my blood, it boils

Posted by Alex the Odd at 03:27

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Oh, for the love of all things holy.

I really would have expected more from The Times, here we have yet another opinion piece written on the subject of tattooing by a Saturday columnist who writes "mainly, but not exclusively, on family matters and women's issues". My goodness! How very, very qualified she must be to comment on such an issue (incidentally: why on earth do tattoo pieces so frequently appear as "women's issues"? Perhaps because the likelihood of shaming men out of getting ink done is much slimmer? Anyway, I digress.)

Ok, ok I'm overreacting because the comments section got me all het up. One particularly delightful example:

"Tatoos [sic] are repellent on women, luckily it's mostly a fad of the not so bright."

[Insert snide comment from Alex about the level to which she is educated here]

Again with the overreacting caveat, I'll be more rational in the next paragraph - promise.

Ok, rationality: The reason that this piece gets under my skin (pun only semi-intended) is because it is written from an unresearched position and targeted to appeal to the self righteous and smug. The author has chosen the path of least resistance and cited examples that every moron who reads the red tops can relate with. We have the citation of celebrities who sport tattoos: from Amy Winehouse (drug addict and all around mess you can tell from the sailor tats, obviously), David and Victoria Beckham (they're a bit thick really aren't they - misspelled tattoos and the "date of their first shag" prove that), Fearne Cotton (she got a tattoo of a Fern, how unoriginal) to Angelina Jolie (pushing her sanctimonious and preachy agendas through the means of ink). Well hoofuckingrah times op/ed, you've identified some famous people with tattoos and passed judgement on them. These are important points to back up your article because usually celebrities are a very accurate portrayal of society, who always make stellar judgements and certainly never blindly follow trends.

Which brings me on to my next point: tattoos as fashion statement. As if I didn't have to hear this argument on a daily basis from my Mother ("I used to wear yellow leggings and I thought I looked great, now the idea of them being welded on to my skin permanently is beyond horrifying" well, points for creativity there, Mum, but not really the same thing). The writer here cites the passing fads of tribal arm bands, Chinese characters and now star tattoos. Well I have two responses to this, firstly (and I will bold this for emphasis): anyone who gets a tattoo to fit with something as transient as a fashion trend is a fucking idiot and secondly: that's why we have cover ups and laser removal. People make mistakes, it's part of their essential nature and if the lesson they learn happens to be a painful and expensive one about the problems with being a pop-culture sheep then so be it.

Lastly, until I think of some other point to rant about at any rate, concerning visual tattoos. It seems like you're damned if you do, damned if you don't concerning this particular matter. If you wear tattoos openly, allowing your artwork to be on view then you are accused of arrogance and vanity for assuming "that others would wish to be confronted, on first meeting, by your deepest feelings, your checklist of loved ones." If you hide your tattoos and cover them with clothing then you are destined it appears to be marked as a "weekend rebel" who approaches the idea of individuality without any real investment. Yet again we find ourselves faced with the assumption that all people who have tattoos get them for the same reasons, in this wide and varied world where our motivations for every little action are free to be called into question, where women's magazines spend pages debating the hundreds of possibilities behind a man's reasoning for something as simple as not calling, there can be only one possible reason for a person desiring something so significant a permanent brand on their skin.

Oh, I'm sorry, two reasons. I forgot that whole "in with the in-crowd" argument for a second there, silly me!

And who cares why someone got a tattoo done anyway? What possible effect could it have on you or your life ?

Now, I should say that if you passed me in the street you probably wouldn't suspect that I have tattoos. Other than a very small stud in my lip, that most people don't notice, and a tiny green gem in one side of my nose I look positively normal. I don't wear midriff revealing tops that show off my stomach tattoo and if I wore jeans low enough to reveal the tattoo on my hip then being judged would be the least of my problems (it would be way down on the list right after "being arrested for soliciting"). Maybe the reason people associate base of the back tattoos with being "tramp stamps" and that butterfly tattoos on the shoulder are considered tacky is that the kind of girls who go out to bars flashing skin and making a big deal of their ink are the kind of girls you remember for it. And I'm not judging here, I've done it - we all have - but perhaps the reason that people like the above esteemed columnist for the Times don't seem to want to talk about the quiet and reserved people with tattoos, the intellectuals, the scientists and the pillars of the community is that maybe, just maybe they don't realise that we have them.

And I'm happy that way, I don't care whether or not the average person on the street assumes I have tattoos in the same way that I don't give a flying fuck whether or not they think I have a third nipple or a tail. It's none of their damned business. If I happen to be wearing something that shows off my ink work then yes, people can stare, they can comment (they can't touch because invasions of my personal space is just a step too far) and I take it in my stride because I chose to look this way, I made an informed decision each and every time I sat down in that chair. What I cannot stand however is when columnists feel that they have the right to label every single person who has a tattoo as either hopeless sheep, pathetic attempts at rebels or outright criminals and then write an opinion piece on the subject.

I think I'd feel better about this article if it was a) in a tabloid like the Daily Mail where frankly I'd expect such smug pandering to their readership and b) not an implicit attack on my intelligence. I'd also feel better if on my side of the fence we had tattooed people hassling those without them on an almost weekly basis and in a public forum such as a newspaper. Maybe my circle of friends is particularly enlightened but I've never heard of a person with tattoos berating someone for daring to choose not to have work done. Whereas I see it the other way around every single day.

The point of this rant is this:

Janice Turner can quite frankly fuck right off.


TK said...

Motherfuckers. Allow me to join you in rage. Not only was that article elitist, condescending, classist, obnoxious, and uninformed, but it managed to be ignorant and idiotic as well. Bravo, Ms. Turner.

But you're right - who cares? Who cares why someone gets a tattoo? The irony is, the article and comments say that people who are tattooed are image-obsessed, when THEY are the ones obsessing with people's looks. And anyone who doesn't think that tattooing isn't an artform needs to see it done in person. It's AMAZING.

And the fact that one of the ignoramus commenters called it "Bar coding for the underclass" is one of the most revoltingly offensive things I've ever seen written.

Whew. OK, I'm calm now. Thanks for getting my hackles up early. I'm definitely printing this and showing it to my artist when I go for my next one on the 26th.

Anonymous said...

My random rants while reading the article:

What the fuck's a squaddie?

I'm a dim-bulb and a lowlife? What? My tattoos are for ephemeral purposes? Who is this woman and what are these stupid assumptions she's making?

Aw fuck, I've got a Chinese symbol that ALSO happens to be on my lower back. Ink I've had for 13 years is totally last year. Nuts.

I'm over 30. I guess my future tats are all juvenile. Toys R Us Kid, that's me.

Hey, I like the Chemical Brothers.

Since when did I become a rebel? I just like decorating myself.
Sounds like she despises Amy Winehouse and decided to devout an entire article to her vitriol, encompassing every single person who sports ink.


My husband kind of feels the same way the writer does. He calls tattoos body mutilation and attributes them to low self-esteem. I just tell him to suck it whenever I get a new one. My skin. My money.

Alex the Odd said...

TK: I too found the comments outright insulting. Sorry for any minor damage that spike in blood pressure may have done btw.

I've got a consultation with a new and shiny artist tonight I will also be bringing up this piece of shit article.

Manda: A squaddie is the British slang term for a private in the army or airforce, I've dated several. Some of them are very smart cookies indeed.

I took offense at the assumption I'm a rebel too - I'm not a rebel, I just happen to think my skin looks nicer with some pretty pictures painted onto it. What is that rebelling against exactly?

Anonymous said...

That article is as you would expect from someone who writes about “family matters and women's
issues.” The comments, worse than the article, are as you would expect from those who champion “family matters and women's issues.”

I do not have tattoos, and I almost wrote tattoes, but I do have some scars, scars that I wear neither proudly or self-consciously because, for me, they are just things that happened.

I still share your outrage. Imagine if an article had referred to tribal scars in certain parts of Central and South America or Africa or Asia as a tradition of the uncivilised and “not so bright”? No doubt that is what they think, but they would never write it down in a newspaper.

So why do they consider tattoos a fad and not a culture?

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