While I was in grad school, we covered many controversial topics very candidly. Racism, sexism, the politics of war. I once even used the word “cunt” in its truest form in class, that being an attempt to refer to my vagina in an innocent, that’s-just-part-of-my-body, way.
(My point was to prove we vilify the vagina by giving it the most negative and offensive swear words in the English language, so I said, “It’s ridiculous that can’t I just go to the doctor and say, ‘Hey yeah, so I’m here because my cunt is hurting.’”)
Cunts aside, one of the most heated topics I encountered was that of the tattoo. People with tattoos were less interested in the topic, but those without were very curious about the whole idea. As such, a pair of our youngest researchers decided to take on the task of studying the culture of tattoo parlors as an ethnographic study. To them, and from what I understood of the study, they seemingly concluded with disturbing results.
One of them was religious and forbade tattoos, very anti and kind of judgey. The other was a more gentle soul-ed open-minded person, with two tattoos of her own and a curiosity that was adorable. I’m not entirely certain of the former’s expectations, but the latter expected that when they immersed themselves into the community, she would be accepted. Much to her dismay, she was not.
Let me paint more of a picture. These women while in their early 20’s, look like they could easily be in their teens. It’s hard to paint a portrait of innocent, but innocent would be the best adjective that I could think of. These are completely terrible stereotypes and let me add a caveat that I care about these women and love them regardless. More adjectives upon first meeting are sheltered, middle-class, white, inexperienced, and young.
Now throw that in a tattoo parlor. What do you imagine when you think of this? Buzzing needles, somewhat masculine, the smell of sanitary alcohol in the air. When these two walked in – why weren’t they accepted? And why was it such a big fucking deal to those in the tattoo parlor that these women were in their space that, most of the time, they resorted to excluding them?
To me, I think that both the tattooed and the non-tattooed mutually exclude each other. However we are used to hearing about judgment of the tattooed. We are very used to people saying things like, “I would neeeever get a tattoo,” realizing or not realizing they are saying this to a tattooed person. That tattooed person has heard this 500 million times – perhaps the exclusion has worn on them.
Another colleague who was also very interested in the topic yet without tattoo, loved to get into debates with me about it. To this she would say, “Well if you didn’t want to be different, then why would you do that to yourself? You are marking yourself, and that makes others react.”
Ok you react…but why? Do earrings make you react? Are earrings offensive to you in any way?
Well looky here I have an example! Earrings offended a colleague of mine recently. I am a hiring manager at work, and I brought in a, who I thought was well qualified, candidate to give a presentation to a few of my colleagues to make a final decision. He spoke well, articulately, and absolutely nailed the presentation, and everyone agreed. We deliberated for a while after he left, seemingly unanimous in confirming that this was our guy.
However this one particular colleague said, after remaining silent for the praise-fest, “I don’t know. I mean, he wears those funny earrings,” while simultaneously flicking his earlobe.
So I guess wearing earrings can be bad too. Now these particular earrings were worn on a pair of gauged ears so maybe that was it. Perhaps a pair of pearls would have been more to my colleague’s fancy.
I brought this up because gauged ears and tattoos are arguably a part of the same culture. So my point is when hiring, some people like conformity, and it’s acceptable to bring up your judgment of a person based on how they mark themselves. We can apparently throw out all other qualifications because of gauged ears, and perhaps tattoos.
Back to the tattoo, it is an interesting separation. I will come out with having 2 tattoos. I made the choice to get my tattoos, and decided to for me. It’s nobody’s business why I have them, even though they are seemingly an invitation for others to ask why I got them and what they mean. I’m not afraid of how they look and proudly choose clothes that will show them off. I am aware that people judge me, but frankly, that’s sad for them because I’m awesome.
My point is that both sides should knock it off when excluding or judging the other. We are missing out on getting to know amazing people because of the artwork they choose or do not choose. When two young girls walk into a tattoo parlor, be fucking polite. They are people and you don’t need to become their best friends, but you don’t need to be an ass to them because you think they are different than you.
Likewise, when you see someone with a tattoo, knock it off with assuming they are dopers who still smoke cigarettes and are loose in bed (e.g. “tramp stamp”). They got their tattoos because they damn well wanted to and it’s really none of your business why. Appreciate it and move on.
What is your take? Do you have tattoos and feel judged? Or are you non-tattooed and feel judged? Let’s put down our gavels and have a conversation. How have tattoos affected you?