Tattoos – Art or Atrocities?

Tattoos are like marmite – some people love them, some people hate them but it’s about time we stop judging people who have them.

If you have tattoos, you’ve likely heard at least one of the following phrases; “they’ll look awful when you’re old”, “why have you ruined yourself?” and “you were so pretty before those things” – but tattoos are a form of art. They can help a person to express themselves, they can help to give a person confidence and they can look damn awesome.

Olivia Callaghan is a self love advocate and has 50 tattoos (and counting). But although she loves her tattoos, she’s had to deal with a fair bit of abuse towards them.

I’ve definitely dealt with my fair share of abuse and hatred over my tattoos,” Olivia says. “While I was at work I had a lady grab my arms and ask me ‘why I’d done that to myself’ which made me feel sad. I love my tattoos and they mean a lot to me. I recently had one of my tattoos end up on a tattoo shaming Facebook page, and some of the comments were dreadful! But you have to pick yourself up, shake off the hate and keep going! If you love something, do it!”

Tattoos are personal, they’re what we choose to get drawn on our body and they’re permanent. Tattoo shaming is nothing new, and social media sites such as Facebook are full of spaces made purely to do exactly that – shame people for their tattoo choices.

Kiana Hall, a social media marketer has six tattoos including the beginning of a full sleeve. She’s also dealt with abuse towards her choice of body art before.

“I’ve gotten everything from dirty looks to people telling me that I’m ruining my body,” Kiana explains. “It’s obviously not pleasant, but I don’t think anyone who tries to police my body is worth the time of day, so I try not to pay attention to them.”

“I don’t think anyone who tries to police my body is worth the time of day, so I try not to pay attention to them.”

However, verbal abuse isn’t the only issue people with tattoos face. Emma Copland currently has ten tatooos and she’s had to deal with unwanted touching due to her body art.

“One thing that does annoy me is people touching my tattoos without permission,” she says. “It’s such a weird thing to do and it is like people forget that the tattoos are on my body.”

But people that don’t understand tattoos, or why others feel the need to get art on their body, forget one huge factor – it’s not their body, so who is it offending? If a person was to get a swastika etched on their forehead, that indeed is offensive as a symbol of hate, but whether someone decides to get flowers, animals, clouds etc. on their arms is completely their decision and has nothing to do with anyone else. To only see tattoos in a negative way is to completely ignore the way in which tattoos can make a person feel about themselves.

“I love having beautiful art on my body. I love that you can have a beautiful reminder of a memory on your body, a memorial piece or even something you just love,” Olivia explains. “I used to self harm and I was left with lots of scars on my body, and while I’m never ashamed of my self harm, I wanted something beautiful to cover up something negative.”

“I used to self harm and I was left with lots of scars on my body, and while I’m never ashamed of my self harm, I wanted something beautiful to cover up something negative.”

Kiana agrees with Olivia, stating why she has a love for tattoos.

“I love that tattoos allow people to express their identity,” she says. “It’s an art form that displays your passions, values, or lifestyle on your skin. It’s deeply personal, and I think that’s beautiful.”

However, Emma believes tattoo artists themselves deserve more credit than they’re given. It’s often forgotten that they’re artists who use the human body as their canvas.

“The amount of artistic talent in the tattoo industry is something that is severely under-looked in my opinion,” she explains. “I love the variety of tattoos and artists – there is a piece of art out there to suit every style and personality.”

Tattoo popularity has been on the up in recent years, with the form of expression almost becoming mainstream. But although the option to lazer your tattoo off is available, it’s a very painful experience. Therefore shaming a person for their choice of body art, telling them they’ve made a mistake, or expressing your dislike towards tattoos is not only an unwanted opinion, it can be harmful. Tattoos are essentially permanent, so if you don’t like someone’s choice of body art, keep your mouth shut.

Olivia has a message to any tattoo-haters out there.

“The one thing I’d simply say is mind your own business! My tattoos aren’t hurting anybody (expect me, my foot tattoo almost ruined me!) and I’m not ashamed of them at all. Everybody is entitled to their own opinion, but sometimes you should keep it to yourself. If your opinion is going to upset someone, there is really no reason to say it. Do what you want to do with your life, we only have one, so why waste it worrying about what other people think?”

Well said, Olivia. Remember that tattoos are a personal choice, if you don’t’t like them, don’t get them. But don’t shame people for their choice of art or for their choice to get tattooed. If you really don’t understand why people choose to have them, ask. You might be surprised with their answer, and perhaps you’ll even learn something new about the person and their life story.

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