I like my body. My body is jiggly, and curvy and covered in imperfections. And yet, it is mine; it is adorned with markings I chose and some I didn’t. My body has scars and cellulite and wobbles when I walk. My body is mine, it has fought for 23 years for me to love it. It has loved me and supported me even when I refused to do the same for it. The jiggle when I walk comes from me trying to improve myself and be healthier. The cellulite on my thighs is from woman-hood, an honour I accept graciously. The stretch marks across my chest come from becoming a woman and my vain attempts to shun it. I have scars from when I did not appreciate the skin I was in. My body is strong and powerful, my body supports me and lifts me up when I fall; it lies me down when I need rest. My body has tolerated everything I’ve put it through, the chemicals and substances, and yet it still stands by me. I feel my body ready to fail me through no fault of it’s own. I feel my hips start to ache and my back stiffen and I know that if I gave my body half the love it gives me it can be strong once again. My body is sacred, and can create life. My body can create another similar to itself and while at this time I do not want this, I can accept that my body can do this. I’ve heard the phrase ‘your body is your temple’ but only in recent months have I been willing to accept this. Yes, my body is a temple. I am the god it is dedicated to. Because if my body can survive every abuse I throw at it, I owe my body the respect to love it. My body is not perfect, far from the ideal standard or my own, but my body is my body nonetheless and I love it for everything it is.
I would love to be able to say that tattooing is a beautiful, sparkling land filled with unicorns and rainbows where no one is ever judged, where you can be a woman, a man, or whoever you are and it not be a problem; but unfortunately that’s not the world I work in. I work in the very male-dominated field of tattooing.
Whilst female tattooers are more common now, we’re still far from being 50/50. Sexism is an everyday thing for myself and the women I work with. I’ve been told I tattoo well for a girl. I’ve had people correspond with me through dozens of messages before going off the radar when they realise I’m a woman, only to go to a rival shop with my designs and ideas and have the tattoo done by a man instead.
Don’t get me wrong, the world is changing; and I’m utterly delighted to see it. But, just in the way tattoos will always have a stigma attached, so will female tattooists. Members of my family have questioned my choice to continue in a job with so much negativity attached to it via the perceived social standards, I’ve also been asked by those close to me when I’m going to find a nice man, settle down, quit my job and raise some kids. An alternative job is not a death sentence. I can have a career I’m passionate about and this does not mean that I can never settle down if I so choose.
For women, tattooing can be a very cut throat industry. We’re made to compete for our work, for our right to tattoo and for our right to be taken seriously. We’re supposed to be sexy and promiscuous. We’re supposed to be the bad girls that should never be taken home to your mother. We are more than that, I am more than that. I am a woman, I’m an artist, I’m a creator, I’m a lover and I’m a fighter.
I am the protector of my tattoo sisters. I won’t tear women down in the name of success, I will build you up and praise you for the creative goddess you are. I will encourage your strengths and pick you up when you feel weak.
I work with 2 other women, they are so important to me. They are truly my family and we provide a mutual support network for each other. Whether it’s helping through serious issues, advising on tattoo techniques, or even if it’s just making sure someone eats that day and gets at least a little giggle into their day.
Female tattooists are here to stay. We won’t be pushed out so easily so instead of hindering women in tattooing, help them. And any female tattooers who might read this, support your sisters, don’t let them be forced out because of your insecurities. Learn to love and care for each other and you’ll be shocked at the magic that women can create when they stand together.
Picture: Cindy-Ray, Australian tattoo artist.