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Thursday, September 1, 2016

Young Ladies With Torrents of Tats and Disfiguring Pigments

 

I preface this entry by admitting I am 65-years-old, and I have developed a somewhat fixed set of cultural values. Oh hell, let's get down to it. I am a geezer who finds some changes increasingly difficult to endure. But, I also acknowledge I have little sense of modern fashion, art, or vogue concepts. If you are young, I promise one day you will reevaluate the fads and manners you followed in your youth. I say this from my own experience because so many of my early amusements now seem extremely juvenile and even downright regrettable.

Which brings me to … tattoos.

A 2010 Pew Research Center Report found that 38 percent of Americans ages 18-29 now have some sort of long-term body art. According to the Statistic Brain Research Institute, approximately 21,000 tattoo parlors in the U.S. provide services, and 32 percent of those with tattoos claim they are addicted to ink.

Women are getting inked more often these days. And they are not just choosing small, discreet tattoos on their ankles, their shoulders, and the small of their backs. Many are covering large portions of their anatomy with ink. The TV network behind show "Best Ink" and Lightspeed Research asked just over 1000 people across the United States about their perceptions of body art, and it turned out 59 percent of women have tattoos compared to 41 percent of men.

Why do so many young people – especially beautiful girls – become addicted to getting tattoo after tattoo? I understand the nature of pushing envelopes and how acquiring body art raises adrenaline. Combine the thrill with the desire to display a little “naughty” visibility on the canvas, and some young ladies can't seem to stop their desire to ink their bodies with words, symbols, and pictures. Exhibitionism fallen woman

One thing is for sure: Women who get body art are, in some way, seeking to redefine themselves.

Enter psychology. Getting tattooed can be an act of rebellion and a breaking of conventions. Some claim to love the endorphins that flood the body during tattooing while others even say they find solace in the pain the process produces.

Getting inked can be a form of attention seeking, especially when the tattoos are very conspicuous and very graphic. Due to the popularity of tattooing, it also can be an effective method of facilitating social interactions. Yet, I can see this as a possible cause of isolation also.

But, as with most popular fashion, I am sure young women think more about physiological reasons for having tattoos. The growing cultural acceptance of body art and the increasing media exposure of those with ink have created an insurgence of tattoo-related art and artists. To many women, tattoos represent a deep love of expression of what they consider to be beautiful, artistic freedom. To some, the more tattoos, the more beautiful becomes the display on their personal canvasses.

I also understand that tattoos have significant meaning. Ink becomes a self-satisfying way of expressing who people believe themselves to be on this inside. These people often use stock expressions, quotes, and poems to bolster body illustrations.

Yet, people age and change -- their self-images, their physical bodies, and their concepts of aesthetics transform. The permanence of bold expressions on human skin can cause deep regret. Don't even ask me how many young, extreme liberals I grew up with became staunch conservatives as they aged. And, removal of body art is costly and can be painful. 

 

I believe it is logical that many people question how naturally beautiful women could indelibly mar a lovely canvas by such subjective, artificial means. Hear me out, young folks. This is a pertinent question, and it always has been. Critical judgment by others is a part of life, and nothing can change the fact that getting a tattoo was once considered self-mutilatory behavior.

Living with the real consequences of choosing to display body art must be considered …

“Vintage salon owner ReeRee Rockette, 30, experiences extreme reactions to her extensive arm tattoos: 'I get a lot of positive feedback on my tattoos, although they seem to make people forget their manners. I get stroked, poked and touched by strangers – usually women – and it’s very unsettling. The negative reactions are quieter; stares and pointing, or questions tinged with passive aggression. I have had women at parties tell me why they don’t like tattoos. Despite me never asking.'

“'This has something to do with cultural expectations of what’s feminine,' explains Gemma Angel, from UCL’s History of Art department. 'A dainty little rose is an acceptably discreet decoration, but an entire back piece is much more confronting. The difference between these two examples is that one is about adorning the female form, perhaps to accentuate femininity, whereas the other is more about the tattoo itself – the body becomes a canvas onto which the person’s idea of themselves is projected. I think that Western standards of beauty do not accommodate heavily tattooed women because, like any form of body modification taken to an extreme, it disrupts the ideal of what is feminine.'”

(Anita Bhagwandas.“Women and Tattoos.” Stylist. 2016.)

A tattoo on a beautiful woman is like putting 
a bumper sticker on a Ferrari.”

I know many will hate this unattributed quote. Yet, like it or not, a stigma survives. A young woman would have to be in total denial if she thought tattoos weren't going to have a significant positive or negative impact on people she doesn't know well. And some of the variables that elicit judgment are the following:

How many tattoos does a person have?
What size are the tattoos?
Where on the body are the tattoos located?

In addition, right or wrong, people judge the behaviors of the tattooed. In actuality, some research has been done on those with body art that may reinforce those judgments.What behaviors are found to be consistent with women who are tattooed?

Research shows that body modification is associated with early sexual initiation and more liberal attitudes toward sexual behaviors but not with engaging in risky sexual behaviors.

(K. Nowosielski, et al. “Tattoos, piercing, and sexual behaviors in young adults.
 J Sex Med. 2012.)

In another stody, British researchers report significantly lower appearance anxiety and dissatisfaction immediately after obtaining a tattoo. Participants report significantly greater body appreciation, self-esteem, distinctive appearance investment, and self-ascribed uniqueness three weeks after obtaining a tattoo. But, women report significantly greater social physique anxiety three weeks after obtaining a tattoo, whereas men report significantly lower anxiety, and satisfaction with a new tattoo decreases significantly after three weeks, although a majority of respondents believe they are likely to get a future tattoo.

(Viren Swami. “Marked for life? A prospective study of tattoos on appearance anxiety and dissatisfaction, perceptions of uniqueness, and self-esteem.” Body Image. Volume 8. June 2011.)
 
Could tattoos affect a person's ability to find employment? Dr Andrew R. Timming of the School of Management at the University of St Andrews told the British Sociological Association (September 4, 2013) that having a tattoo reduces the chance of getting a job, but it depends on where the tattoo is, what it depicts and if the job involves dealing with customers.
"Most respondents agreed that visible tattoos are a stigma," Dr Timming told the conference. One woman manager told him that "they make a person look dirty". Another male manager told him "subconsciously that would stop me from employing them." Another male manager said "tattoos are the first thing they [fellow recruiters] talk about when the person has gone out of the door."

 

Health Risks – Important Considerations For Getting Inked

And, most important, what are the health risks of inking? In their usual “What? Me worry?” manner, the Food and Drug Administration says it knows little about the tattoo inks in use today. Tattoo inks are considered cosmetics, and their color additives are subject to regulatory authority. Yes, I said “cosmetics.” Go figure.

But the agency (FDA) says it hasn’t been using its authority “because of other public health priorities and a previous lack of evidence of safety concerns,” writes spokeswoman Lauren Sucher.
The facts: There have been no systematic studies of the safety of tattoo inks.

 Where does the pigment go?

Real concerns within the Arkansas-based National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR) are the following:

• the chemical composition of the inks and how they break down (metabolize) in the body;

• the short-term and long-term safety of pigments used in tattoo inks;

• how the body responds to the interaction of light with the inks.

For example, some tattoos fade over time or fade when they are exposed to sunlight. And laser light is used to remove tattoos. “We want to know what happens to the ink,” says research chemist Paul Howard, Ph.D. “Where does the pigment go?”

NC TR researchers are exploring several possibilities:

• The body cells may digest and destroy the ink, just as they rid the body of bacteria and other foreign matter as a defense against infection. NCTR studies show that a common pigment used in yellow tattoo inks, Pigment Yellow 74, may be broken down by enzymes, or metabolized. “Just like the body metabolizes and excretes other substances, the body may metabolize small amounts of the tattoo pigment to make it more water soluble, and out it goes.

Sunlight may cause the ink to break down so it is less visible. NCTR researchers have found that Pigment Yellow 74 decomposes in sunlight, breaking down into components that are colorless. “The pigment components may still be there,” says Howard, “and we don’t know if these are potentially toxic.”

• The skin cells containing the ink may be killed by sunlight or laser light and ink breakdown products may disperse through the body. “Research has also shown that some pigment migrates from the tattoo site to the body’s lymph nodes,” says Howard. Lymph nodes are part of the lymphatic system, a collection of fluid-carrying vessels in the body that filter out disease-causing organisms.

Whether the migration of tattoo ink has health consequences or not is still unknown. NCTR is doing further research to answer this and other questions about the safety of tattoo inks.

According to the Mayo Clinic, other health considerations for tattoos include ...
  • Allergic reactions. Tattoo dyes — especially red, green, yellow and blue dyes — can cause allergic skin reactions, such as an itchy rash at the tattoo site. This can occur even years after you get the tattoo.
  • Skin infections. A skin infection is possible after tattooing.
  • Other skin problems. Sometimes bumps called granulomas form around tattoo ink. Tattooing also can lead to keloids — raised areas caused by an overgrowth of scar tissue.
  • Bloodborne diseases. If the equipment used to create your tattoo is contaminated with infected blood, you can contract various bloodborne diseases — including tetanus, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.
  • MRI complications. Rarely, tattoos or permanent makeup might cause swelling or burning in the affected areas during magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exams. In some cases, tattoo pigments can interfere with the quality of the image.
(Staff Mayo Clinic. “Tattoos: Understand risks and precautions.”)

 


My Take

Rebellion, attention, beauty – all young women find themselves dealing with considerations of redefining themselves to achieve greater happiness and self-acceptance. This is very important in their development and often life-changing in nature. Very often, women make these decisions based solely upon the present state of their affairs – what's happening in their culture at the time and what's happening in their lives at the moment.

Most likely, a girl who chooses to cover herself with tattoos will be subjected to defending her decision to do so on a daily basis. It is difficult to have others consider a tattooed lady to be demure or innocent in character. Let me make this clear – I do not defend this judgment. In this entry, I hope only to speak honestly based on experience and personal research.

What I do wish to say to all young women is this. Nothing in God's creation is as beautiful as the natural body of a lovely woman. The features of imperfections and wonderful differences in faces, shapes, statures, and skins enhance sexuality and attractiveness.

I believe placing the depiction of the “art” of someone else on that skin does very little. In almost all cases it does nothing, to enhance lasting beauty. Symbolic of the talents of a tattoo artist -- what is original in ink applied by another? It is, at best, a decent rendering by a stranger.

I must be honest and tell you I don't like to see a gorgeous woman covered in ink. She may believe that ink may be a symbol of expression of her inner beauty; however, it is really nothing more than pigments of metal salts, plastics, and vegetable dyes that cover the real exterior of her being. Her truest -- and most sensual -- impressions come from the soul through her natural body.

To close, here is an excerpt from Covered In Ink: Tattoos, Women and the Politics of the Body by Beverly Yuen Thompson …

“Before women are ever exposed to the world of alternative body modification, they have been overexposed to the beauty culture through their personal interactions as well as the media. They have developed an identity based upon their gender performance, sexuality, race, nationality, age, and ability. 

“With the addition of becoming heavily tattooed, their embodiment identities intersect with these other factors. While White women may be given more space to experiment with their body modification, women of color, lesbians, disabled people, and other already-marked bodies will be interpreted more harshly, as multiply 'deviant.' 

“People of color’s bodies are often criminalized and discriminated against; with the addition of heavy tattooing, these pressures can become magnified. Lesbians and bisexual women may face additional stigma if their tattooing reinforces a butch appearance, but less so for a feminine one.”

I think body art elicits strong reactions. It may be attractive but the only true lasting attraction is the person displaying the tattoos. To some like me, a detraction is noticeable – one that makes me wonder why a person desires such artificial adornment, some of which seems so outrageous. OK, OK, I admit it -- it burns my ass to see a beautiful girl covered in shitty tattoos. There, I've said it. Please, girls, don't cover your skin with cheap renderings of supposedly wonderful sentiments. Don't become a walking exhibit of markings and designs. Be your beautiful self in your lovely skin.

And, I wonder if the fad will every stop. After all, how could any heavily tattooed parent regret that their son or daughter takes the same privilege with ink? I wonder if these parents even imagine what popular symbols, quotes, and artistic statements may be preferred in the future by their daring offspring. One thing is certain -- it will represent the cutting edge of redefining themselves.


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