on white middle class tattooing aesthetics
November 17, 2015
Insofar as I”ve come to accept that tattooing has become so widely appropriated by white ppl that there is no more point in resisting it, I would like to make a request of white people regarding tattoos:
Stop trying to make your white, middle class aesthetics THE hegemonic context for tattooing. Just. Stop.
Prompted by a status on fb where a person was “i hate poorly done tattoos” and ensuing comments by other white ppl of “this is why i won”t get a cheap tattoo”, I”d just like to say: fuck all of you and ur bullshit aesthetics.
Here are some of the normative, hegemonic elements to white, middle-class tattooing culture:
1) Calling it ‘art”
The thing about ‘art” in white culture is that only white people can produce it. Tattooing certainly was not ‘art” when it was stolen for white ppl from Polynesians. Tattooing was also not ‘art” when it was just poor whites (and poor poc) getting tattoos in america. Tattooing only became art when it started to become a widespread practise in white, middle-class circles. Calling it ‘art” irrevocably ties it to white, upper-class notions of ‘beauty” (re: aesthetics). Such that white, upper-class ppl become the sole arbiters of which tattoos are considered ‘art” and which are not (as well as the sole people capable of producing tattoos that are considered ‘art”).
2) Monetary value as proxy for quality
The other thing that calling tattoos ‘art” does is serve increase the overall monetary value of tattooing. Such that tattooing (as art or otherwise) essentially becomes only accessible to people of a certain class, as it is otherwise too expensive. Because white ppl love capitalism, this also means that montary value becomes inherently tied to quality. If you have an ‘ugly” tattoo, it is a sign that your tattoo is ‘cheap” (regardless of how much you paid for it). It also creates an economy within tattooing where prices constantly rise as a way for various ‘artists” to signal the ‘quality” of their work. And, of course, ‘quality” is also tied to white, upper-class aesthetics.
3) Uniqueness as encoding a white supremacist worldview
Another important aspect to white, upper-class tattooing aesthetics is the notion ‘originality” or ‘uniqueness”. Your tattoo increases in value if it can be demonstrated to be ‘original” or ‘unique” in some non-trivial way. Of course, this is a way of ensuring that tattoos come to embody the white supremacist notion of individuality. In turn, this connected to the ‘rebellious” role that tattooing serves for upper-class whites (rebellious precisely because it is associated with poor people and poc). Tattoos become a symbol of the upper-class white”s uniqueness and originality.
I think these three are enough for now and the ones that tend to bother me the most.
Since nothing can be done about today”s tattoo culture, I”d really REALLY appreciate it if white ppl would STOP making value judgements on tattoos based on any of the above. And if white ppl would stop making generalizations about what makes a ‘good” tattoo.
Just stfu. Get whatever tattoos you want and stop trying to force ur aesthetics on the rest of us.