A Tattooed Mum?

This post is reflecting upon a personal experience, although it’s not directly about my PhD or research process – it *is* directly about my research topic. It just so happens that this time, I am kind of the researched, not the researcher… which is interesting in itself.

Yesterday we went food shopping. When I say we, I mean me, my partner and our little boy who’s 2 and 1/2 years old. My boy mastered the art of the potty a few months ago now, and so when out shopping I always take him to the toilets with me, just in case nature is calling. Yesterday was no exception and as we came out of the cubicle, we stepped towards the basins to wash our hands. I did the usual, helping my boy to wash his hands whilst at the same time washing my own and talking him through what we were doing, “let’s put soap on, rub our hands together, wash the soap off” etc. As I was doing this, I could feel the eyes of a woman on me, a woman who was stood quite near to us – perhaps waiting for somebody in another cubicle. I thought perhaps she was watching my boy – he’s cute and I’m biased. Then I thought perhaps she’s getting annoyed by my constant commentating on my actions, but I wasn’t going to stop – it may have been annoying for her but it was good for my boy. As we finished washing our hands, I prepared myself for shifting my glance up into her eye-line, and rehearsed in my head the friendly smile I would flash to communicate, “he’s cute isn’t he? sorry about my non-stop talking but he’s 2 and benefits from the explanation” (my smiles can communicate a lot, obviously). And no one can resist a smile can they? From the Mum of a cutey?

Apparently they can.

I flashed the rehearsed smile. What I got back in return can only really be described as a DEATH STARE. Jeez, what did I do that was so wrong?

I then realized that with a 3/4 sleeve jumper on, my tattoo sleeve was quite heavily on show, and so was my chest-piece – especially to the woman who was practically stood over that side of me whilst I did the do at the basin. Could it have been this? Was she seriously watching me, being what I firmly believed to be an attentive, ‘good’ Mum… and then give the stare because I’m tattooed?  I do sometimes find that people stare – for whatever reason, but a smile usually cracks them and assures them that I’m really not that bad.

Perhaps this woman was just in a bad mood and it wasn’t anything to do with me, perhaps she hated children so not even a blonde, blue-eyed 2 year old was going to melt her. Or perhaps she was just utterly disgusted by me.

Sometimes I get quite upset about negative reactions, and sometimes I just don’t care. Sometimes I want to take people aside and explain to them that I am a ‘good’ person (whatever one of those is) – that I do an important job supporting vulnerable women in abusive relationships, that I’m studying for a PhD, that I care for my friends and family….

Yesterday I ushered my boy out of the toilet and quite loudly said “Oh My Goodness ME” in my best posh voice.

Inspiration and Motivation?

I love love love this photograph. It is from a collection over at the Guardian web site…. photos of a rock n roll weekender somewhere in the UK. I love it for many different reasons – the sky, the drama, the colours, it just being a beautifully shot picture and of course because it features a heavily tattooed woman with bettie bangs!

This is one of the many good things about researching tattoos for a PhD – I get to look at great photographs. There is a downside to this however, and that is that these great photos really makes one question your own identity and self-image. I suppose it’s because I am so close to my research topic in that I too am heavily tattooed. There is no way I cannot research this topic without relating it to myself in some way. Ah, the old subjective/objective research dilemma. Well, I’m being transparent and reflexive and ‘owning’ my subjectivity at least – like all good feminist researchers should 🙂

This was of course the whole reason for this blog – to be reflexive throughout the research process. To document and discuss my pathway through my PhD. Ok, so posting a nice photo isn’t *really* discussing my research in any depth – but it was a good excuse to share a lovely pic and talk about how these gorgeous photos make me feel like a frump (!)

Could we call it ‘Embodied Academia’? I think this needs more thought…..