Wednesday, August 27, 2014

On Being Visibly Modified


Today I got my hands tattooed. This was a bit of a milestone for me since all my other tattoos up to this point have been able to be hidden with nothing more than a crew neck shirt with long sleeves and a pair of jeans. Now, that does mean being covered from neck to ankle, but it could still look...normal. And this seems to be a tipping point over that line.
Tattoos and piercings are becoming so common these days, that having a few small, out of the way ones is usually fine with most people. And ankle tattoo or tiny nose stud are all pretty ubiquitous. They are no longer defining traits of the alternative sect, but there does seem to be a limit on how much a person can do and still pass as "normal".
Studies have suggested women are more than twice as likely as men to seek tattoo removal. I cannot help but wonder if there is an element of gender inequality here. Women's bodies are often considered public property. If a women doesn't look traditionally feminine, people feel free to criticize her.
Tattoos in western society gained a lot of hold post WWII when a lot of men in the service got tattoos. When they came back, they flooded the workforce with tattoos, so it became more and more normal for men to have visible ink. The trend continued, and women started to get more and more visible tattoos as well, but still with more criticism than most men faced.

I now have over a dozen tattoos, and over a dozen piercings. I am firmly in the "modified" camp. I cannot pass as unmodified without taking a pair of pliers to my face and covering my body from neck to fingertip to ankle. And I plan on doing more. I know I want a dark mark on my left forearm, and a pile of books and teacups and scrabble pieces on my left leg in honor of my grandma who passed away, and one day I want to finish piercing my ears.
I will never be able to get a standard office job looking the way I do. I know that, I accept that. I also never lan on working in a place like that. Thankfully the arts are more forgiving of things like this.

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