Tattooed women may possess higher self-esteem but they may also bear heavier burdens. A TTU professor sheds some light on the dark truth.
[Photo: Hannah Pixie Snow-Sykes for Drop Dead]
Let's return to the “tattooed women are insecure” stigma and the recent study involving tattoos on women Texas Tech Sociology professor, Jerome Koch conducted. “Women with four or more tattoos were the group that showed us the only two interesting connections: they had a much higher suicide attempt history, and paradoxically, it was this same group – and the only group – that showed an increased level of self-esteem. Our interpretation is maybe it's a parallel, emotionally, of what we see with breast cancer survivors. We can only speculate what these findings might mean, and more research needs to be done. But I think the logic holds when linking suicide survivors and breast cancer survivors who might use tattoos when reclaiming an emotional or physical loss,” he explained.
While most of his findings showed that college-age women with four or more tattoos have considerably higher self-esteem, results also showed that these very women are also at higher suicide risks.
"They had a much higher suicide attempt history and paradoxically, it was this same group that showed an increased level of self-esteem," said Koch, the Texas Tech University professor who have been studying body modifications since 1998.
In an earlier research, Koch and his team found that in general, four or more tattoos and seven or more body piercings on both men and women was closely linked to regular marijuana use, occasional use of illegal drugs, and a history run-ins with the law.
Koch mentioned the mastectomy tattoos some breast cancer survivors decide to get as a way to cope with the scars left by the battle they won and how they might be “a way of reclaiming a sense of self in the wake of an emotional loss.” The same thing goes with the women who have revealed their past suicide attempt experiences.
“I think the logic holds when linking suicide survivors and breast cancer survivors who might use tattoos when reclaiming an emotional or physical loss.”
“In a way, I suspect suicide survivors are reclaiming their minds and taking ownership of themselves,” he said. “Women are bombarded with things like fat-shaming and hyper-sexualized expectations. Body art is one way that women especially might take control of their bodies.”
This is evident through movements like Project Semicolon which gave many people struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts a new sense of hope; a silent promise of better things to come. Here in the blog, we've featured many inspiring stories of women who felt more empowered and strongly positive about life through tattoos. We can say that some women who used to be bathed in insecurity found whatever they may have needed with the help of tattoos. That's what makes it so damn beautiful.
“This latest piece takes the same question inside out,” Koch said. “Instead of talking about deviance, it's about wellness. We wanted to find out, to what extent does the acquisition of body art correlate to a sense of well-being or a greater sense of self? It's pretty paradoxical.”
For more on tattooed women and mental health, read more here.