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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)

As long as there are people who say "tattoo's on women are trashy", there will be at least one woman who will have her tattoo removed because she doesn't want people to think she's trashy.

The ultimate reason why anyone would choose to have a tattoo removed in the face of judgmental comments is that they're not confident enough in their own identity and will ultimately shape their life around what other people think of them. Is it more common for women to be this way? Yes, because women are raised to be socially conscious. It's what sets females apart from the men who are "man conscious" - thinking, acting, behaving and looking like the ideal man.

Sexism, like opinions, is a state of mind. In the end, the lesson learned (for male or female) shouldn't be "think before you get inked" but "Am I ready to make this a part of who I am no matter what anyone thinks about it?"

Judgmental comments like "tattoos on women are trashy" or "such and such a person/group of people get tattoos to look bad" are knee-jerk reactions of people who don't know any better or haven't bothered to open their minds to the possibility that there was a greater reason for getting the tattoo or that it really was just as simple as "I feel like getting one and I can, so I will."

For what its worth: I once judged and criticized people who had tattoos but then I learned the history behind them, learned the why of why people get them and now know better than to make snap judgments. I'm also a female and I have several tattoos - one which can especially be considered trashy. Think what you want about me, but at the end of the day it's my body, my choice and I'm good with it.

I think Tattoos are unattractive no matter who they're on: particularly as the hapless recipient gets older.

On a more specific level, I've never seen a woman with a Tattoo who wouldn't have looked much better (and classier) without one.

Wow. Men and women are different. Who'd a thunk it!

I am a woman with a great, large, classical rose tattoo on the bottom of my left wrist. It commerates my father who is dead so I can always have a piece if him with me. Many tattoos are commerations and each one is a moment, a memory in time. Tattoo collectors would never cover a tatoo or remove it unless they were ready to move on from that moment in time.
Any one who has a problem with tattoos need to sit down with a tattooed person and have a real conversation with them. Tattoo collects are very interesting people and their tattoos mean alot to them. There is no reason to discriminate against anyone, man or woman how has a tattoo. Changing the image of your skin is the same as changing the colour of your hair. I would be interested if the men posting about dissliking tattoos would have similar dislikes for bleach blonds.
In regards to having your tattoos visible at work, it depends upon what you do for a living. If you are a behind the scenes office employee, why would it matter if your tattoos show. Being passed over for a promotion or prefered work projects because of visible tattoos is a direct issue of discrimination and is a breach of human rights under the Human Rights Code, under the heading of prejudice/ being part of a group, and appearence.
It is a personal decision to show your tattoos or not while at work. Personally, I cover my tattoos, I don't like to share too much of my personality with co-workers. It is the same as keeping my personal life stories to my self.
Women,like men, need to really think about their tattoo choices before getting tattooed. This is the same advice any reasonable tattoo artist will give you. if they don't, don't have a tattoo done by them.
Finally, I would like to comment about the posts regarding tattooed women being linked to "tramp stamps" and other unfavourable stigmas. I am a tattoed women with two university digrees, a college diploma and am a CHRP certified Human Resource Professional. Very normal, educated people get tattooed and if you group bar stars with every tattooed person, you are the one making an uneducated, prejudiced and biased behavoural designation upon people you know nothing about.
The key thing to think about what considering societal norms is that they are always changing and matter very little.

Tattoos on women is far from trashy. Over weight women are more trashy than ladies with tattoos. Why is it not trashy for a man to have a tattoo. Are you all seriously that ignorant.

If you don't like women with tattoos, good, they are probably too good for you. It's pretty silly to judge a person by the colors of their skin. Oh I went there.

As far as saying tattooed women can't have a great selection of men. Think again. I am heavily tattooed but my husband who has a very successful career doesn't have a single one.

If looking trashy according to you ignorant morons means you won't talk to me, then I will continue to get them. A person has a right to do what they want with their body. Not everyone has tramp stamps (btw men get them too) and a lot of tattoos these days are designed and artful.

The poster Carl, you seriously need to get a grip. I hope you don't enjoy a cocktail or beer every so often. That's not good for the human body. Do you eat processed foods? They aren't good for the body.

Ignorance. People like you leaving such nasty comments are part of the reason there is so much hate in this world.

Hey All this talk about women with tattoos are trashy, well let me tell ya something. I am a business owner of two different companies at this point. In which both are doin well. No matter what I wear my tattoos are covered and I always look respectful. I have twelve tattoos and all of which tell a story about my life. I can respect who I am, and don't give a crap what others think. I've have seen these so called trashy people out there and let me tell you it nothing to do with tattoos. People who abuse the system, and refuse to work, and drink and do drugs on a daily bases are the trashy ones. Tattoos are a work of art and your body is the canvas. So for those whos opinions and thoughts are that woman woth tattoos are trashy well I say your opinions don't matter cause if soneone can't accept you for the art you hold then those don't derserve to have you in the first place.

Hey All this talk about women with tattoos are trashy, well let me tell ya something. I am a business owner of two different companies at this point. In which both are doin well. No matter what I wear my tattoos are covered and I always look respectful. I have twelve tattoos and all of which tell a story about my life. I can respect who I am, and don't give a crap what others think. I've have seen these so called trashy people out there and let me tell you it nothing to do with tattoos. People who abuse the system, and refuse to work, and drink and do drugs on a daily bases are the trashy ones. Tattoos are a work of art and your body is the canvas. So for those whos opinions and thoughts are that woman woth tattoos are trashy well I say your opinions don't matter cause if soneone can't accept you for the art you hold then those don't derserve to have you in the first place.

Tattoos on women as well as men , are beautiful. Ladies, not to worry. Keep getting them, and enjoy your bodies.

I have two tattoos, and am a young woman. My tattoos are in places that can be covered up (my hip, and left side). I am also planning to get another one, in a place no one will see, unless I am in a bikini.

One person said that "tattoos are the way morons let us know who they are."

I am studying to become a journalist, and I would not consider myself, or any of my tattooed friends, morons in any way.
We are all smart, well educated, hard working, and artistic people.

Tattoos are an expression. Both of my tattoos mean something to me, and I love them, and will never get sick of them.

Now, rushed tattoos, and tramp stamps aren't what I would call "artistic expression". That is just a stupid choice, made by a stupid young person. That is why my tattoos are easily hidden.

Most people look at me, and cannot believe that I have tattoos, as I look like such a sweet, "normal", every day girl. Strangers tell me I should be a model, and I tell them I can't, because I have tattoos, and they quickly change their mind about me. This is a stigma that needs to end. It is also my topic for a huge paper in one of my journalism classes.

here is another article that centers around the same issue of the stigma of female tattoos http://wreckingbalm.com/tattoo-removal-blog/female-tattoos-stigma/

I am so happy that my full sleeve tattoo shows me who the close minded people of the world are. When someone wishes to pass judgement on me because of my tattoo, it reminds me of my spiritual beliefs. I try my best to treat everyone the same and enter into an encounter with someone with absolutely no judgement. My tattoo weeds out those people who treat others with a superficial kindness that gets them higher in societal ranks. If I cannot move up in the eyes of society because of a decision that I have made, I embrace that at a consequence of my decision. It is just like any other decision that a responsible adult makes. I too have a degree and spend my time working with children with autism. I was not allowed admission to nursing school because of my tattoo. I am quite happy to know that those of you who think that women with tattoos are morons will be spending time in the hospital someday with a nurse who was a straight C student and got into that career for the money. You can judge women as much as you want, but really look at women when you walk around sometime. Colored hair, make-up, UV poison from tanning beds, shaved legs, waxed eyebrows, fake finger nails. Some of it could be considered taking care of yourself. Most of it is done because it is expected. It's pretty demeaning really.

I am 17 and i have 7 tattoos. I also own a tattoo gun and did 3 of my tattoos myself. I see tattooing as an art, mainly because i am an artist, and months of work goes into my tattoo processes. At my job we are allowed to show tattoos no larger than a quarter for distraction purposes. All the women and mostly all the men where i work have tattoos. My tattoos mean a lot to me and all of them mean something to me and represent me in the best way. I want people to see my tattoos and get an idea of who I am, since people are so quick to judge me because of my skin color ( im of african and native american descent). I am an intelligent spiritual person and i want everyone in the world to know who i am without me even having to speak. My tattoos are also in concealed places so you would never be able to tell i have 7 of them. i plan on getting 12 more and the only visible ones will be the om symbol and indian feather bracelet on my wrists. i think it is idiotic to steriotype someone because they have ink. I look down on people who get tattoos to fit in, because they will regret it shortly after, that's why i take my time planning out exactly what i want.

It seems to me that people used to get tattoos as a way to express themselves and show their individuality.
Now, many people have them that it's "normal" to have a tattoo.
I am proud to say that I made it through my twenties without giving in to the tattoo craze (thank God I didn't get a tramp stamp!), and happily express my individuality by NOT having a tattoo! Thank you...thank you! lol

I am intending on becoming a tattoo artist. I personally don't want tattoos, because I change my mind too often and having something permanent, no matter how sure I am, is not a good idea. Neither do I find them attractive on mates. I think some men and women can look great with tattoos, but I also think that some are very classless. Mostly I think it depends on the person and what they get. Like if someone comes in wanting a dragon or fairy or skull, its the same thing over and over, like come-up with something very original or just don't even bother. But I also think I will have a bit of fun tattooing those ignorant folks who will have to wear that butterfly on the small of their back forever, at the same time I'lll be like "Are you SURE you want this??". Gotta make a livin somehow when your only real talent is being good at art.

I have a tattoo on the back my sholder... a cross with a heart behind it with my brother's name and his dates of birth and death... It is in no way trashy and it will never be something I will regret... it has meaning. Saying this, I do think that ANYone who gets a tattoo should think about what they are getting and where they are putting it... men and women... I know lots of men who wish they hadn't gotten a tattoo done. In some ways it might make a women trashy, but there are many guys w/ tattoos who dont look so hott either....

i hope not to many women read this cause im a tattoo artist and this will lower buisness and just because u probley dont like them, it dont mean u need to talk down about them. find a new hobbie and stop dissing mine.

 


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