I am a big fan of tattoos. I love seeing them on other people, and I have three of my own. I have gotten all of my tattoos at the same tattoo parlor, which was recommended to me by a friend, and I have noticed some things about this particular place that I would like to discuss here.
Observation #1: Where are all the female tattoo artists?
The tattoo parlor that I have visited for all three of my tattoos doesn’t seem to have any female tattoo artists. There is one female employee that I know of who pierced my eyebrow, but most of the times when I have been there, I haven’t seen any female employees, and all of the artists who have done my tattoos have been male.
This is just an observation. It may be that I just haven’t met any of the female tattoo artists at this parlor, and I know that some very famous tattoo artists (I’m thinking of Kat Von D from LA Ink) are women, but I can’t help think that there might be a difference in the way that men and women are perceived when they have tattoos or when they are in this profession. When men have tattoos, it is often seen as a display of their masculinity, and unless they have a large tattoo that is not easily covered up, they will suffer relatively few negative consequences. Of course there is the stereotype of “the bad boy” who has tattoos, but he still gets to be a human being. The same thing can’t be said of women. When women get tattoos, they are often reduced to their sexuality, specifically that they must be sexually available. In this respect, I think that tattoos are not generally something women can be passionate about either wearing on their bodies or making a career out of without taking some risks that are not inherent to men. Because of this, it would make sense if women were not deciding in the same numbers as men to make careers out of tattooing. Now, I don’t have concrete numbers on this, but I am interested to hear stories from anyone who may or may not agree that women tattoo artists are harder to find than men.
Observation #2: Sexy ladies – they’re everywhere!
The female figure plays a large role in tattoo culture today. Female figures are often sexualized and objectified in tattoo art design (sometimes in variations of the original pin-up girl tattoo) and they are often employed to help promote modern tattoo parlors.
For example, when I got my last tattoo this past June I was given a full color business card for the tattoo parlor. It contains all the necessary information: The name of the tattoo parlor, its location, phone number, website, along with the services available there. However, on the left side of the card there is a picture of a woman wearing a bikini and not sporting a single visible piercing or tattoo. When the card is turned over, there is information advertising another branch of the same company, featuring three more pictures of women without visible piercings or tattoos. Utilizing female bodies to advertise this shop doesn’t surprise me, and it shouldn’t. It’s a much-too-common and very problematic tactic. But the more I started thinking about the differences between how men and women with tattoos are perceived, the more upset I was with the inclusion of this woman’s picture on this business card when she clearly was not able to advertise the services offered at this tattoo parlor. When it comes to tattoos, women who have them (or are used to promote a place that offers tattooing) are associated with sexual availability. And that is a topic I will be covering in part two of this series, so check back.