The paper is about how tattoos have become more popular among women and the American culture
Women, Tattoo and Culture
The use of tattoos among women has become increasingly popular in the American culture. In the beginning of 20th Century, the use of tattoos among women was highly criticized. Female writers who supported the use of tattoos during this period were also criticized in a great deal. This perception has changed with time, and now women appreciate tattoos as a sign of beauty in their bodies. Currently, in the U.S., women were said to have more tattoos in their bodies when compared to men in 2012 (Lokke, 2013). Among the contemporary women, tattoos are now seen as symbols of empowerment and marks of self-determination. This is perfectly contrast to what tattoos were perceived to be during the early 20th Century. This paper shows how there has been a change in perception of tattoos among women with change in time.
During the 19th and early 20th Century, the use of tattoos among women was highly discouraged because of the several reasons. In the American history, the use of tattoos among Euro-Americans was quite different. They used tattoos as a way of branding slaves and criminals from the 17th to the 19th Century. If someone committed a crime, he or she would be marked with a tattoo on the hand or face so that people would be aware of their crimes. Slaves were also tattooed during this period. Therefore, tattooing at this time, among the Euro-Americans was seen as a form of degradation of someone’s status and dignity in the society. It was, therefore, obvious that a person without any of the statuses of crime or slavery would not even wish to have a tattoo in their bodies (Sheumaker & Wajda, 2008).
In the Western culture, tattoos among women had almost a similar perspective in the 19th Century. During this time, women were valued as beings who were to maintain their purity through controlling and concealing their bodies. Women were not supposed, at any time, to express their bodily desires or wishes. Therefore, tattooing was out of question since it was seen as a violation of the bodies of the women. Women who marked their bodies with tattoos were regarded as loose, especially if the marks were visible. They would be termed as people who did not have morals and dignity in the society. As time progressed in the 60s and 70s, tattooing was now seen as counterculture, and this remained the perception up to 2000 (Sheumaker & Wajda, 2008).
During the mid-20th Century, the perception of tattooing was completely changed. Women began using tattooing as a way of passing messages to the men in the society. At this time, women were facing many challenges, and feminism was at its highest point. There were a lot of controversies concerning rights of abortion, sexual harassment and date rapes. Therefore, women would use tattoos in self determination of showing the empowerment and fighting for women’s rights. They questioned men who demanded that women needed to control their bodies (Lokke, 2013). Instead, they argued that men were responsible for their actions, and should control their bodies and desires instead. This created a lot of feminism activity in the American history that saw the appreciation of tattooing among women in the first time in American culture. At this time, women would tattoo their bodies as a sign of liberation from the patriarchal society (Sheumaker & Wajda, 2008).
In the modern society today, the use of tattoos among women is varied. It is now mostly seen as a sign of beauty, and appreciated in the society. However, it has to be regulated in order to control diseases that may be passed from one person to another if not well controlled. This has prompted passing of state laws to regulate tattooing as a way of controlling the spread of diseases such as syphilis. In the advent of the Great Depression, tattoo parlors had greatly declined, owing to these regulations. However, the practice increased its popularity in the 1960s as it was seen as a way of showing various cultural aspects of communities (Sheumaker & Wajda, 2008). For instance, Asian cultures have a lot of interest in tattooing where they link it to counterculture politics, the Vietnam conflict and aesthetics, as well as, leisure. This led to an increased number of women who feel that they can only express their individuality through marking their bodies with tattoos. The perception that tattooing is primarily meant to connote bravery and masculinity among men has been challenged by the increased number of women using tattoos (Lokke, 2013).
Tattooing has now been adapted even by medical doctors who use it in the provision of permanent cosmetics to women. A good example is the use of lip color and eyeliner. Other tattoos that have increased their popularity include henna and temporary tattoos in the contemporary society. Currently, tattooing has been linked to popular fashion, fine art, folk art and graphic design. Artists are now using tattooing as a source of income where women are said to be the primary consumers. Tattooing has taken a new level where artists now have to use graffiti and other creative designs to make the tattoos more attractive and meaningful in the society.
Currently, tattoos are known to possess communicative power, which show their correspondence in meaning from their signs. Various communications are made through the different styles, color, and way of execution, as well as where they are located in the body. Among most of the North Americans today, tattoos have been designed as private statements in their bodies rather than a public sign. This means that they use smaller tattoos in their private parts. Previously, women would place large tattoos on their hands or other body parts that would be seen publicly. Another trend among in tattooing that has occurred recently is the training of artists. Middle-class women today prefer having tattoos on their bodies by professional artists. Women choose expansive artistic choices with a more spiritual context of body decoration. Redefinition and framing of tattoos has been used in the transformation of fine art (Sheumaker & Wajda, 2008).
Women are also preferring tattoos that are not easily readable. These tattoos comprise of complex designs that one has to take time before discerning the meaning of the tattoos in the body. Some of them are drawn without any specified meanings embedded on the bodies of the women. They are purely decorative for the women to blend in a certain fashion or to show one’s creativity to the people around. Those tattoos that have meanings are only limited to individuals who belong in the intimate circle of a woman. The meanings are limited to such people because they may expose a lot about the woman’s deeper thoughts and desires (Sheumaker & Wajda, 2008).
Tattoos are seen as ways of commemorating or giving tribute to close people in a woman’s life. For instance, a woman may have the portrait of her husband, father, mother, or any other person she values dearly as a tattoo in a part of her body. They may also choose to have their names because of the impacts they have had in the woman’s life. This makes her never to forget that person because she just needs to look at the tattoo, and fresh memories of the person appear in their minds. Therefore, it is evident that women who have tattoos in their bodies value them dearly (Lokke, 2013). They have some hidden meanings attached to the tattoos that only extremely close people to them can understand the meaning of the tattoos. In the increasingly digital world today, tattoo motifs and designs move swiftly across different cultures in the world. For instance, the current American culture of the tattoos today has incorporated other cultures such as the Asian cultures. Asian cultures are known for their creative ways of designing tattoos, and these designs are also visible among American women today (Sheumaker & Wajda, 2008).
Conclusively, the perception of tattooing has changed with changes in time. Women were not expected to have tattoos in their bodies for various reasons. Among the Euro-Americans, tattoos were seen as symbols of slavery or crime. They were marked on criminals and slaves during that time. Therefore, anyone with the tattoos was downgraded in the society. In the Western culture, tattooing was seen as a violation of the bodies of women who were supposed to maintain purity by not exposing their bodies. However, the changes in perception of tattooing began when women openly had them on their bodies to show empowerment and self-determination. The increase use of tattoos in women has overshadowed that of men today. Different designs are now used, and tattooing has even become a profession among some artists in order to satisfy the needs of the contemporary women today.
Lokke, M. (2013). A Secret History of Women and Tattoo. The New Yorker. Retrieved from: http://www.newyorker.com/culture/photo-booth/a-secret-history-of-women-and-tattoo
Sheumaker, H., & Wajda, S. T. (2008). Material culture in America: Understanding everyday life. Santa Barbara, Calif: ABC-CLIO.