How Come Tattoos and Piercings Are Suddenly a Women’s Issue?

It’s very frustrating when people take issues that concern women and men equally, erase men from them altogether, and just concentrate on the female part of the equation in order to present themselves as feminists. Body acceptance issues are one example. Men and women suffer from poor body image and fatphobia equally, yet there are folks who insist that this is an exclusively female problem.

Now it turns out that there are attempts to read tattoos and piercings in the same gender-skewed manner:

I’m not saying that teens only get tattoos as an act of rebellion; it’s obvious that there are as many reasons for getting tats or piercings as there are people who get them. But there’s no question that the desire to mark the body as one’s own (rather than one’s parents, or one’s peers, or the fashion industry’s) is a huge part of the appeal of permanent body modification. But tattoos or piercings aren’t for everyone. Without judging or criticizing those who do choose to tattoo or pierce, we need to work harder to give young women alternative strategies for taking public ownership of their bodies. Whether inked or not, every girl deserves the reminder that her body belongs to her alone.

Note how “teens” and “people” are suddenly transformed into “young women” and “every girl” who need to be given strategies (obviously by some benevolent paternal authority that is there to rescue these poor damsels in distress.) Men of all ages get tattoos and piercings everywhere, yet somehow they are completely erased from this discussion. Is the suggestion here that men’s reasons to engage in these practices are different from women’s? Or is it, rather, that they are not worthy of attention? Is that because women are a perennial mystery that needs to be solved or eternal victims to be saved from “society”?

This is the kind of quasi-feminism that does nothing but perpetuate the gender divide and present men and women as coming from entirely different planets.

15 thoughts on “How Come Tattoos and Piercings Are Suddenly a Women’s Issue?”

  1. Because I do a lot of travelling in Asia and I want to get buried in a Jewish cemetery, I won’t be getting any tattoos, but if I ever did, it would be at my own personal volition, and I would be loath to have someone speculating wildly about why I, the woman, did it, rather than why I, Nominatissima, did.


  2. Tattoos were historically more of a male thing, in the US and Europe. When I was young sailors, bikers, and convicts had them, mostly. Now it’s spreading much more to the middle class college student and is less marked for gender.


  3. “Men of all ages get tattoos and piercings everywhere, yet somehow they are completely erased from this discussion…”

    True…but among men, an earring is still often seen as a sign of less-than-manliness among the When Men Were Men crowd. (My father would have a fit if his grandson got anything pierced.) Not that it has anything to do with the original story or your point–in fact, it sort of underscores it. Notice that piercings are seen as “feminine” modifications, with women not as castigated as men for getting them but men seen as less manly if they do? And tattoos are a “male” mod, acceptable for a man while a woman with a tattoo is painted as in some way betraying her femininity?

    (FTR: I have two tats, both obtained to commemorate specific passages in my life, and I am contemplating a third. I have a total of three ear-holes and no other piercings. Also disclosure: most other piercings gross me out entirely. Not noses so much, but nipples/tongues/not even going to catalogue the other possibilities…but that’s personal and not even remotely gender-specific. Still, I have to own the bias.)


  4. In my culture, tattoos are traditionally associated with convicts. This is why I’m still shocked when I see them on regular people. 🙂

    I’d never get tattooed or pierced because I like my body too much to modify it. But I have no judgment for people who do. I think it’s a way of getting creative with their identities, that’s all.


    1. Really! Here they seem (at least in the generation before mine) to be strongly associated with Manly Men Who’ve Done Manly Things Like Serve In The Military.

      I actually like my body too–I think of my ink more as body art than modification per se…


  5. Well, this doesn’t surprise me in the least. This is probably coming from the type of feminist who considers War a women’s issue, insomuch as it affects “women, children, and families”. Very little mention is given to the men who do the vast majority of the fighting and the dying.

    This is only a deeper symptom of a root problem: For all of the discussion and endless back and forth that occurs in some feminist communities, I think there is a problem with defining the fundamental identity of what it means to be feminist. A lot of people pass off separating women into a “weaker” or “vulnerable” class as a feminist act, when, I think, they are just playing into the stereotypes that continue to victimize women.

    and then, from this, rises an infuriating trend: Minimizing male suffering because to do otherwise would be to admit that those preconceived notions of strength and weakness are wrong, and that in fact women and men have a very great amount in common.

    Which brings me around to an old joke that I recall is strangely pertinent to this situation:

    “You know why being Christian is a lonely existence? Because you’d be the only one.


    1. I agree with everything you say here. The only kind of feminism that I understand is the one that is against all gender stereotypes because they hurt both men and women EQUALLY. My feminism consists in believing that genitals don’t carry any meaning. They shouldn’t influence how we perceive people and what roles we expect them to play.


  6. Finally clicked on the link and saw who the author was.

    The first thing that popped into my head was…



  7. Well, I see I’m going against the general drift here but I think he has the germ of an idea.
    I’m thinking of all the times I’ve heard people comment on how someone has ‘disfigured their pretty face,’ or ‘whatever is a decent man going to think when he sees she’s got one of THOSE piercings,” or that ‘nice girls don’t exhibit themselves like that.’
    Comments made to blokes of my acquaintance revolve around ‘what might an employer think,’ as a theme which is slightly different. Still problematic, based on judging of character from external appearance, but doesn’t quite have the same flavour. So like I said, there’s a germ of an idea, but honestly, it’s just part of the same-old, same-old – differing expectations for men/women. I guess it’s worth examining it as a phenomenon, but personally I have other issues I’m more concerned about, as I think it’ll fix itself as a side effect of fixing other areas of imbalance.


  8. Considering who wrote that I wonder if he acknowledges how men with tattoos are often regarded as criminals and degenerates (something I don’t see happening to women with tattoos in my experience though).


  9. I just glanced at his post, so I have no comment in regards to what he wrote. With that said, tattoos seem to be pretty commonplace anymore and I see them on people of all ages, including women. I’m not shocked by them, but I do not find them appealing either. Danny made some good points here too.

    Many people may have a negative association with them given who they are traditionally associated with. Some people associate them with gangs, which is not a positive association at all. I know of someone who had jury duty on a trial about a many, also a young father whose tattoo identified him with haing a prior association with a gang and he was murdered, leaving two young children fatherless.

    Other people feel that it is just another form of vanity. It’s funny that the desire to be seen and different or to express one’s individuality often makes you one of the crowd rather than standing out from them.


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