Thursday, December 10, 2015

ink on the brain

The other day I stumbled upon a couple of articles about women with tattoos, and how for many women tattoos are a way to celebrate our bodies and empower ourselves. Despite the myths that women get tattoos because of low self-esteem, or as desperate cries for attention, or as a signal that we're "easy" (seriously?), studies are showing that there's actually a high positive correlation between tattoos and high self-confidence. That for most of us, our tattoos are powerful and make us feel even better about ourselves.
Women have been subjected to unattainable beauty standards for decades. Restrictive behaviors intended to modify women's bodies, like dieting and wearing corsets, have largely been part and parcel of the female experience. But tattoos turn this limiting standard of modification on its head by empowering women to determine how they modify their bodies.

"I've never loved my body," Carolina Gerlach, who works in the theater industry, told Mic. "That just seems like a foreign concept to me. My body has always felt like something I could never quite control. There was always a few more pounds to lose or an inch of skin I wished would go away."

Her decision to get a tattoo was partially because "I wanted my body to feel like my own," she said. "It was the first time I've ever felt a sense of control over how my body looked. It became a reminder of my strength and the journey I've been on with my body."
"We're pressured to look a certain way," feminist writer Melissa Fabello told Mic. While more women may be getting tattoos than ever before, "I'd argue that they're still not considered 'conventionally attractive.' And neither, I guess, would the many men who try to start conversations with me with 'I usually don't like tattoos on girls, but...'" 

Perhaps that's why so many women find tattoos empowering — they're not trying to be more attractive to others, but to celebrate and amplify their own beauty.

"It's not something the commercial beauty world prescribes for you; you choose the look for yourself," Mifflin said. (source)
I can definitely identify with the feeling of reclaiming my body as my own. My life over the past many years has been devoted to caring for others-- supporting my husband through his career, including many moves across state and international lines; managing our household; caring for our two boys. My body has spent years literally nourishing, through pregnancy and breastfeeding, my children. I don't want to sound like I'm complaining, that those are negatives-- they are choices I have made freely, happily, that I continue to make every day. I could choose differently, if I wanted to.

I like my choices.

But they have meant that almost everything I do is in service of others, at least in part. Even outlets like blogging and photography are both for my own benefit, but also for others-- for family and friends who are far away to keep in touch, for doting grandparents and aunts to see their growing grandkids/nephews from afar, for my boys to have a record to look back on one day when they are old enough to be interested.

My stars tattoo is a family tattoo, a collective tattoo, and I love it for everything it represents. But my first tattoo is a tiny heart  on my wrist. It is a simple, generic heart. "Flash art," not exactly a sophisticated piece of art like so many tattoos are. And this may seem silly to some, but it is symbolic for me, liberating. I decided to get that tattoo, my first ever, after years of thinking it over and over. I went by myself. I got it for me, not caring what others might think. It is one of the few, rare moments when I have done something purely and entirely for myself and no one else. It's a powerful thing.

I want more tattoos. I have ideas floating around in my head (and in a board or two on pinterest). I don't know how many of them will become a reality. Zach has expressed his preference for me not to get more, and I am taking my time weighing my desire to respect his wishes versus how much new tattoos may matter to me... my need to do this thing just for me. My current tattoos just make me happy when I look at them... it's hard not to want to add more.

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