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How I Learned to Stop Apologizing For My Tattoos

As a 20-something woman with tattoos, I’m used to being labeled by others. I got my first tattoo when I was 18 years old and have been collecting them ever since.

Growing up, I didn’t know many women with tattoos, and in fact, I was often told about that there are many stigmas and stereotypes which follow women when they begin to “deface” their bodies with permanent ink. I always knew I wanted a tattoo, but I never considered how body art would affect people’s views towards me. There are certain things about being a woman with tattoos that no one tells you: the biases, people’s attitudes towards your body art, and other ignorances. But should these biases, stigmas, stereotypes and outdated beliefs about tattoos deter women from getting inked? Should they prevent us from being proud about our bodies, our choices, and ourselves?

Like many women, my choice to have tattoos was never and still isn’t based on a societal need to be something, or someone, that I am not. Unlike the epidemics that face women today because of society and the media (like the need to be thin, dress a certain way, or even date certain people), having body art is actually something women are often encouraged not to have. Whether it’s because tattoos can apparently affect your chances of gaining employment, supposedly ruin the look of your wedding dress, or you’ve been made to believe men don’t like women with tattoos, there are a plethora of reasons as to why women apparently shouldn’t get ink. However, from my own personal experiences, I can attest to the fact that most of these “reasons,” are completely false. I myself have worked for financial, educational and government institutions, all of which were perfectly aware of my body art. I have gained employment with serious companies, held more than one internship, achieved success in both my educational and personal life, and have never met a man who doesn’t appreciate my tattoos. And considering the countless number of tattooed ladies out there who are successful, smart, and in no danger of losing their partners, I know I am not alone here. So why does society still have so much catching up to do when it comes to female body art?

If you are a woman with tattoos, you’re probably used to having people question you about your body art like it’s the Spanish Inquisition: Do you have tattoos in “hidden” places? Do any of your tattoos have meaning or significance? Aren’t you worried about the example you’ll set for your [future] children? What will your partner’s family think? What will your skin and the tattoo look like during old-age? You’ll regret getting tattoos, right? All of these questions, and more, are FAQs that even I myself have experienced on a number of occasions. The problem here doesn’t lie with you, however: it lies with a society bound by an older generation confined to gender ideals for women. Though not every millennial is getting a tattoo, and many young people from Gen Y may not even like them, it’s not our generation that lacks acceptance.

We millennials are growing up, coming of age and evolving in a world where anything is possible; including changing stereotypes, stigmas and views regarding certain things, such as religion, politics, sexuality and even body art.

Whereas I may have been worried about showing my tattoos when I was 18, now I simply consider them as a valid part of myself, included in the number of things that make me proud to be a woman. I can wear a dress that doesn’t hide my tattoos; I can attend Church, go to weddings, gain stellar employment, achieve success in education and find love. And none of that is hindered by my body art. I am proud to be a woman with tattoos, not only because they are a part of me and help in expressing myself; but because I am a member of a female generation filled to the brim with women proud to be who they are, what they are and how they are.

We tattooed women, like all women, shouldn’t worry whether we will hold ourselves back from a good job, a great relationship, or awesome parenting skills just because of what’s on our bodies. We are not defined by our tattoos. We are empowered by them. We are interrupting the stigma that we are so regularly put into by society. Not only can we succeed with or without body art, but we can be whomever we want to be without apologizing for it. And that’s something to be proud of.

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Written by Jacalyn Beales

Jacalyn Beales’ passion for animal rights and welfare is what first spurred her enthusiasm for writing. Working on her Classics degree, Jacalyn is interested in the female role within society -- and not just the ancient ones! She hopes to one day work with female oriented organizations to lobby for the rights of wildlife and bring about change, both through words and action. She can usually be found campaigning for the rights of African wildlife alongside other female supporters and her charismatic cat, Max. Sometimes, you’ll find her by the wine.

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