What's with Tattoos?

I am consciously trying to steer clear of why different people want tattoos, as there are various reasons, I am instead asking why is this happening to our generation? 

LeTrent, S. (2013, September 12). Tattoos and piercings: How young is too young? Retrieved January 21, 2018, from http://edition.cnn.com/2012/07/06/living/too-young-tattoo/index.html

           Tattoos and piercings: How young is too young? written by Sarah LeTrent is an opinion piece asking the question of whether young people should get tattoos, whether they have their parents’ permission or not. It begins with speaking about the upset Willow Smith caused after posting a picture wearing a fake tongue ring at the age of 11. The articles went on to explain the varying laws each state has about the legal age of giving consent for a tattoo, some being more lenient than others. This brings up the question of when is the right age to get a tattoo. The author proceeds to state others people’s experiences with getting tattoos as teenagers. The piece ends with an explanation that young people often overlook the concept of permanence rather than focusing on feeling good about who they are opposed to what they look like

            Sarah LeTrent was influenced by the reaction from adults about an 11-year old’s decision. Most of the backlash demonizing the parents and shaming the child for her piercing, only for the public to find out that the ring was magnetic and there was no piercing. LeTrent then discusses tattoos, explaining the idea of permanence that a child can seemingly not understand. Through presenting the different laws surrounding tattoos across states, and that there was a man who allowed his 10-year-old grandson to get a tattoo to follow a family tradition, the article highlights the fact that there are right ways and wrong ways of getting a tattoo at a young age that aren’t really backed up by any logic – only opinion. At the end of the article, the author tries to say that the reason young people want body modifications is to cover up the fact that they don’t completely accept themselves is problematic because getting a tattoo or piercing or both is a way of endearing a body, not “fixing” it.


Canada: Can An Employer Prohibit Tattoos And Piercings? (n.d.). Retrieved January 21, 2018, from http://www.mondaq.com/canada/x/460616/employee rights labour relations/Can An Employer Prohibit Tattoos And Piercings

            Peter McLellan wrote the article Canada: Can An Employer Prohibit Tattoos And Piercings? about the role the law and government have revolving around tattoos in the work place. In this article, it states that tattoos and piercing are not covered by the Human Rights Act or the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in Canada so employers may legally choose not to hire someone due to body modifications, with the exceptions of tattoos and piercing for ethnic or tribal reasons because then it would be in violation to one’s human rights. The article then explains the difference between a non-union work place and a unionized one, through the hiring process as well as once someone has the job and then might decide to getting tattoos or piercings.

            This article highlights the valid point that if an employer prohibits tattoos in the workplace, they could potentially be turning away competent and valuable staff members. Later in the article Pater McLellean explains that there is little difference between discrimination against someone’s ethnicity and someone’s appearance. Since this article states that there are exceptions for people who have these body modifications for ethnic or tribal reasons, it leads to the extended thought of how important one’s appearance is to their identity. 

What's with millennials' obsession with tattoos? (2017, September 27). Retrieved January 25, 2018, from https://www.thegatewayonline.ca/2017/03/feature-millenials-tattoos/

            This article holds a theme of autonomy over one’s body and hold the least bias of the tattoos on young people argument, more interested in looking for real answers as to why the popularity of tattoos have come about. The most interesting point I found in this article was that the younger generations are subject to a society and ideals that are rapidly changing and tattoos are almost like a permanent identity. That also ties in with my ideas from previous articles where the writers were questioning whether young people understood permanence. From this I can draw one of two conclusions that maybe young people don’t understand permanence but they want to, or maybe the ideas people have about permanence are being stretched. This publication also takes time to explain tattoo removal, but that quickly transitioned into how expensive the whole process of getting a tattoo could be including removal, also touching on the pain aspect of tattoos. This was the only part that almost felt like some bias was being shown. Another idea I am thinking about, is that teens are by nature angsty and maybe the mere fact that parents are so opposed to tattoos is what is manifesting the want for tattoos. At the end of the article the writer makes a statement explain that if tattoos are a source of identity that no one really has the right to look down upon them.


Brean, J. (2015, January 25). From counter-culture to mainstream: Why the red-hot tattoo boom is bound to end. Retrieved January 28, 2018, from http://nationalpost.com/news/canada/why-this-red-hot-tattoo-boom-is-bound-to-end-with-regret-again

            This article was about the evolution of tattoos, touching on where tattoos came from but focusing on how they became so popular. From here I need to do more research about what tattoos are started out as. I will also be looking into the references the writer makes because they are academic text that could give more of unbiased or credited account for this phenomenon. I learned that Toronto alt-weekly NOW magazine actually launched a red-yellow-green system of rating tattoo parlors so the first article I read that urged parents to help their children find “good” or safe tattoo parlors is putting unnecessary accountability on the parents, considering that if their child is only enough to legally get a tattoo they would have this as a research. My bias stands on the side where young people should be able to make such decisions for themselves opposed to being assisted by their parents. The most important idea I got from this article why that there is a difference between wanting tattoos and wanting to be tattooed – this idea will definitely need more research, maybe by someone who actually has lots of tattoos. The last thing this article does is actually agree with my idea form the previous article that children do what their parents don’t want them to do. 


Can you think of a time when your parents just completely did not understand where you were coming from? It probably doesn’t take you very long to think of an example, right? I mean it’s true, most of the time you do parents know what’s best. Even Will Smith knew this in his song, Parents Just Don’t Understand.Spending the first half of the song explaining how his mom will never understand the fashion trends of his generation. But then the second half of the song, he speaks about the indecisiveness of what it’s like to be 16 and make dumb decisions.

So, my name is Jess, I’m 19 and I have a plan to cover about 50% of my body in tattoos. I can assure you, this is not a fashion trend for me. But none the less, my mom does not want to hear anything about this plan.

So, when I came across Perri Klass’ article in the New York times, “when adolescence want tattoos or piercing” I was expecting a complete hit piece. But instead she was really just addressing parents and telling them the dangers in shutting down this conversation, because at the end of the day, the most important thing to you is your kid’s health and safety, right? I mean, I’ve never thought of tattoos as unhealthy or dangerous, but at least she’s open to the idea! It was just a very… parental way of going about this topic

And this is where my search begins. Looking for the adolescence point of view, the one who wants the tattoos and piercing. But the more searching I’m doing, the more it just seems like a one-sided conversation. There were three reoccurring themes in all the articles I could find of body modifications:

-       Society’s beauty standards and just the visual aspect of tattoos

-       The idea that young people just don’t understand permanence and that’s why they are so willing to get tattoos

-       And of course, identity, whether you think good people get tattoos or bad, we can all agree that it takes a certain person to get tattooed, right?

… right?

Now, my research is far from done. As the podcast goes on we’re going to really dive deep into these themes and find out.

What’s with young people and wanting tattoos?


The violent Aesthetic: a Reconsideration of Transgressive Body Art by Eric Mullis

This academic article written by Eric Mullis called The violent Aesthetic: a Reconsideration of Transgressive Body Art does not specifically comment on tattoos but focus on somaesthetics and whether art regarding the physical body is consummatory or unconsummatory.  Before getting into the depth of their argument, Mullis explains why society is so interested in this type of art. The way I am going to use this information in my podcast is because I learned unlike traditional visual art it is impossible to distance yourself from the transgressive quality of body modification in society. Through the text the answers to why and what it means to have your body art understood by society – as a way to show society that not everyone is the same, and society could not ignore this refusal to assimilate. Two definitions in this piece struck me as important and they were; traditional performance artist that’s the body’s expressive ability while a transgressive body artist is valued by its cultural critique (tattoo artists/getting tattooed is transgressive body art). Since the body is the canvas/medium for expression if a tattoo represents/is received as a consummatory image, then that shows the audience how that experience can be formed and can be formed and used as a guide to a fulfilled identity. This article also makes statements about corporeality, the most interesting one was near the end of the article when I was able to conclude that reducing tattoos to just art and what it represents ignores the bigger picture of the complicated relationship one has between their body and their identity. By getting tattooed the individual is showing that they are not compliant to their social conditions because they are using body art to pursue a fulfillment of their own identity.


Tattoos Teenagers: An Art Teacher’s Response by Lorrie Blair

Tattoos Teenagers: An Art Teacher’s Response in an article written by Lorrie Blair, and the first thing I noticed about it was that it was dated. This article wrote about high school students as if they had almost no credibility, trying to make it subliminal but it came across loud and clear. There was no mention where the statistics included were from, no region or time frame. The piece began speaking about high school students who want tattoos as a form of identity which I can understand, and agree with, but then it said that this identity was a bad one because the teens aren’t doing the right research. One interesting part of the article was when they gave a little bit of a history lesson and informed me that British and American people used to get Japanese tattoos in the 1800’s as a symbol of wealth and being worldly – the author justifiably went on to make connections between tattoos that celebrities get and these historic tattoos. The text says that teachers can use the youths interest in tattoos as a way of teaching them about different cultures and the critical thinking they need to be able to get a good tattoo that they won’t regret in the future. Then the article lists some websites to visit to get more information on tattoos, this was really the dated part because with social media like twitter and Instagram I can get any information about a tattoo artist I want and where they work out of. The article ended on a note that I agree with on a surface level, stating that the amount of effort you put into getting a tattoo is directly correlated with how much you care about your body and really appreciate the art of tattooing. I do believe that “on a whim” tattoos could be just as much of a good experience as well as a good addition to a tattoo collection. 


Reuters, T. (2015, August 06). Tattoo's long-term risks unclear, medical review concludes. Retrieved February 08, 2018, from http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/tattoo-safety-questions-remain-in-long-term-1.3181974

Tattoo Safety Questions Remain in Long Term an article publicized by CBC News| Health written by Thomson Reuters has a main argument that we know short term risks of getting tattoos but we don’t know what the long-term risks are. While the short-term risks are infection or allergic reaction, the long-term risks might be scarier than we think. The article states, “No proof ink ingredients being injected into the body are safe” but I argue that this is a very one sides way of questioning safety, considering there is another statement that the author made a conscious decision to leave out, and that is: there is no proof that the ink used in tattoos are unsafe. The reason Reuter believes there is not conclusion to the long-term danger of tattoo ink in the skin is since tattoo ink is classified as a cosmetic, there can be no testing on animals, making it harder to test long-term effects. I don’t know much about animal testing but I do know tattoos have been around for centuries, so I’m sure there is a way to test these theories on a person from an older generation who has tattoos. Later in the article the author explains that a corps’ tattoos faded away leaving only 10% of the tattoo still visible, after being tattooed for decades before his death. The question this article poses is: where does the ink go? I know from other research I have done that your body in continuously working to break down the ink causing them to fade over time. It is not that this foreign substance is traveling everywhere through your blood stream as it fades, but rather that special cells called macrophages break down the dye until you can no longer visibly see the tattoo. (https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/07/the-real-reason-tattoos-are-permanent/374825/). While there might still be some uncertainty to what “breaking down” means, there has been no records of someone becoming ill due to long term effects of having a tattoo, therefore there is good reason to believe that there are no severer long-term effects of receiving a tattoo. This article touches on the fact that tattoo ink mostly contains organic pigments, but quickly transitions into the risks that are connected to the word “mostly”. He purposes that tattoo artists have a responsibility to explain that there is an risk, but with no known risk, what is there to be warned about? I do agree with the note the article ends on which is that if you want a tattoo, you should do your due diligence to make sure you are acquiring it in a safe and healthy environment.


Why Do People Get Tattooed? by Miliann Kang and Katherine Jones

            Miliann Kang and Katherine Jones wrote a popular article by Sage Publications on behalf of the American Sociological Association. The thesis of this article is that there is no single explanation that can account for the increasing popularity of tattoos but with their research they found that people use tattoos to express who they are, what they have lived through, and how they see themselves in relation to society. This article begins with their ideas about tattooed youth, explaining media’s influence of young people which has resulted in a “supermarket era” for tattoos and includes an statistic that I might want to look farther into. In the article it states, “through the results of two surveys, one based on 642 high school students in Texas and one based on a national sample of 1762 students, contrary to stereotypes, are high-achieving students and rarely report gang affiliations.”. A woman who was interview for this article speaks on a matching tattoo she has received with her now husband and says that even if they do end up divorcing, the memory of her husband will always be with her, and the tattoo is just a physical embodiment of that point in her life. The major take away from this section is that young people getting tattooed is an act that serves as a vehicle to mark adulthood. The next section is about being tattooed as a woman where the authors explain the social injustices revolving around tattooed women. Referring to a court case where a woman took a man to court for rape in the late 1920’s (doing this isn’t easy today, so I can’t imagine doing it almost 100 years ago) and the case was dropped once the prosecutor realized that she has one tattoo on her ankle of a butterfly, which mislead the two men who sexually assaulted her. Women with tattoos were seen as sexually promiscuous and lower-class.  The main thesis of this argument is that even when women seek freedom and power over their bodies, the meaning women attach to their tattoos are culturally written over by the society that they live in, in which case I believe it is society that has the problem not the women. The last an shortest section of this article is the tattoo subculture, where an interviewee explained that when he didn’t have tattoos he felt like a zombie in his own body and tattooing himself was a spiritual moment where he got in touch with his own body. The conclusion of this article went on about while someone might get tattoos to mark individuality, adulthood, or creative expression, some tattooes have difficulty reconciling their own intentions with negative social attention, and I know that mu bias is showing but the more research I do the more I realize that I think the problem lays in society’s perception and not the tattooed individual. I am hoping my next article can give me a clear definition of what adulthood means though.

Document Dissemination Division at the Laboratory Centre for Disease Control. Infection Prevention and Control Practices For Personal Services: Tattooing, Are/Body Piecing, and Electrolysis. Health Canada. July 1999.

            This government official document outlines the risk for infections of tattoos and piercings as well has how to prevent infections (as a practitioner) and how these body modifications should be done. The latest document I could find was published in 1999, which tell me that the government either still believes these regulations are still correct or the government does not think it is necessary to revisit this document because it is not a serious threat. There is a lot of information in this document so I can assume that I will be referring back to it during the making of my podcast. There are four causes for infection when it comes to needles and those are: if the needle is infected or not serialized properly, if the jewelry is not sterilized properly, if the practitioner’s hands are not properly cleaned, or if the clients skin is already infected, irritated or not cleansed properly beforehand. These causes make it so there is a fair amount of procedures in place that could prevent infection at the shop, like inspecting not only your own work space and hands before piercing or tattooing, but also the clients skin. There are some statistics in this document about health care worker who were injured with a sharp instrument, but the likely hood of contracting a disease is not likely, and almost impossible if the worker has been immunized and has developed antibiotics. Legally all staff All staff who perform skin piercing procedures should have up-to-date immunizations as recommended for adults in Canada. One thing I found interesting is that blood does not have to be visible on a device to transmit infection. When practitioners are designing a shop, renovating, or moving into an existing space, they should contact the local health department or municipality for shop requirements and any regulations or standards, this something I can include in my interview with a health inspector. Something specific to tattooing that I thought was important to know was that Some individuals may have an allergic reaction to even the most pure and non-toxic pigments. If the client shows any type of allergic reaction during the tattooing process, e.g. paleness, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, undue swelling, or puffiness around the eyes, the tattooing process should be stopped and immediate emergency medical attention should be obtained. Something specific to piercing that I thought was interesting as someone who watching their friend get a nose piercing with a gun, is that ear piercing gun should be used only for piercing the fleshy part of the ear lobes. The gun is not suitable for piercing other parts of the body such as the navel, the nasal cartilage, or the cartilage areas of the ear. The action of the ear-piercing gun can damage tissue and create a risk for later infection.


Simpson, Sean. Two In Ten Canadians (22%), Americans (21%) Have a Tattoo. Ipsos Reid. 23 January 2012.

            This is a statistic is the most recent and reliable I could find on the internet. This article is not opinion based but the fact that right under the title the first statistic is 1/10 tattooed Canadians (10%) regret getting their tattoo leads me to believe that it is bias. Later in the article it states that 15% of tattooed young people aged 18-34 regret their tattoo, if that person only has one tattoo. Some interesting facts this survey shows are that only 11% of North Americans with tattoos have more than one and Ontario is province with the least amount of tattooed people with 19% chance of a person getting a tattoo. I was under the impression that Ontario would have a much higher percentage due to big cities like Toronto and Ontario. That being said I was not surprised that British Columbia was ranked the province that was most likely to house tattooed people at a percentage of 28%. All in all I'm not sure how trust worthy these statistics are so I will probably keep looking online and compare statistics.