body image feminism tattoos

to tattoo or not tattoo

images via here, here, here, and here

A couple of weeks back, I accompanied Briley (whose stellar photography you’ve seen all over this blog) to get her tenth tattoo. She’s a collector, you could say, of meaningful pieces of ink scattered around her body. Watching the artist move the ink around her arm into something so beautiful and permanent, my itch for a new tattoo became greater and greater.
For those of you who don’t know, I have a tattoo on my back already; a vintage typewriter in a frame with keys that spell out SISTERHOOD. I love my tattoo. Having a tattoo is pretty taboo (no pun intended) because I’m actually Jewish (or, more like, Jew-ish). Getting this first one was a really big decision, and something I was sure to included my parents on so they felt like I wasn’t just running off and getting inked to rebel against them and their religion. They helped me pick the shop and the placement on my body, as well as narrow down what I wanted.
After meeting my artist and seeing her take on my vision, the tattoo got about five times bigger than originally planned. However, it also became at least 10 times more beautiful and personal. For those of you without tattoos, I guess this is a good time for me to say that getting to know your artist and letting them do what they do best is a super important part of the process. I knew I wanted a feminist tattoo that had to do with writing, but I’m not an artist, and I could have never envisioned what she created. I love my tattoo, and I’m so glad I got it.
They say that once you get one, you immediately want another. I got my first in 2010, but I’ve been stewing over what to get next since then. I have two ideas for what I want next: one I came up with a few years back, and one I came up with about a year ago. They sort of go together, and could even become a sort of sleeve, depending on what the artist thinks.
The first idea is a fork, which is representative of my relation with food, as well as body image. I want it on the inside of my left bicep. I have spent a significant amount of time looking at images of forks online to get an idea of what I want. Ultimately, I want to put the actual design elements in the hand of a tattoo artist. However, I get worried that a fork might be harder to get right. What if the prongs end up different widths? What if the shading looks too harsh or unrealistic? Y’all, there are a lot of bad fork tattoos out there! It’s scary! The fork, while a smaller tattoo compared to the second idea, feels like a bigger commitment in some ways.

images via here and here

The second idea is the one I’m really fired up about right now. I want the mantra ‘all bodies are good bodies’ on the outside of my left bicep, and I want it framed by different flowers. I’ve been really inspired by vintage botanical drawings, which I think could be a cool way to show flowers of different shapes and sizes and colors. In my mind, the flowers could wrap around my arm a little to eventually frame the fork as well.

images via here and here
After watching Briley get her tattoo, I went home and started researching tattoo shops with female artists. The shop where I got my first tattoo used to be all women, but now the only women is the owner, who only does large portrait pieces, and the rest of the artists are male. It’s really important to me to be tattooed by a woman, and by a shop that supports female artists. I found a shop that’s actually right down the street from where I live that has four female artists, beautiful artwork, and amazing reviews. I think I’ve even picked which artist I want to do my ink!
So what’s stopping me? I feel weird admitting this, but I worry about having a tattoo that’s so visible. 99% of me is like, yes, you’re getting this incredible artwork to show off to people, of course you would get it in a visible place! I often think about how I wish more people could see my back tattoo on a regular basis because I don’t wear a lot of strappy tops, and I want to show it off! On the other hand, the 1% of me gets hung up on the fact that I’ll have this forever, and while I want it visible now, I don’t know if I’ll want it in 30 years. I want to want it! I try to picture my mom or someone my mom’s age with a similar tattoo. Obviously most of my generation will have similar, visible tattoos 30 years from now because it’s become such a normal thing for us to do, where as it wasn’t when our moms were our age. If my mom had a visible tattoo on her bicep now, I imagine there would be a level of shame she would experience in her daily life, from the workplace to the grocery store. By time I’m her age, I hope it will be more widely accepted. Also, let’s be honest, I hope to never have a job where I couldn’t have visible tattoos.
Do any of you who have visible tattoos ever experience shaming, whether from people in our generation or older folks? I know it’s more common for women to experience the criticism, which is a whole, huge problem in and of itself. Did you have similar hesitations before taking the plunge? Should I reconsider the placement of the all bodies piece to somewhere like the front of my thigh, where I have more control over showing versus not showing it? Am I overthinking this and should just do what I want and not care what anyone else thinks?
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