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Social stigma drives some women to remove tattoos

July 21, 2008 |  4:08 pm

Tattoo It appears sexism is alive and well when it comes to tattoos. Although just about as many women as men get tattoos nowadays, a  new study shows that women seek removal of tattoos more than men because of negative social fallout.

About 25% of people ages 18 to 30 have tattoos, and that number is expected to rise to about 40% in the next few years, according to the study, published today in the Archives of Dermatology. Previous studies have shown that about 20% of people end up dissatisfied with their tattoos, and about 6% seek tattoo removal using laser treatment.

In the study, researchers analyzed data from two surveys of people undergoing tattoo removal. One survey was taken in 1996 and a second survey in 2006. In both surveys, men and women said they wanted the tattoos removed because their identities had changed and they had grown to dislike the tattoos. But in the 2006 survey, women also reported that they felt stigmatized by the tattoos. For example, 93% said having to hide the tattoos on occasion was a factor in the removal compared with 20% of men. About 40% of women endured negative comments at work, in public or in school compared with 5% of men.

So, ladies, think about that tattoo before you get it. And when you get it, think long and hard about where you're putting it.

"Societal support for women with tattoos may not be as strong as for men," said the authors from Texas Tech university. "Rather than having visible tattoos, women may still want to choose self-controlled body site placement, even in our contemporary society."

-- Shari Roan

Photo: Laser removal of a tattoo. L.A. Times/Beatrice de Gea

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Comments (41)

Tattoos are creative and awesome no doubt. The big problem that women will face is the daunting reality that once they get a tattoo, they will date themselves forever. Girls who get tatoos tend to be the same that are in step with pop culture and up on the latest style, unfortunately will be the same girls who get bummed that they have to stick with the trend and style they pick forever! They will face their biggest critic; younger girls! It would be like hanging at the latest club hot spot and try compete with the younger prettier girls, and have a big tattoo across your shoulder that says ” I am 36 years old! “, even if noxema and a gym membership gives you a body of a 25 year old. Imagine if you were a girl who had to wear those bell bottom pants that came back popular in the early nineties….FOREVER. That would be like a jail sentence for the fashion forward. Same goes for men… do you think that the Tasmanian Devil tattoo or the barbed wire tribal tattoo wrapped around your bicep says…hey look, ” Havasu Spring Break 1993″?

So I guess that tramp stamp wasn't such a good idea, eh ladies?

Try a dress and fixing your hair real nice. You'd be suprised.

Screaming sexism for the win! Way to go, LA Times writer. It's always an ism if you look hard enough. Correlation != causation, but I don't expect a mere journalist to understand something like this.

Do men get tramp stamps? Could this be the reason for the higher rate of removal? No, it must be sexism. No other possibility.

Soon the real rebels will be the ones without tattoos.

Let’s face it. Tattoos are creepy, so are we men. Tattoos just make women look sleazy.

Oh, I guess everything's sexism now. Woman gets a tattoo on a drunken night out with the girls and decides to remove it because she doesn't like the message it sends? Oh, that's sexist. A woman feels that a tattoo is keeping her from moving forward in the workplace? I guess that has nothing to do with projecting a professional image - oops! Sexism!

Maybe it just means that some women are growing up and are trying to reverse a decision that they regret. Nothing wrong with that, in fact, I think it speaks well for those women. It should help them to put forth a more professional image, make more money, and generally make a better first impression. Good for them.

Twenty years ago, just about the only types of ornamentation allowed for men were: tattoos and wedding rings. Meanwhile, women weren't simply allowed more ornamentation, they were often REQUIRED to wear it (e.g., they were required to wear makeup to work). The dividing line between the sexes is obviously fading, but today tattoos for women aren't always considered permissible... and lipstick for men almost never is!

There was an old saying:

"Women will never be equal to men until they can walk down the street bald-headed and still think that they look good"

This article pretty much nails it. Until they can fend off "societal" pressures and do what they ant to do, they will never be treated as equals.

Tatoos have never been (and never will be) viewed as acceptable in business offices. It has nothing to do with whether the person is a man or a woman. If you want to work in a bar, the tatoo is unlikely to hurt your career.

"So, ladies, think about that tattoo before you get it."

Seriously? That's the conclusion you've drawn from this disparity in public treatment? Way to dig to the core of the issue.

Why not go a little further and explore why members of society still feel like it's ok to weigh in on women's bodies, and not those of men? Why not investigate whether this could be another way that society treats women's bodies as property, and that this very personal, very self-possessed decision to mark one's own body is frightening to people? And that that may be the reason that folks find it so "unfeminine" (i.e., a marked body shows ownership by the individual, and an unmarked female body shows docile softness).

Thanks for just pushing the patriarchal status quo at the end of what turned out to be a total fluff piece, as opposed to taking this opportunity to really examine a fascinating issue, and exploring the gendered dynamics of power that lay behind it.

What "support" specifically? It's always been a social stigma, that is, or at least was the point to it. It drew attention to you as a rebel, someone outspoken perhaps, but always someone who was more on the edge so to speak than others. Criticism is at it's very heart. It's akin to showing off a abstract painting in a classical art galleria.

I always love these "news articles" on supposed gender bias from a perception with what I see to be very little depth. I can bet if you asked all those surveyed how many positive and negative reactions they noticed from others, the numbers, and peers involved would be roughly the same.

I personally think it's stupid, but even the smartest people do stupid things. So I don't judge people outright for it, nor do I find a woman more, or less attractive because of them. To me personally, I find it like giving your 10 yr old child a felt-tip pen and handing over a De Vinci painting for the child to doodle on, but to each their own.

It appears sexism is alive and well when it comes to tattoos? What? I highly doubt this is sexism, but nothing more than looking trashy whether it is men OR women. I don't date women who wear tattoo's because they look trashy; period. And the trashy attitude usually comes along with the mindset so they certainly go hand-in-hand from my experience. Tattoo's and bumperstickers are a flagrant statement of one's personality and usually it is not good. It's prudent NOT to tell the world how you think so this usually goes in line with their personality; loud and obnoxious (point made above). Tattoo's are nothing more than an advertisement. When you're working in a group of people, it's not prodent to advertisement yourself where others can judge you, whether inappropriately or not.

I agree with Mason. I am 46 and I was at a club this past Saturday night. Of course the younger women look good in anything they wear as it is the way of that age group. I did the same. Now days I dress less dramatically and even the younger women appreciate it. I think they'd laugh at me if I came in with a 20 styles dresswear. I also think they expect me to dress more my age. As for the tramp stamps? I saw a women my age with the belly shirt, tramp stamp, etc. Didn't look good. I think her stamp once said HOT, but is slowly turning into the word HAG. And of course per my previous posting, her attitude didn't leave much to the imagination. A complete turn-off.

tatoos are not attractive on women - tramp stamp is a good term for it.
i don't go out w/ tatooed women.
a woman is really limiting her choices w/ men if she gets a tatoo...

Nothing says "trash" more than a tattoo on a woman.

In other news... Women are more vain than men.

Wow to all the people who say women are trash that have tattoos are so wrong i am a 36yr old woman with 5 kids & i have 7 tattoos getting ready to get my 8th and i am not even close to being trashy. I have a wonderful job & not all my tattoos are covered by what i wear.I didnt get them to be a rebel i got them because i like Tattoos!!!

Honestly my option on the whole women getting tattoos it has to depend where and y they get it.. I mean I have tattoos because it a way I can express myself with my art as for me I draw what I tattoo. So that it fits a purpose on my body because its a sense of expression.. I honestly don’t know y we live in a world with such social discrimination . No one will be able to truly be themselves because they are trying to prove to society that they are just like everyone else but when people don’t realize that when we die we wont be seen for are tattoos but for what we’ve done on earth. That’s why women seem to remove their tattoos for society so they can fit in.. I think its all crap everyone is just so bored they have nothing else but to judge people for what they look like and not for what they have inside.

I've noticed that most of these posts say women with tattoos are trashy, but I guess men with them are jsut fine? I think that is very sexist. I am a woman nad I have tattoos, and I've never been treated like that, ever. I think all the men who've posted these comments are the type of men who are intimidated by strong, independent women, and the tattoo is just an excuse to make them feel bad about themselves. oh, and by the way, I'd rather have a killer tattoo than a boyfriend like you guys, any day.

Self-mutilation, be it tattoos or body piercings, is stupid, plain and simple.
There is nothing particularly creative or "artsy" about it. It is a fad that will hopefully die out soon.

For the most part it used to be rebels, bikers, soldiers, criminals or musicians who thought it made them look "bad" seen sporting tattoos.

Those who get them today and for the past few years in fact are nothing more than conformists.

It's all to common and like someone said above, "Soon the real rebels will be the ones without tattoos."

It's overkill people... let it die like Disco please!

A woman is not trashy for having a tattoo unless the tattoo itself is "trashy" IE: sexually graphic in nature or on the genitals. There are many women with tattoos that are very pretty and for a woman to be put down as having "tramp stamps" or it automatically means that she has looser morals is ridiculous. Those are not thought about men now a days that have tattoos. Many, many, white collar workers of both sexes have tattoos and it shouldn't matter. Get to know the person instead of judging on something like tattoos, which is just as bad as judging them by their skin color or what church they go to. Tattoos are just part of a growing culture and the wears of tattoo art should not have to explain themselves to anyone nor should they be stigmatized whether they are male or female. If you don't like tattoos, don't get one but leave people that want them alone.

When I was but a lad my father's co-worker in medical research was a British physician. He remarked once that when he trained in medicine in England, the saying was that a man with a tattoo was suspected to have syphilis until proven otherwise, but a woman with a tattoo was known to have it. Tattoos have been a mark of sociopathic attitude and/or behavior in Western culture since time out of mind. Middle class ordinary folk forget this at their peril. Forty or fifty years from now the Gen-X'ers are going to look at their old run-together tattoos and wonder what in the hell they were thinking back then.

Tattoos are the way morons let the rest of us know who they are.

Interesting how even this article stigmatizes and uses language that talks down to women who get tattoos. "So, ladies, think about that tattoo before you get it. And when you get it, think long and hard about where you're putting it."



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