Tattoos: My Declaration of Feminism

Caroline Biggs is a graduate student in Women’s History at Sarah Lawrence College, fashion addict, pop cultural junkie, and  girl-about-NYC.

So I want to start by saying I have never really been a “tattoo person.” I quote and marginalize said persons because I always saw those who reveled in permanent body art (and I’m not talking about the occasional small of the back or hip tattoo) as committed to a lifestyle decision: that of being a woman who expresses herself via bodily adornment (that lasts FOREVER mind you). Unlike fashion, which constantly shifts and evolves stylistically, tattoos were more like a piece of statement jewelry—something that doesn’t define the person’s aesthetic but definitely functions as the focal point. And being the fashionista that I am, complete with outfits that are more often than not comparable to that of a costumed figure skater, the last thing I ever needed was to draw more attention to myself.

Then, at 18, after a weekend of heavy drinking and amidst the low-rise jean craze that I fell victim to, I got my first tattoo—a cartoonish flower on the small of my back that did not and will not ever represent anything symbolic other than being 18 and saying I had a tattoo. The entire process took about 4 and a half minutes (all of which I was crying from the pain of the needle) and I left Manhattan, Kansas forever marked with, well, a fuchsia cartoon flower. I was sure that was all of the tattooed symbolism I would ever need.

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