“You’re so pretty, why would you get a tattoo?” “Don’t you know that it’s permanent?”
More people — not just women — are getting tattoos. There’s still some stigma in society against getting tattoos, be it that it’s “unladylike” or counterculture to get one. Tattoos are often associated with other “alternative” forms of self-expression, such as dyeing hair untraditional colors or getting body piercings.
But, for as much as tattoos feel like they’re new, they have been around for thousands of years. Scientists who study the ancient Egyptians claim that the group believed that tattoos would prevent sexually transmitted infections or protect women during pregnancy and childbirth, due to where they were located on the women. It became more popular in American society during the late 20th century, especially during the 1970s and 1980s. A study from the Pew Research Center in 2008 states that 36% of Gen Nexters (what we now call millennials) have at least one tattoo on their body, regardless of gender. Most adults with tattoos (72%) say that they hide their tattoos from normal view.
A recent study from the University of Alabama says that the ancient Egyptians might not have been too far off with their beliefs. While getting a single tattoo can temporarily reduce immune system resistance due to the stress and pain of getting one, you can train your immune system to be stronger if you get multiple tattoos. The study measured levels of immunoglobulin A, an antibody that protects the human body from common infections, in participants who had gotten multiple tattoos. The researchers found that people’s immune systems were getting stronger and stronger with every tattoo.
On the topic of strength, most tattoos carry some sort of symbolic meaning, such as the name of a loved one or a reminder of strength and hope. People get them for all reasons; for example, some women choose to get tattoos over scars from their mastectomies (warning: not safe for work). However, despite this, there is still some stigma surrounding women’s choices to get tattoos.
Women are often encouraged to get tattoos that are smaller, daintier, and located on hidden or sexualized parts of their body. It is fairly common to see female celebrities with tattoos on the insides of their wrists, sides beneath their breasts, and the backs of their necks. What’s ‘inappropriate’ is getting a sleeve (body art that covers an entire arm) or something that is not traditionally feminine in the ways that images like the infinity symbol, anchors and hearts are.
In response to that, most women state that it is their choice (and theirs only) to choose what they want done to their bodies. Although some think it’s “ugly” to get permanent body art, for many more, it’s a symbol that they genuinely want and find beautiful. Despite arguments that it is too masculine to get certain tattoos, or at times promiscuous (think about where the term “tramp stamp” comes from), women who get inked simply find that it defines beauty in an untraditional way.
It’s a very personal choice to get a tattoo, and while it is permanent, it’s always going to be up to the person getting one to decide whether it’s right for them.