Tattoos have empowered women for centuries. Often a sign of resilience, strength, power, and creativity, tattoos have a way of getting people talking. Of course, we love to use our voices as mediums of resistance, but sometimes the art on our bodies can make a statement without using words and serve as a jumping-off point for conversations about the inequalities that women face every day. From breast cancer survivors to activists, women around the world are getting tattoos that commemorate and celebrate their badass-ness.
However, historians cite tattoos appearing in Europe long before Cook’s voyage. Ancient tribes around the world, including the Polynesians, have practiced tattooing for thousands of years. In fact, the Princess of Ukok, a 2,500-year-old mummy found in southern Siberia around 1993, has many tattoos that are reminiscent of contemporary tattoos. This just means that tattoos as we know them today have a variety of origins, many that include women.
However, there was a small moment in the Victorian Age where tattoos were fashionable in high society. Elite women were getting tattooed to be seen as more beautiful and cultured. Tattooed women also elevated their agency by having the freedom to travel, work, and dress the way they wanted to, which is why many tattooed women like Irene joined circus shows.
Finally, in the 1970s, feminists started reclaiming tattoos like the butterfly image as symbols of having power over their bodies and shifted the long-running, negative perception of women with tattoos.
Other people are covering up their scars with tattoos, too. Women with C-section scars, scars on their wrists from emotional trauma, scars from accidents, injuries, or surgeries, are turning their pain into art.
Fighting the Patriarchy
Stomping Gender Roles