Today’s Tattoos, Tomorrow’s Stigma

By Amanda Eldreth

Elm Staff Writer

Art exists as a windowinto the different aspects of life and is sometimes meant to reveal what an individual or society tries to hide. Why is art more socially accepted when in the more traditional forms of novels, poems, sculptures, or paintings? Because those forms allow us to walk away from the art and escape the intrusion? Why does art suddenly become taboo when permanently inked onto someone’s skin?

We do have these empty canvases that we walk around in each day, so why not throw some ink onto them and bring attention to ourselves, right? Wrong. See, part of the stigma that hangs in the shadows when dealing with tattoos are that those who get them are narcissistic and simply desire attention. It doesn’t help that some people truly do get tattoos for all the wrong reasons. The negativity isn’t kept alive just by those who think they’re a waste, but impulse tattoos also addsto the stigma that remains intact after all these years.

The people who get those often impulsive tattoos do so when they’re seeking some sort of change or as an act of rebellion that 20 years later they’ll regret. Situations like those make the people against tattoos just want to point and shout “I told you so!” Personally, it took me three years to plan my tattoo and it got to the point that it was all I could think about; that’s when I knew I wasn’t making a mistake.

There’s a story behind the actual design and the act of getting it when I did. I don’t mean to say all reasons for tattoos have to be like mine, but the story behind any art is one of the most fascinating aspects to discover. Sadly, some people just see tattoos as a distraction and a part of the seedy subcultures in society.

Much like traditional forms of art, tattoos have been a part of several cultures since time began. Similar to some music genres, they were exclusive to the outcasts of society like the bikers, criminals, and junkies. To whoever began breaking that stereotype, I send you my personal gratitude.

However, those groups did stand for something, and as uncomfortable as it makes some, there was a reason to get tattooed. Now, I can’t imagine criminals randomly thinking, “Hey, I feel like getting some star tattoo and then I’ll feel super cool.” No, they presumably get them to instill fear.

When I first got my tattoo this summer, I learned fast how to distinguish the looks I received. There were the ones that admired my piece and some even crowded around to ask about it. And then there were the judging looks that seem to accuse me of having done something terribly wrong. I’ve even received the “you just don’t look like the type to have one” comment. While I was contemplating getting a tattoo, I never thought about how everyone else would react; it was purely a personal act, and all I considered was me. Despite the judging looks and comments about tattoos in general that I’ve heard, I’m not ashamed or in doubt of ever getting one.

Although much of the negativity towards them has decreased, some opinions will never change. I do think that Western culture is more accepting than most places and this is probably attributed to the increase in people of all classes getting tattoos.

There are places in Japan that ban those with tattoos because of the association with their version of the mafia. I guess I can understand some situations like that, but when degrading comments are brought into the mix, I have to draw the line. There are morons out there that typecast those with tattoos as social misfits with nothing good to offer the world.

People, however, should be able to distinguish those who have tattoos for personal reasons, those who got the impulse tattoos, and those that have them for the truly evil reasons and then pass your judgment, if you must pass any at all.

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