I finally got my hands on Beverly Yuen Thompson’s wonderful documentary about heavily tattooed women, “Covered” and I was so excited. It’s a fantastic film and it had special resonance for me because it featured quite a few asian women talking about their experiences and especially focused on their parents reactions.
My parents have been preparing for my tattoos since I was 12 years old, when my father’s employees suggested that he allow me to get tattooed because then I might make some friends. That has always stuck with me. get tattooed, get friends and this has been the truest thing, because many of my friends are tattoo artists and heavily tattooed people. it was the right crowd for me.
My family is both very accepting of my artwork and wary of it at the same time. They know it is something that is true and important to me, but they miss me like I was. They know they can’t control me, and they wish they could. I don’t blame them. I wish I could control me too.
I love tattooed women, maybe because they are uncontrollable, they are themselves to the point of drawing symbols of their power on their skin. Talk about owning your own body, being in your body, claiming yourself. I love it. When the world is in an uproar over whether women should have a choice or not when it comes to their bodies, being tattooed is one of the most visible choices of all.
I find that I get the most harassment where people feel proprietary over women’s bodies. In the South of France, there is a great love for women that is undeniable, but that love comes with a price. When you don’t conform to the stereotype of what makes women beloved there, you are privy to the scorn and complaint, or in a lighter vein, the curiosity and bemused admiration of others, which no matter what it comes out as, you are being judged and often touched and always, always hassled.
In much of the world, women are viewed as public space, to varying degrees, and the more you decide that space is your own, most visibly by being tattooed, it sends out an alarm that tacit agreement is being violated and you are subject to the opinions and sometimes violent reactions of those who consider themselves the guardians of said public space.
It’s something that I have learned to deal with, but often its also why I cover up, because I don’t always want to talk about my decision to be tattooed. I don’t need to answer to my skin. my skin is my own soul’s house, and I shall decorate it as I please. I don’t need to share it with anyone, as this place was built just for me. Having to answer for it or explain it especially to strangers is unpleasant, not in every circumstance, as people can be nice and complimentary as well, but I don’t appreciate being assessed, which is probably unrealistic as I cut quite a bella figura no matter where I go and what I do, my flamboyance in evidence whether I have my tattoos on display or not.
Beverly’s film spoke to me deeply not just because of the frustration I feel but also for the deep love I have for female tattoo artists – who I feel akin to as women who are working and thriving in what has traditionally been considered a man’s occupation. It is just the same in comedy, so we are sisters for sure. I have long loved Vyvyn Lazonga too so it’s great to see her here.
I hope that I see more tattooed women talking about what its like to be who they are. I hope that we can get together and rejoice in our love for art and ourselves and revel in the rebellion. It’s just so fucking great.