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Sun Jul 29, 2012, 01:11 PM

Tattoos As Self-Mutiliation

This essay published yesterday over at CommonDreams.org has created quite a stir.

Tattoos As Self-Mutiliation by David Macaray

An excerpt:

According to the guy down at the donut shop, there are three possible explanations for the popularity of tattoos: Aesthetics, Imitation, and Exhibitionism.

Aesthetics makes perfect sense. A woman may think a large, red and blue flower on her shoulder adds to her overall attractiveness, makes her seem more feminine, and a man may genuinely believe that a fierce skull wearing a top hat makes him appear more masculine or menacing. There’s no accounting for tastes.

And imitation may simply reflect the powerful influence of peer pressure, something we’re all aware of and, if we’re honest with ourselves, something we’ve all succumbed to. When the high school student body president gets a tattoo on his/her arm, 200 classmates are going to want to get tattoos on their arms. So maybe that’s the explanation. Tattoos are viral.

As for exhibitionism, we can only hope that’s not the answer. We can only hope that a “Hey, look at me!” mentality hasn’t reached critical mass. “Hey, look at my design, look at my symbol, look at my message!” Don’t judge me by who I am, folks; judge me by what I have printed on me.

Tattoos are an interesting sociological phenomenon in 21st century America.

For myself, I find it fascinating how a once unique, individualistic 'statement' is so easily absorbed by the corporate popular culture, i.e., at least a half dozen reality cable television programs. What was briefly a non-conformist action has become very conformist, especially for young people.

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Arrow 15 replies Author Time Post
Reply Tattoos As Self-Mutiliation (Original post)
earthside Jul 2012 OP
thelordofhell Jul 2012 #1
Demeter Jul 2012 #2
thelordofhell Jul 2012 #4
Coexist Jul 2012 #10
thelordofhell Jul 2012 #14
Blue_Tires Jul 2012 #12
YankeyMCC Jul 2012 #3
carla Jul 2012 #5
earthside Jul 2012 #7
Igel Jul 2012 #13
Manifestor_of_Light Jul 2012 #6
Neoma Jul 2012 #9
Odin2005 Jul 2012 #8
Blue_Tires Jul 2012 #11
4th law of robotics Jul 2012 #15

Response to earthside (Original post)

Sun Jul 29, 2012, 01:13 PM

1. Remember when having a tattoo meant that you stood out

Now it's more of a statement to not have a tattoo

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Response to thelordofhell (Reply #1)

Sun Jul 29, 2012, 04:54 PM

2. One that I am proud to make

and I worry about my daughter...at least, hers are discreet.

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Response to Demeter (Reply #2)

Sun Jul 29, 2012, 07:40 PM

4. As long as she doesn't get any on her lower back

They don't call ' it "tramp stamp" because it's trendy

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Response to thelordofhell (Reply #4)

Mon Jul 30, 2012, 03:00 PM

10. are you inferring if she gets one there she IS a tramp

or it will make her BECOME a tramp?

And what is your definition of tramp?

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Response to Coexist (Reply #10)

Mon Jul 30, 2012, 04:27 PM

14. Yeah, a lower back tattoo usually means she's a good girl.........roflmao

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Response to thelordofhell (Reply #4)

Mon Jul 30, 2012, 03:27 PM

12. The lower back isn't that bad...

But for the life of me I'll never understand the 'cleavage' tattoos...Now I have to work five times as hard not to stare like an idiot

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Response to earthside (Original post)

Sun Jul 29, 2012, 07:29 PM

3. It's only recent historical times that tattoos were not something

most people had for one reason or another.

Humans, particularly humans with skin easily colored all over the world have pretty much always used tattoos.

Not saying the fairly recent resurgence wasn't spurned at least in part by fads, I just think there is not surprised a fad isn't fading and is in fact seeming to continue to gain acceptance in mainstream culture.

I think that is a good thing, as the sooner it looses the forbidden fruit temptation parents can have more effective conversations with their children if and when they start thinking about getting tattoos.

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Response to YankeyMCC (Reply #3)

Sun Jul 29, 2012, 09:15 PM

5. "Monkey see,

monkey do" seems to be the rule that applies here. The first regular use of tattoos outside neolithic tribal practice was to mark property, slaves. I wonder how many know this?

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Response to carla (Reply #5)

Sun Jul 29, 2012, 11:21 PM

7. The tragic image that sticks in my mind ...

... is old movie news reel film of the tattooed identification numbers the Nazi's wrote on their death camp victims.

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Response to YankeyMCC (Reply #3)

Mon Jul 30, 2012, 03:40 PM

13. Intent matters.

A tattoo might mark you as belonging to one tribe or class, it might mark you as "adult", it might mark you as "convict."

It might be decorative: In an era of lots of light brown clothing perhaps you want something to make you stand out, since there's nothing else distinctive about you.

That's what I often tell my kids when they're talking tattoo. "I want to stand out." "Yeah, you're right. That would make you special when, really, there's nothing at all unique or special about you at all--your tastes, what you do, how you think, your goals, your abilities and talents. So you get that tattoo because it'll make you a person when you utterly fail to have anything else going for you." Can't say that to everybody. Too many would agree. Then again, "too many" would be "more than zero", and the number's far more than zero.

But most of them have a really, really strong negative reaction. I respond, "So you're saying you already stand out?" They say "of course." "Then why do say you need a tattoo to stand out. You already stand out."

It confuses them. Then I tell them the real reason they want a tattoo is to blend in. "You don't want one to stand out. You want one to be part of a group. It's just more group conformity--your choice of tattoo within the group matters a bit, but it's really the presence of the tattoo signalling that you're one of them that you need." Some miss the point. Some get it.

Modern tattoos aren't decorative. In some cases they're to mark the kid as belonging to a tribe. In some cases it's pathological, they don't like who they are and want to change it.

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Response to earthside (Original post)

Sun Jul 29, 2012, 10:39 PM

6. I have seen a grand total of ONE useful tattoo.

A massage therapist had one on the inside of her upper arm. It said "Allergic to penicillin".

As far as decoration, I don't get it.

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Response to Manifestor_of_Light (Reply #6)

Mon Jul 30, 2012, 01:15 PM

9. There are other uses.

Burn victims, people who have lost their eyebrows, the color to their lips, etc.

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Response to earthside (Original post)

Mon Jul 30, 2012, 01:09 PM

8. Tats used to be seen a "working class trash" thing by middle class people

That seemed to change as younger Gen-Xers entered adulthood in the 90s.

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Response to Odin2005 (Reply #8)

Mon Jul 30, 2012, 03:24 PM

11. I think the consent age has been lowered, too

I was in HS in the mid 90s and nobody I knew had a tattoo...Now I'm working on a college campus and more than half of the incoming freshmen I'm working with are inked...Some pretty heavily...

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Response to earthside (Original post)

Mon Jul 30, 2012, 04:30 PM

15. In a generation we'll be getting articles lamenting the youth of today

 

refusing to get tattoos like sensible people and thus putting their careers in jeopardy by refusing to fit in with mainstream ideals.

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