Tattoos are inherently political. They make statements—sometimes personal, sometimes political, and sometimes both—and although tattoos may not necessarily take an explicit political stance, the freedom to modify one’s body is in itself a political act. Wearing ink and piercings with pride is a claim over one’s bodily autonomy particularly because body modifications are frequently judged as unprofessional or even nefarious.
Although all feminists do not share identical politics, an important facet of most feminist beliefs centers on a woman’s right to govern the decisions pertaining to her own body. Whether these decisions are as seemingly innocuous as what she chooses to wear or eat, or whether they are as clearly momentous as whether or not she chooses to have children, ensuring women are not only free but also encouraged to make such decisions for themselves is integral to establishing a more equitable world for people regardless of their gender. Tattoos can thus be seen as inherently feminist as well because they are a clear exercise of freedom over one’s body.
Some people choose to take this act of freedom to the next level, tattooing themselves with feminist statements or symbols. Tattoos alone are an exercise in bodily autonomy, and feminist tattoos specifically are a political statement professing enduring dedication to the movement, signalling one’s feminism to others, and serving as a reminder to oneself of the cause for which they fight.
Feminist tattoos can be clear symbols of the movement—the venus symbol, for example—or they may be subtle phrases that embody empowerment, individuality, and freedom. The simple phrase “I AM MINE” makes a powerful statement in just a few words. This phrase can be read as a simple resistance of the various ways in which women are disempowered. Throughout our lives, women are constantly told our bodies are not our own. Starting as children, school dress codes for instance are often enforced in ways that portray the bodies of female students as potential distractions from a male students education. Though dress codes may seem like a miniscule issue in comparison to issues like violence against women, these subtle ways in which women’s autonomy is not only taken away, but also considered a potential hindrance to men, normalize the disempowerment of women. The words “I AM MINE” are a direct proclamation of bodily autonomy despite societal efforts to govern women’s decisions.
While tattoos in themselves can be seen as a political act, working as a woman in the tattoo industry means working as a minority in a field dominated by men. Female tattoo artists face an uphill battle as they work to establish themselves, but some successful female artists have used their achievements in the industry to help uplift fellow female artists. Richmond, Virginia’s Black Rabbit Tattoo boasts an all female staff. Owner Kim Wall achieved success boosted by a large Instagram following that she gained thanks to her masterful Japanese anime-inspired tattoos, and she used that success to open a female-friendly shop with a dedication to inclusivity and tattoos. Black Rabbit Tattoo understands the political nature of tattoos. The shop displays signs attesting to their inclusive practices, and they have even held flash events in the past to raise money for Planned Parenthood.
As women, every decision we make is a political act, whether those decisions are in line with the status quo or not. Venus symbols and all female shops are proof that tattoos have a direct connection with feminism, but the freedom to decorate oneself with tattoos is a political act all on its own.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the official position of PainfulPleasures.