exist out of our functional use to them and their dicks.  

This came to mind recently because my friend was staying at my house for a week and part of our entertainment was her reading the MRA screeds found on manboobz.  Several times these dudes brought up the term “tattooed” in regards to how vile modern women are.  It kind of took me aback at first but then the wheels started spinning.  Obviously professional misogynists would have a problem with women who tattoo their skin.  There’s something positive to tattoos if we can disgust MRAs with our impurity and obvious individuality.  

The flipside of this all is, a lot of men fetishize women with tattoos.  A la “suicide girls” and other “alternative porn” outlets.  Sadly for women living in a patriarchal world, there’s no escape from having men project their own ideas and desires onto us.

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2 responses to “Tattoos as Self Mutilation Revisited

  1. Tattoos are also used as a form of branding. Think farmers branding cattle. Think nazis branding Jews in concentration camps. I saw a story on a talk show about the use of cosmetics to hide scars and injuries. A woman came forward to say that a pimp had forcibly (how else?) tattooed his name on her face. You’re correct — it’s about ownership. When a woman gets a tattoo she’s saying, “I own me.” This pisses off the men who want to be the ones doing the owning/tattooing.

  2. Hello! Interesting writing indeed. I myself have a half sleeve of many wonderful images that I love, and on the other forearm, front and back, have beautiful images of women. Some people notice that I have no men tattooed on my arms. Most get the picture, and do not ask why. Now people are quite curious about what my tats mean, why I had them done, etc. I used to take the time out of my busy day to tell people, and show them, but then I realized” why should I?” I got my tats done for ME, and surely not for anyone else. What they mean is MY business, and I don’t have to, and will not explain them to strangers anymore. Anyways, you are right about tattoos and trauma. I love the feeling of pleasure and pain that I experience while I’m being tattooed. Also, I feel brave at the end for taking so much pain! I am a unique individual, and always have been. I have my own style, and am proud to be myself in a world where most people are oppressed, and want to conform to the status quo. Good for you for getting tattooed! Body art is a wonderful thing. Oh, because I am visibly tattooed, men see this, and think they can hit on me. I have had people literally twist my arm around so that they can see the tats on the back of my forearm! Wtf! What gives people the right to touch me like that!? Because of this, I have had to resort to straight out tell people to NOT touch me! Men look at us women as objects that they can touch anytime they feel like it! Well, that’s not going to work with me anymore! I have had men try and touch me WITHOUT even seeing my tattoos! I yell out “don’t touch me, and it scares them away. Good riddance, and guys, keep your hands to yourself!

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