Tattoos in American Culture

As far back as I can remember, I have always romanticized tattoos. The idea of permanently etching a symbols I held dear was great. Even if my views did change, the tattoos would stand as a reminder of who I was. Anyone who has tattoos, and grew up in a more conservative city knows that tattoos are not viewed in a positive light.  The article here talks about tattoos introduction into America, and how far they have progressed in the past few years. This next one here is Sofya Gladysheva’s personal opinion, but I am 100% behind her. After a brief reintroduction of tattoos origins in America, she goes on to talk about tattoos significance to the individual.

The last article is about Vladimir Franz. Vladimir is a drama professor running for the presidency in the Czech Republic. 90% of his body is inked, and is currently in 3rd place. This article was very refreshing to me, and I hope Vladimir’s campaign helps push for a wider acceptance of tattoos.


7 thoughts on “Tattoos in American Culture

  1. I find your post interesting because as someone with tattoos, I don’t feel stigmatized at all in American culture nowadays. The visibility of them could be a problem if I went into a conservative industry, but I feel they were an asset when I was in management in the edgier tech sector. Look around and you’ll spot visible tattoos on quite a few professors. Sure, my mother hates them and they horrify my grandmother. I’ll stop short of any facial tattoos like Franz, but that’s a personal preference.

  2. Speaking of tattoos in linguistic fashion: tattoo comes from Greek term stigma (plural stigmata) meaning…mark or tattoo.

  3. I worked in the medical sector and was in the military. My feelings on the stigma are different. When one joins the military at MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station) as part of a group physical everyone must strip down to their skivvies. This is for cataloging of both scars and tattoos. In areas such as San Fransisco or New York City it is also to compare the tattoos to known gang symbol affiliations. If you are found to have a tattoo that correlates back to a gang it can affect your entrance into the service and possible even deny you entrance. This is for many reasons one because of the stigma of criminal history tied with gang violence and the image of a soldier being a protector and not a criminal thug.
    Once you join their are rules and regulations involving tattoos. Depending on a person’s MOS (Military Occupation Specialty) these rules may be bent, over looked, or cause for discharge if broken.
    I.E. I once heard of an enlisted soldier that tattooed ‘fuck you’ on the outward edge of his saluting hand. Because of the insult that was meant to be given to officers when he saluted, he was told either laser it off or get a dishonorable discharge. He was dishonorable discharged. I have known girls with a tattooed eyebrows that were told that each time they shaved they eye brows off they would receive an article 15, they needed to hide the tattoo’s with their eyebrow hair. Facial tattoos were not permitted. Too many articles and they could expect a discharge. Light Weight and Heavy Weight Mechanics because of the nature of their job involving there sleeves being rolled up are advised not to get tattoo’s below the cuff; same with a ‘spoon’ or a cook. A 71 Lima (Office Secretary would be able to get away with that’s down to their wrist because their uniforms are never rolled above the sleeve. Yet they would still need to not be full sleeved, because when wearing class A’s the more discreet the better,
    Each branch has their own rules and regulations though. (For more info look at a civilian site for laser tattoo removal).
    There is a conflicting ideology with tattoos within the military. They are a formal badge of pride and strength but go against the overall structure of discipline and conforming as a structural whole. To be in the military without a tattoo is crazy… yet to be taken professionally within the organization of the military it should be like ‘don’t see don’t tell’.

  4. That is just a tad bit disgusting to me. The policies i mean. Sounds to me like the system to do a bit more growing up.

  5. Thanks for the enlightening comment, Sarah. I disagree with Cross in that I think that an intrinsic part of military thinking is the outward uniformity of the troops and the policies (or the ways in which they are actually enforced) match that thinking. You might be an individual on inside, but when you are in uniform you are part of a system. Of course, there are many civilian organizations where visible tattoos are not permitted. The Disney companies are the most obvious example that comes to mind — they maintain a list of appearance codes that cover tattoos (just no), hair color and length, makeup shades, piercings (one discreet piercing in each female ear, thankyouverymuch), jewelry, and more.

    A tattoo on a part of your skin that is almost always covered is a personal issue, shared with only you, your notion of a higher power (as some religions oppose/ban tattooing), and your closest companions. Choosing to have visible ink will make you unwelcome in some places and more welcome in others, and it’s smart to weigh that before tattooing a 4″ peace sign on the side of your neck, for example.

  6. I have several tattoos. My first was a rite of passage. I went with a girlfriend and we both chose unicorns on our ankles. One I allowed a new artist to apply because it was part of her rite of passage. A new female artist and friend that needed skin to practice on. I allowed her to do a more traditional piece on me.
    The rest are symbolic. Wisteria for my grandmother’s passing. She brought a vine from Missouri when she married 75 or so years ago. I dug it out of the ground and cut off the chain link fence to free it and take it to my home. I could not bear to leave it behind. I have a green dragon for my mother. She was called green dragon, it was her ‘handle’ to talk on the CB when we grew up and she collected dragons.
    I have a manticore that is half tiger and scorpion across my back and shoulders. This is symbolic of the Chinese zodiac tiger and modern astrology of Scorpio. I also have a hummingbird. I had a vision when I was being prepared for my rite of passage into the healing art of Reiki healing.
    I understand the thought of lack of tolerance. All of my art work is tucked away and easily concealed. I have been concerned of the stigma attached that could impinge my career at some point. I believe that tolerance is coming through the popularity of tattooing in bringing acceptance along with time and repeated exposure.
    My son is in the service and wishes to get a shark tattoo. It has something to do with the special training group he is in. Even the placement of that tattoo is important. It will be his first and the officers informed him only so much and so many places are allowed.
    The acceptance may be a phase. I hope it is a trend that grows and allows people to experience the rites of passage and any other symbolism they need as individuals.

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