Though women who have tattoos are often seen as a new occurrence, the history of women with tattoos is long and fascinating. Tattoos have been a vibrant part of the history of women all throughout the world, from the ritualistic tattoos of the Tahitian islands and ancient Egypt to the tattoo “tea parties” of Victorian high society. The social, cultural, and historical circumstances that establish normative ideals around “good” and “bad” tattoos represent the practices of resistance and conformity among tattooed women.

Why do women get tattoos? Tattoos provide a space for women to perform a variety of femininities by customizing their appearance in ways that are significant to them. Most studies on tattoos have been conducted on men or have failed to adequately account for the significance of the various gendered discourses that govern the (female) body. Why do women get tattoos? And they are more likely to get a meaningful one. But why?


1. A Surprisingly Foreign Origami

Tattoos are a powerful statement of your individuality. Why do women get tattoos? Women have long been encouraged to get tattoos in Polynesian and Egyptian civilizations. Tattoos have been linked to medical protection against painful labor and fatal childbirth issues in Egypt, while in Polynesia, they were considered a sacred rite and played a very important role in social status. However, the process of getting a tattoo was a lengthy and painful one, beginning with a spiritual cleansing through fasting and ending with the application of the tattoos with sharpened bone. Tattoos first gained popularity in the West in the 19th century, when intrepid explorers brought their souvenirs from the Tahitian islands back with them.

Sailors on those voyages saw natives with extensive tattoos and were so fascinated by the ancient practice that they brought one of their guides back to England to meet King James I. That trip sparked a conversation that quickly spread throughout the upper class, beginning a new fashion trend that reached all the way to the royal court.

2. Getting Tatted Up and Having Some Tea

Among the wealthy, tattoos quickly became a symbol of prestige, with rumors that even Queen Victoria had one herself, thanks to the influence of celebrities like Lady Jennie Churchill, mother of the then-Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Women of all social classes in Victorian England flocked to tattoo parlors to get their bodies adorned with designs by master artists using the first electric tattoo machines. To their frequent tea parties, these chic ladies invited only the most in-the-know tattoo artists.

3. Gender and feminism

Many of these privileged ladies viewed getting tattoos as a statement of empowerment and autonomy over their bodies, and they were eager to show the world what they were all about. Although the majority of the women hid their tattoos under clothing, they felt that doing so gave them an extra boost in their fight for legal equality. Feminist tattoos were all the rage in Victorian-era teahouses, but the working class had a totally different opinion of women who chose to ink themselves. Women with tattoos were considered “loose” and highly sexualized in London’s rougher neighborhoods. Women have been known to be kidnapped, tattooed against their will, and used in peep shows, carnivals, and even circuses.

4. These Inspiring Women Who Rock Their Tattoos

After a period of popularity among the upper class in the Victorian era, tattoos fell out of favor after the Great Depression due to the stigma that they were related to the criminal element and were even outlawed in many states (US?) well into the 20th century. However, beginning in the 1970s, tattoos among women once again celebrated a boom in popularity thanks to the feminist movement. The current tattoo renaissance can be directly attributed to the struggle for equal access to contraception. Despite the fact that most women no longer choose to hide their tattoos under clothing, this desire for autonomy over one’s body has led to a resurgence in the popularity of tattoos as a symbol of female strength. One subset of women is those who have overcome breast cancer. who have utilized tattoos as a means of reclaiming their bodies? Many of these women have opted against getting breast implants in favor of covering up their mastectomy scars with elaborate tattoos. These ladies also claim that their tattoos give them back a measure of control and agency that their illness would otherwise have taken from them.

Tattoos have become a symbol of defiant beauty and have even been connected to increased confidence in one’s own worth. Tattoos among women have gained a glamorous aura thanks to the rise of “alternative modeling,” popularized by groups like the Suicide Girls and people like Kat von D, who star in their own reality TV shows. Women all across the world have been getting tattoos for generations, and the reasons they do so range from spiritual rituals to keeping up with the status quo to an attempt to take control over a world where they feel trapped. The fascination of women with tattoos appears to be eternal, despite the fact that tattooing as an art form, practice, and presentation has evolved over time.


Why do women get tattoos? Here’s the answer. I’ve noticed strangers staring at the tattoos on my arm in bars, on trains, and in cafés, and I’ve always tried to play it off as an innocent curiosity. I have no problem with people looking, and if a dialogue develops, that’s fantastic. The part that isn’t enjoyable is when someone asks, “Can I look at your tattoos?” and then starts rubbing their hands all over my body. Because you wouldn’t just walk up to someone and rub their arm, you should rely on your eyes instead.

The skin that has been tattooed is still skin. New research from the University of Northampton shows that women who choose to get tattoos do so according to strict, very personal guidelines and meanings. Although most people have a negative impression of tattooed women (that they are aggressive or ‘bad’), she discovered that women’s own interpretations of their tattoos assist in normalizing their presence and shape their own perceptions of tattooed female bodies as acceptable. As women continue to invest meaning in their tattoos, they are able to build a more positive and ‘good’ sense of self; for example, they will get tattoos that emphasize their caring responsibilities, their families, and their strength, such as imagery and words related to their positive mental health.


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