It’s Skin Deep

This began as a post merely recommending an article in a magazine, and as if by magic, has developed into a post of two halves…

I was delighted to find a great article on Women and Tattoos in Issue 202 of Skin Deep magazine, How timely! How convenient! Given my rant in my last post, this find was quite pleasant. It’s always pleasing to discover an interesting article amongst the pretty pictures, especially one that reaches out to you on a personal level.

“Only Women Bleed” provides an over-view of the history of Women’s relationships with tattoos, and a commentary on Women and tattoos today.

The article discusses a wide-range of women & tattoo-related subjects; from body projects (such as lip and eyebrow enhancement) using similar technology to tattoo but refusing to use the term ‘tattoo’, to tattooed circus side-show attractions and Egyptian Mummies.

The article even tackles the Tattooed Woman = cute or sexy dichotomy, stating that “Popular Culture persists in giving tattooed women very narrow margins to exist within”. It also discusses tattooed women as commodities and uses Suicide Girls as an example of this trend.

It all makes for a very interesting, and thought-provoking read. If you haven’t seen it, and would like to, back issues are available to buy here:

Anyway, I promised this post was one of two halves. So what’s the other half?

After reading “Only Women Bleed”, I decided to write to Sion Smith, the editor at Skin Deep and tell him that I thought the article was good, refreshing, etc. I of-course didn’t let the opportunity of a little self-promotion pass me by, and I included a link to my previous post – The (tattooed) Beauty Myth. I was really hoping Sion would read it, it’s always good to get differing opinions – especially as so many of the reader-comments were aimed at Tattoo Magazines, and let’s face it, the ‘issue’ so many women have with them.

Well, Sion did read the post and the comments and he took time in replying to my email. He said he’d be happy for me to use his comments in a follow-up post, so I’ve jumped at this chance.

Drum Roll

Sion Smith, editor of Skin Deep said:

Basically, I can’t address the sins of the tattoo mag industry in a single issue. It is a long process that requires me never to explain it. More to take it for granted I think. The Only Women Bleed article is the tip of an iceberg that needs addressing. Fact of the matter is though, I get at least 12 emails a day from heavily tattooed models looking to be in the magazine. 99.95% of these women are what most would call ‘attractive’ and they are more than ready to be feature with fun outlooks and a wealth of stories. These are things I can work with in a magazine but combine it with the fact that they also spend a lot of money on photo shoots to approach us, shows just how serious they are. They know the business. Conversely, I also get some people who want to be in the mag who have taken pics of themselves in the back garden with a phone camera. Not good for a magazine that has the production values that we have.

That’s the business end of the stick.

When I took over the magazine, I was aware of all the critics and agreed with some of them. I cannot change the covers of the magazine (not yet) although we are working on it! (See issue 200) because what people on the outside don’t see is how we have to work with distributors and stores across the country and how they take us into their stores based on whether they THINK they can sell it. It’s complicated. So leaving the covers aside for a second, inside the mag, things are changing as you have noticed, but it has to be a stealth change. There is thought and there is art. There are also people. Male and female. All that remains now is to try and de-sexualise it and make it all about the art – which after all is what we are. But I reckon it will take years to do this. It’s a long process of educated readers as to what I actually want and then getting them to provide it – but the magazine still needs to cater to the majority. I’m still feeling my way with it, but we’re getting there. It’s just one little issue in a sea of a lot of little issues!

What I find ironic is that those who don’t buy the mag because of the cover even though they might enjoy what is on the inside are entering into the very behaviour they so abhor by judging the content based on the art presented on the skin. I think it’s ironic… it may be sad, funny or something way above mental process also! I can’t decide”

I was really happy to get a response from Sion. We have continued the conversation via email since this initial reply and it has given me a real insight into the business end of the world of Tattoo Magazines, and has allowed me to think more broadly on the subject I suppose. I know that this response will trigger some more comments and I’m sure Sion will be glad (or at least interested) to read them – as will I.

I was glad to hear that Sion is not in anyway saying that he doesn’t see a problem in some of the content of magazines. He is fully aware of the criticisms, and is actually working on addressing these. Which is good to know, right?

This has been an interesting little side step for my PhD subject and me. I have to keep reminding myself that it isn’t my sole focus, although to be honest it’s a huge topic and probably could be….Watch this space 😉