Tattoos date all the way back to primitive times and were used, and still are used, for many reasons; from a cave man’s rite of passage into adulthood, to a 21st century teen’s favourite song lyrics staying with them forever and always. Before the 21st century it was mainly criminals and members of the navy that had tattoos… definitely not women! Times have changed massively however, and now it is mostly considered perfectly normal for a woman to have tattoos. The continuous feminist movements that have been made throughout many countries, especially in the UK since the 1960s, could be a major contributor to this.
“Women have been trying to be equal to men for so long,” Says 24-year-old designer and tattoo enthusiast Chloe Aillud, “we do the same jobs as men and get paid the same money; so why can’t we have art on our bodies like boys can?” The revolution in gender equality has meant women are now much bolder and independent; and as society has begun to move with the times too, females having tattoos is much more accepted.
It wasn’t always this way however. In December 1998 a study conducted found that women with tattoos were either psychopathological, had suffered child abuse, or had personality or alcohol problems. What they were trying to say was that women with tattoos were literally insane! Although, every woman is slightly insane, no?
Jokes aside, there were some very extreme statements made about this issue and the thought of women having tattoos was once upon a time, seen as outrageous. Natalie Hearn, a 35 -year-old tattooist from Epping, struggled to break into the industry nearly 20 years ago; primarily because she was female.
“I’d always loved tattoos and I was a good artist so that was my dream career. Back then I was convinced that if I wanted to make it as a tattooist then London was the place to start,” Natalie explains, “I remember walking into this one shop in Camden and the blokes in there just laughed at me.”
Natalie explained how she got so many rejections which were based on her sex. Eventually she met a man who owned a tattoo shop and had no presumptions about gender and tattoos at all. Natalie still works in the same shop to this day which close to her home in Epping. “It’s crazy to think I now tattoo men twice my size and I’ve got so many more tattoos than them. They all think it’s pretty cool.” She says.
Famous musicians have definitely influenced women and tattoos today. Stars like Rihanna and Miley Cyrus are well known for their collection of ink and so women feel more confident to get a tattoo if they wish. It could also be a factor towards why so many more women are getting tattoos; because they are copying their idols. Female celebrities having tattoos could also aid the acceptance of women being inked throughout society; people are now more accustomed to women having tattoos because of celebrities. Furthermore, it is not outrageous for ordinary women to have them too.
However, some parts of society still have reservations about females with tattoos. It seems to be that some people are still stuck in the stone age and expect girls to be puppy lovers, pampered and pretty.
“Don’t get me wrong some tattoos can be pretty, but I just don’t think they’re very lady-like.” Says James Razdar, a 28-year-old barber. His 26-year-old, fellow barber brother, Joey disagrees; “I like tattoos in general. It doesn’t matter if you’re a boy or a girl, if it’s a nice tattoo then I like it. I think it’s stupid that people are still badgering on about what a girl should be and what a boy should be. You’d think that people would just get over it wouldn’t you?”
These comments highlighted a significant issue around women and tattoos in the 21st century; James was talking about tattoos on women in terms of whether he found them attractive, whereas Joey was speaking from a neutral perspective. Yes, women and tattoos have become much more accepted, but something that hasn’t changed is the sexualisation of women; has women having tattoos given men another reason to objectify them? Many adult film stars are infamous for their tattoos, and their ink plays a massive part of their pornographic persona. Therefore, the argument is raised as to whether men and women are now viewed as equals in the tattoo industry, or is it just a catalyst for more gender stereotypes?
In this day and age, tattoos have evolved into their own culture, starting out with Rock and Roll and Skinhead influences, to now being part of the urban and music scene, whilst still maintaining those traditional roots. Different generations have different opinions surrounding this controversial topic; older generations tend to be more reluctant to women and tattoos because in their era it was massively disputed. Some people of today’s era would be surprised to hear about any controversy around such a ‘normal thing’. In life there will never be a time where everybody agrees with each other, and some would say that kind of world would be boring anyway… especially as the British love a good argument! Due to this, some will always be against women and tattoos, some will probably always objectify women with tattoos. The most important point that we must remember, is that millions of women have been beautifully inked and some haven’t, but the point is, either is the individual’s choice. Women today have the choice to be, or not to be inked, and that is a huge step in the right direction.