By Alice Snape
One of my favourite things about my tattoos is that they challenge traditional stereotypes of beauty, that a woman's skin should be pure or unmarked. It still shocks me that, in 2019, some magazines and mainstream media push the idea that we should look a certain way, by losing weight or using make-up to conceal our so called imperfections. It is so damaging.
Perceptions of tattooed women have always suggested sexual promiscuity and over-confidence. And I think that society still views female confidence with an irrational disdain. Perhaps that is why tattoos on a woman are so provocative. I don't often wear shorts in the summer now for fear of tatcalling. As dependable as clockwork – when you’re a tattooed woman in public,some guy will eventually shout, “I like your tattoos!” My tattoos aren't an invitation to leer at me. My tattoo on my back is certainly not permission to run your hands down my spine or pull my top down to "get a better look" or ask me "how far does that go down love?"; I am not public property. Tattoos don’t make me “easy”, they don’t mean I have loose morals or that I am seeking attention.
Whenever I go back to my hometown, it's a small place in the midlands, people are always shocked that I have tattoos. I bumped into an ex a few years ago who was like "what are you, good girl gone bad? ". My uncle has a few tattoos and even he is surprised that I am the one in the family who is heavily tattooed. Women with tattoos are never portrayed as the "girl next door", they are never the nerdy girl, they are the bad girl, and they are sexualised. Women with tattoos have been painted that way for years. The Tattooed Lady in the circus, for example, was literally a freak, a strange creature to be objectified.
Tattoos have always been for "tough guys", and men with tattoos aren’t sexualised in the same way that women are. I was a studious girl at school, quiet, shy, forever with my head in a book. The fact that I have ink on my skin apparently doesn’t fit into mould. But I am still that person. In fact, tattoos have given me confidence. I used to hate the way I looked and adorning my body with beautiful artwork has been empowering - and I can't wait to see how my collection grows. I would love to fill all the gaps. It will be my life's work. It is funny. People often ask if I worry about what I will look like when I am older, but, really, why would I? I don't plan on fitting into another stereotype about what I should or shouldn’t look like in my seventies, eighties, nineties...