Regrets, I’ve had a few…

… but then again, too few to mention. 

Anybody who follows tattoo-related news will have by now seen Bidisha’s Guardian article – a self-confessional opinion piece expressing the regret she feels over her choice of sleeve she acquired in the 90s.

 

http://gu.com/p/3qxyf

This article annoyed me more than most anti-tattoo articles. Offensive Daily Mail pieces written by non-tattooed journalists are so common now that we have come to expect them; it’s no surprise that the same people who hate anything other than white, middle class mainstream are going to take a dislike to tattoos. Even the comments from readers, albeit incredibly judgemental, are nothing new.

However, to read a piece of confessional journalism by somebody who regrets their tattoos and now thinks that every other tattooed person is an idiot, was at best, disappointing and at worst, offensive.

The article was written with an over-riding air of sarcastic, sanctimonious judgement – a voice that implied she is annoyed at her own bad choices, is annoyed at the increasing popularity of tattoos, and now she’s annoyed that she shares something in common with people she rather she didn’t.

Bidisha ensures through her writing that she distances herself from numerous social groups – she suggests tattoos have become a “hipster habit” and berates anyone who chooses to become tattooed for purely aesthetic reasons. The “hipster” tends to get blamed for many recent misdemeanours and I’m not entirely sure who or what a hipster is, or indeed if “the hipster” really can be considered as one homogenous group.

I am also unclear as to where the “it must mean something” mantra came from, but surely aesthetic value is reason enough?

Then comes the classism. First, footballers:

 “Four players have had the mental acuity to pick up on the sleeve trend just five years after it first peaked, inspired by David Beckham”

A scathing comment alluding to footballers and their presumed lack of intelligence. Not many people have many complimentary things to say about footballers (this may be a bad-timed comment after last night’s World Cup performance), but I think we can afford them the autonomy to make their own decisions about their own bodies. They are young men with huge amounts of disposable income, with access to the best artists in the world and employers who don’t discriminate against body art – why wouldn’t they become heavily tattooed?

Footballers are often rolled out as examples to illustrate the rise in tattoo popularity and just how awful this is. We are never presented with photos of heavily tattooed athletes (of which there are many). Footballers are easy targets for class-related prejudices – unlike our heroic, middle class (tattooed) athletes, providing positive role-modeling for our children; footballers are seen as tasteless ‘chavs’ of the lower classes – and certainly somebody Bidisha wants to dissociate from it seems.

Next, people who holiday in Magaluf:

 “You can stumble into a Magaluf tat parlour in a drunken stupor and have Snoopy inked on your minge”.

And herein lies another reason why Bidisha doesn’t like tattoos anymore – because the awful people who holiday in awful Magaluf have easy access to awful tattoo studios, willing to tattoo snoopy on their lady bits, without much prior thought or consideration.

So really, aren’t they only doing what Bidisha did in the 90s, only on an easier-to-hide body part?

Also, who the hell calls it a “Tat Parlour”?!

Bidisha demonstrates an out-dated knowledge of the industry – with comments such “unartistic body art” and “a postmodern mash-up of badly translated Chinese words, bungled Latin quotes, dolphins, roses, anchors, faces of favoured children or pets, and Japanese wallpaper designs”, again, condemning anyone who chooses to have any of these designs but also refusing to acknowledge the artistic talent and aesthetic quality of much of the tattoo work we see today – and much of it, ironically, in the “hipster sleeves” she loathes so much.

Her comparison of how heavily tattooed women are perceived by society now, and in the 90s, is also problematic;

“Women with full sleeves are common now, as in plentiful. In my day we were common as in trashy”

To me, this suggests that Bidisha might sympathise with the “women with tattoos are trashy” camp – very unhelpful coming from a tattooed woman. Tattooed women are still hugely stigmatised in society (as Bidisha will know from experience) and comments such as this merely serve to reinforce and legitimise this negative attitude.

She is distancing herself from a subculture that she once, I presume, wanted to be a part of. And rather than quietly sliding away from the it, (like we may all do at some point in our lives, with whatever subculture we dabbled in), she chooses to mock and demean it instead. She made some bad tattoo choices and now feels she needs to berate, belittle and patronise anybody who chooses to become tattooed – whether it be a full sleeve or a minge-sized snoopy.

Bidisha indulges in many a tattoo-hating trope: the “you’ll-regret-it-when-you’re-70”, the “tattoos-are-working-class-and-the-working-class-are-scum” and “it-has-to-mean-something” being her favourites.

 

These were her choices, not the artist, not the industry, not other tattooed individuals.

 

Admitting your tattoo regrets is fair-enough, sharing your experiences with the readers of a national newspaper is fine; but adopting a self-righteous attitude and dragging down every other tattooed person whilst you do it, is inexcusable.

 

For Bidisha,

 

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4 thoughts on “Regrets, I’ve had a few…

  1. Sam says:

    great articulation. i would also add that her class stereotypes are contradictory as you point out on the one hand she denigrates tattoos by making them un-cultured and gendered (Magaluff, snoopy, drunk location on the body (‘minge’ is tinged with misogyny no?)) and on the other seems to be saddened that the full sleeve is no longer considered the right kind of common which is bizzare and a confused class analysis.

    • emmacbeckett says:

      Totally, good point!
      And yes, as soon as I posted it I realised I hadn’t mentioned my discomfort with the word ‘minge’… there was so much to deconstruct and criticise in this article that I got sidetracked… I also have a huge problem with her “legitimised self harm” claim.

  2. Victoria Fredericks says:

    I am so glad I stumbled across your blog! As a tattooed female witha good degree of intellegence, it is refreshing to see the subjects approached with such thought. The article by Bishda annoyed me too. One of the things I’ve had to learn as I get more and more visible tattoos is that people will share their experiences, they will be offended and offensive, and not everyone appreciates the art/aesthetic value of tattooing–even some that do are clueless when it comes to tattoo culture and the dramatic changes the industry has undergone in the past ten years alone.

    I look forward to reading more 🙂

    • emmacbeckett says:

      Thank you so much for your comment. I’m glad you liked the post and it’s always good to hear from people who agree, or who have had similar experiences. Tattoos incite such differing opinions, it’s good that we talk about and explore/deconstruct how these opinions make us tattooed people feel!

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