Ever notice how the words 'tramp stamp' are never used in conjunction with male celebrities? And that while men are viewed as being rugged and cool, women with tattoos are often viewed as being unfeminine or portrayed in a certain way?
Fed up with the negative connotations surrounding women with tattoos, two photographers - Christina Theisen and Eleni Stefanou undertook a project to show the many faces of women who choose to be inked. And according to the two women, it's a conversation that needs to be had considering that in the US, tattooed women outnumber the men.
Eleni said: "Despite the news in The New York Times that more women have tattoos than men, Christina and I struggled to find imagery that meaningfully illustrated what this shift might signify - all our searches lead to glamour photos and headlines including “Women with tattoos seen as being ‘easier’.
"We found 13 women who we believe could tell us more about tattoos as a means of expression and empowerment. We wanted to explore how women use tattoos as a means of expression and empowerment, given that our relationship with our bodies is complex and tangled up with all sorts of pressure from the outside world. For example, the idea that your body should be ‘pure’, or that once you get a tattoo you take away from your femininity. How are women these days rejecting these limited notions?"
"Elise has wanted a tattoo since she was a child. She describes her tattooed body as a scrapbook."
"Juanita first got a tattoo when working in the merchant navy. She believes they are a matter of taste, and no different to changing the colour of your hair or using permanent makeup."
The idea that women with tattoos are seen as 'painted ladies' or with questionable morals seems incredibly backwards in this day and age, though, doesn't it?
"In a way," explains Eleni, "I guess people like to define things quickly, to know what’s right and what’s wrong, what they would and wouldn’t do and how the other person fits within their moral framework. When you judge someone based on how they look, you’re also revealing how you understand the world. It’s part of what makes us human, but this mind-set is also a source of prejudice, discrimination and even violence.
"The line in Sukran's tattoo is a play on words and perceptions, a line from a Suede song that also doubles up as a reference to her social background and interest in politics."
HuffPost UK Lifestyle had questions around why people had such a narrow view of women with tattoos - for instance, that it somehow subtracted their femininity. Eleni added: "This statement exposes a limited view of femininity. It’s like saying pants aren’t feminine, or a woman who smokes is unattractive. If we’re talking about femininity as a set of attributes society assigns to women (i.e. delicate, sensitive, beautiful), then tattoos can take on this role too, just as men can get feminine tattoos."
As for the women themselves, the two photographers tried to involve from diverse backgrounds, ages and professions. Candy Fathers says that for her, tattoos are a release. "I love my tattoos they are an expression of what I feel inside on the outside. They are part of me, my journey through life."
Eleni says: "They were born in different places, decades and follow different beliefs and religions. By photographing a diverse group of women, we wanted to disprove the idea that someone with a tattoo fits into a category. Hopefully, once you see the human element, you begin to contemplate the story behind each woman, instead of projecting your own views onto them."
Why do the media make such a fuss over Cheryl Cole and not David Beckham?
"A woman's appearance is generally scrutinised much more than a man’s is," says Eleni. "Most media outlets play to this and consequently reinforce it. Most ‘beauty horror stories’ are about women, whether focused on weight gain/loss or ‘extreme’ tattoos.
"It would be impossible to explain this phenomenon without looking more broadly at women’s position in society. That’s one of the reasons why feminism is so important - it encourages us to ask why we freak out when Cheryl Cole gets a large tattoo, to understand that our reaction is deep-rooted in how we think women should behave and evolves from a long history of a woman’s place in the world."
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