You are here


International Women's Day & The Artists Who've Changed the Tattoo Industry

illustrated queen bee with a crown and laurel frame on red background

The month of March is Women’s History Month, which kicks off with International Women’s Day on Sunday, March 8. In addition to celebrating women’s many contributions to our lives and the world as leaders, friends, thinkers, mothers, and partners, we wanted to shine a spotlight on some of the women shaping the tattoo industry today and share their experiences and wisdom.

Breaking into the Businessillustrated gold jeweled crown icon on red circular background

Until recent decades, the tattooing industry and tattoo parlors seemed like exclusively male spaces. But like so much male-centric history, that was never really true. As artist and Ink Master contestant Princess Hilla puts it, “We've always been there, they just never used to spotlight us.” Artist and fellow Ink Master contestant Katie McGowan says that she’s “experienced a lot of the struggles that other women[...]have experienced. Not feeling like their opinions are being taken as seriously. Being subjected to sexist, racist, and homophobic rhetoric. Being objectified first before being considered as an artist.”

But a wave of female tattoo artists, especially those whose work have been featured on television shows, such as Ink Master, LA Ink, and Best Ink, have broadened the horizons for other female artists. Princess Hilla says the exposure television has given “female tattooers like Kat Von D really helped open things up for the rest of us [....] The females in the industry now are absolutely killing it and it's so great to see the girls getting treated better and respected more than we were 10-15 years ago.” Artist Tiffany Tattooz agrees: “It's still a male dominated industry, but I feel more comfortable in it now and I think it's because of the tattoo shows. They really depict some awesome female tattoo artists in this world and people can respect it.

illustrated bee icon on red circular backgroundCreating More Inclusive Spaces

The greater visibility of women in the tattooing world has gone a long way to change the exclusive boys-club culture of many mainstream tattoo parlors. According to artist Jessa Bigelow, it’s possible that being a female artist today has “become an advantage, because I've had a lot of female clients who maybe aren't so comfortable with their bodies and feel a bit more comfortable with a female tattooing them.”

That’s an important thing to recognize in an industry that’s all about artistic and personal expression. The more inclusive and accepting tattooing spaces become, the more included and accepted tattoos and tattooing culture will become, which is good for everyone in the industry. Although women are leading the way for each other, it’s also up to the men in the tattoo world to work against sexism and misogyny to ensure that tattoo parlors are places where your art, not your parts, is what matters.

So this Sunday, March 8, wish the women in your life a happy International Women’s Day and celebrate by getting a tattoo or buying them something nice from the PainfulPleasures store. For even more tattoo news and information, including artist interviews, videos, and blogs, check out our community page.

Read the full interviews with the tattoo artists featured in this article here:

Getting to Know Ink Master Season 8 Artist Princess Hilla
Insights on Health, Camping & Ink Master with Katie McGowan
Handling Business Like A Boss Lady with Tiffany Tattooz | Catching Up with Tiffany Tattooz
Interview with Jessa Bigelow from Under Skin Art