Social Hierarchies Within the Tattoo Community
Stuart, Shelby A.
MetadataShow full item record
In recent years, the popularity of tattooing has increased dramatically across people of all different social categories in the United States. In light of the broadened appeal of tattooing today, this project will explore how social hierarchies -primarily those of class and gender- play out within the community of tattooed people. This project will also investigate to what extent and how the stigma that has historically surrounded tattoos has changed and whether it manifests itself in different ways depending on the tattooee's position in society. In order to take on these issues, The author has undertaken a review of the literature that has been important to contemporary tattoo scholarship and has provided some analysis of her own based on themes presented in the literature. As a result, she found that people who are situated at the bottom of social hierarchies - especially women and members of the lower and working classes - have the least amount of freedom to acquire tattoos without the risk of social consequences, and therefore are the most vulnerable to stigmatization. The mainstream media plays a large role in current portrayals of the tattoo community and has helped to raise the profile of tattooing in popular culture. At the same time, mainstream media accounts tend to perpetuate negative stereotypes about tattooees and favor white-collar, middle-class tattooees over anybody else. The sexualization of women's tattoos is also a major issue (with deep historical roots) that has led to increased stigmatization for tattooed women. Finally, the author suggests that further inquiry on the significance of race in the tattoo community and how racial/ethnic identity plays into stigmatization would help to fill a gap that seems to exist in the literature.