Journal Entry 3.26.11

Tattoos – Body Art or Mutilation?

“I shall now mention the way they mark themselves indelibly, each of them is so marked by their humor or disposition”. This quote, written by the naturalist Joseph Banks in 1769 in his written journal,  was the first reference to the word ‘Tattoo” (or ‘Tatau’, which is Samoan).

Historically, tattooing has been practiced for centuries around the globe. Why then is it such a controversial issue today? Despite there being certain taboos on the subject, it is a widely practiced art.

“Tattoos have served as rites of passage, marks of status and rank, symbols of religious and spiritual devotion, decorations for bravery, sexual lures and marks of fertility, pledges of love, punishment, amulets and talismans, protection, and as the marks of outcasts, slaves and convicts. The symbolism and impact of tattoos varies in different places and cultures. Tattoos may show how a person feels about a relative (commonly mother/father or daughter/son) or about an unrelated person.” (Wikipedia)

I think in this context, tattoos secure their relevance in our society today, just as a painting, piece of music, theatre or film serves us spiritually and artistically. Once again, women, there is a great divide over who owns your body and who has the right to do with it as you please. Annoying, isn’t it?

As a tattoo lover, I see no problem with tattoos, regardless the size, shape, color or body part for which it stands. Nor the reason for which it is chosen. This is a personal statement for which everyone has the right to choose for themselves.

Now granted, in our society, there are certain careers, social groups and cultural biases that makes this self-expression nil. Jobs which require conservative dress and mannerisms cannot have employees with blatant tattoos showing in public.

So, therefore, it does denote more than just an artistic freedom- because you are having to ‘hide’ it from employers, family, friends, etc.? Different tattoos represent different things in people; how they look, represent themselves, what clubs [people] they belong to, jobs they hold, family units, country, region, city, town and heck; neighborhood!

It’s such a riveting conversation, that even my two tattoos that I have on my body, get notices, most of the time with positive accolades. But mine are, yes, girly and tasteful – whatever context you want to put that in, but for me they are my personal statement. Markers of my life experiences. Reminders of my life, challenges, triumphs, experiences and roads less travelled. And ultimately, my choice when it comes down to it. Despite initial grumblings from the parentals, it has since gone by the way-side. But I was also in my 20s when I got my first one. When is age appropriateness – well, appropriate? There is an 18 and over law in effect for a reason – but only in the US to my knowledge.

I think they are cool, unique, beautiful and addictive. They denote a certain mystique, allure and sexiness — for some. Others see it as mutilating my body that will be stretched and faded out by the time I’m 70. – I say, hell, I’ll just re-do them at 70! 🙂

In the context of tattooing prisoner, or POWs, that is a completely different means altogether. Forcible markings are not the conversation I’m warranting here. I’m talking about beauty, self-image, confidence, feminist rights and choice for women to have tattoos and piercings as a god-given right to their body and over what is done to it without repercussions, ostracism, banishment, abuse and/or being outcast because of one’s personal choice.

Here’s my latest Podcast on the Issue. Would love to see your video replies!

I’d like to hear from you!? What do you think about having tattoos? Do you have any? I would love to see them!

Post your Pictures in my Flickr site and we’ll use them in the film!

About Jodi Nelson

I am a filmmaker launching a new film project entitled 'Single Girl in a Feminist World: What Does A 21st Century Feminist Look Like?' By engaging a global audience of online participants, I will be asking virtual strangers to join in my quest to answer the question, “What does a 21st Century Feminist Look Like?” Utilizing social networks, crowd funding initiatives, web blogs, viral video, second life, flash mobs, virtual chat interaction and traditional modes of documentary practice, I will create a documentary film that exemplifies feminism in its profoundly new image.
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