Archive for the ‘body politics’ Category

Tattoo Etiquette: A Public Service Announcement

Yup, those are two of mine.

Yup, those are two of mine.

Thankfully, this post wasn’t spurred by comments towards me - not recent ones, anyways. I got my fair share living in small-town Missouri, but tattooed people are much more common in Austin and less likely to be regarded as circus freaks. No, these comments were read on the bastion of rudeness: the Internet. Sigh. And really, the following applies to anything from funky colored hair to piercings, and a multitude of others. But the comments I’ve seen were about tattoos, and about tattoos this post shall be!

My dearest readers, I’m sure that you would never commit any of the following offenses. At least, I hope not. Obviously, being on this blog means that you have exquisite taste and you are, in fact, probably a very cultured individual. (Riiiight? *wink wink nudge nudge*) Joking aside, I seriously doubt this is necessary for regular readers, but I’ve been seeing a lot of rudeness on the subject of tattoos lately and feel like some education is called for.

Non tattooed individuals:

  • It is not, under any circumstances, okay to grab, poke, pinch, prod, slap, grope, or otherwise touch a tattooed person without their express permission. Having public art available to view on their body does not make any of these okay, and if you do so, be prepared for any consequences that may come your way - whether that’s a verbal lashing or a physical one. And oddly enough, tattooed skin feels just like regular skin. I promise. Sometimes it’s a little raised, and that’s it.
  • Asking polite questions is a-okay. Some tattooed folk find this tiresome, I personally don’t mind it at all. I love talking about my tattoos! Examples of questions that are okay to ask: “Where did you get that done?” “How long did it take?” “Did it hurt?” Although, in fairness, that might warrant a sarcastic answer. Yes, tattoos hurt. Generally they’re not agonizingly painful.
  • Questions that are iffy but might be all right if you know the person you’re speaking to: “How much did that cost?” “What does it mean?” Some people get tattoos simply because they find them beautiful. Some people get them because they have some deep meaning to them - and often times, that meaning is something very personal that they don’t want to share with anyone else. If someone politely declines to share the meaning of the tattoo with you, please do not get offended. If you think the meaning of their tattoo is stupid, it’s not polite to say so.

Statements that are never, ever okay:

  • “That looks cute now, but it’s going to look terrible when you’re 80.” And if you do say this out loud, in public, please do not be surprised when you get a snarky response of “Duh. Everything looks terrible when you’re eighty.”
  • “You’ll never get a husband like that!”
  • “Only bikers, sailors, and trashy people get tattoos, you know.” Variations include: “What are you, a biker? Hurr hurr hurr.”
  • “How do you expect to find a job?” (Note: this is something that should definitely be thought about before getting highly visible tattoos. But to say this to a stranger is extremely insulting.)
  • “Why would you do that to yourself? You’re such a pretty girl!”

That last one, in particular, makes me want to projectile vomit every time I hear it. There’s this disturbing trend in our society to treat womens’ bodies as public property. They are, in fact, emphatically not. Let’s deconstruct that comment: what this person is saying is “Hey. Because you’re pretty, I think you shouldn’t do anything to your body that will ruin that, in my or others’ eyes. Nevermind the fact that it’s your body!”. F’n creepy much?

As usual, the old standby of “if you can’t say anything nice, keep your mouth shut” will do you well here. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t realize the above statements are, in fact, rude, and instead think they’re paying the receiver some sort of twisted compliment. After all, everyone loves to hear things like: “If my daughter came home with hair like that, I’d beat her with a belt!”. (no shit - 100% true story. not tattoos, but you know, still applicable here.)

I had an addenendum about etiquette when going to get a tattoo, but it became so long I’m going to do a separate post. And like I said - I don’t really think any of this should be groundbreaking. I’m not saying everyone has to love tattoos, I’m just saying - treat your fellow human beings with respect. And really, isn’t that something we should do anyways?

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You’d be so pretty if…

you smiled!

lost 20 pounds!

didn’t have that short hair!

or it wasn’t dyed purple!

didn’t have tattoos/piercings! Why would a girl as pretty as you DO that to yourself, anyways?

Maybe because it is MY body, not public freakin’ property, and I will do whatever the hell I please with it. Maybe because I don’t, actually, spend every waking moment concerned about whether my appearance is pleasing to a random stranger on the street. Or maybe I do it just to piss you off!

Reading a few blog posts got me thinking about this, and it’s something I’ve seen mentioned on Feministing before. Mostly in the “You’d be prettier if you smiled!” “Smile for me!” etc. comments that women have mentioned getting from strangers - which absolutely baffles me, as I’ve never received that (at least from a stranger, maybe from a relative…). Not that I don’t believe it, of course, it just seems…creepy. However, I have got (especially when working at Target - something about being a cashier makes a person especially open for public comment, apparently) the hair/tattoo questions a lottt. Of course, that was when I had fun hair…but anyways! It always really, really bothered me and I couldn’t figure out exactly why, so I just chalked it up to rudeness and moved on. It wasn’t until a few months ago when I read one of the posts on Feministing about it that I could put my finger on it - because my body is MINE and these comments assume that it exists for someone else.

I’ve even got comments like “What does your mother/boyfriend think about it?”. Mother? I moved out almost two years ago, and while I do love my mother to death and have a great deal of respect for her, I would like to think that she knows I’m an adult and will do what I want with my body. Matt? Holy hell, if Matt ever tried to tell me I wasn’t allowed to get any more tattoos or to dye my hair funky colors, the shit would hit the fan. The fact that someone would even ask that casually makes me a little sick to my stomach, because if he had that amount of control over me it would actually be an abusive, unhealthy relationship, thanks. No matter what anyone says or how they try to convince me otherwise. And if I tried to tell Matt how to dress or what to do with his hair, I would be a controlling bitch and he would be whipped. The standard, I’m seein’ double! That’s not to mention the “Why, none of the nice boys will want to date you now!” comment after seeing my first tattoo, which, if I’m remembering right, actually came from my (nice, but rabidly misguided) grandmother. Well, grandma, you’re right, now that my reason for existence is gone, I just don’t know what to do with myself.

Of course, I have several male friends who have or have had tattoos, piercings, dyed hair and mohawks, etc. and while they do get the general disgust and rudeness from ignorant people, I have NEVER heard anyone say anything like the above to them, or heard them complain of it. Mens’ bodies aren’t public property - womens’ are.

I think my favorite thing in the Jezebel comments was this:

If you’d like a guy’s opinion i’ll just throw it out there: (yes, we wimminz always need a man’s opinion before having a thought of our own, kthx)

Perhaps evaluate whether you believe these men know that they are flirting and doing so unwantedly. If they know this and continue to pester, it’s not bitchy to tell them they’re being offensive. If they don’t know the flirting is unwanted politely tell them your not interested. (Of course, it’s on us to tell them that the attention is unwanted, because it’s assumed that telling a random stranger what to do with her body is ok, or that women eating alone must want some male company, etc. That’s not, ya know, screwy or anything)

…blither blather…

Lastly, be careful of the slippery slope that is becoming cynical, be careful of becoming overly judgemental where you just start assuming all guys are perverts and jerks when they really aren’t doing anything at all. Also don’t make yourself believe that all eyes are on you when they really aren’t, a guy’s eyes move around a lot and take in the environment a lot. It’s a complicated mixed message for a man to know that woman appreciate a guy that is confident and not afraid to approach a women, (especially if that woman is presenting herself in a manner that makes her appear inviting to interact with) but that when he does work up the nerve to do this he may be making her uncomfortable and in turn make himself feel embarrassed when he’s already very nervous.

Summary: it is YOUR fault if a man approaches you and makes you feel uncomfortable! Jeez, don’t assume they’re leering at you! And gods forbid, definitely don’t “present yourself in a manner that makes you appear inviting to interact with”, because then you definitely deserve the attention. And that manner is what exactly? What I’m wearing? My makeup? Oh I forget, women only think of their appearance in terms of looking good for other people. I can’t get dressed up for myself, because then it’s assumed that I’m dressing for men, and it’s automatically okay for them to hit on me. So I guess once I’m married I’ll…what…wear a burlap sack all the time?

I have just about ranted myself out here, but I will also say that this? Totally. Screwed. Up. The fact that the first movie about a shooting where several (14 I think?) women were killed simply for being a woman, is filmed to show things through a male perspective? Um. WHAT?! Yes, we totally need that, just like we need a movie about the Holocaust from the point of view of a Catholic, that makes sense doesn’t it?

Despite my complete inability to keep up with most net-based shows, no matter how badass (Everyday Hardcore, I’m looking at you!) this video alone makes me want to start watching this show.

This post brought to you at 1:15 (and counting) in the morning because I accidentally took a 2-3 hour nap in the middle of the afternoon. And now I can’t sleep. Argh.

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More Like Guidelines

So, as many of you may have gathered, I don’t really give a rat’s ass about fashion “rules”. I think they blow hard and that half of the time, the statements that are given as hard and fast rules are over-broad generalizations at best. I’ve seen every rule out there be broken and the person wearing the rule breaking outfit look hot doing so.

I think some of this comes from the fact that different people view fashion with very different objectives. Some people view it as purely a means to an end, constructing outfits with no other means but to make their bodies look “good” (usually, but not always, meaning: fitting in to society’s uber-skinny and unrealistic ideals). Others view it purely as art, others (me) view it as a form of personal expression. Others view it as a status symbol - i.e. “Look at me, I can afford designer clothing! I’m so awesome!”/ “Look at me! I can read a magazine and copy every trend from it in a desperate attempt to look cool! I’m so awesome!”.

side note: I have no problem with incorporating a trend into your style every now and then. I love skinny jeans and ankle boots as you may have gathered. Granted, I would like them whether they were trendy or not, but anyways. To me, someone who is wearing every “of the moment” item they can, all crammed into one outfit, just looks ridiculous. But as mentioned, everyone has their personal goals when it comes to getting dressed in the morning, and trendsetting/being trendy is obviously not mine. So I digress.

Anyways, that’s my theory on where the “rules” come from. It is widely assumed that everyone is dressing with either the intention to a. look as thin as possible, or b. be as trendy as possible.

Take me, for example. I am not tall and willowy. I am 5′1″ish and around 130 pounds (which, by the way, puts me very close to overweight as far as the BMI scale is concerned. kind of sad, huh?). I wear a five or a six or a seven in jeans, depending on the brand. Of course, according to the dELiAs size chart (which I know is not the best example, as from what I can gather it’s marketed towards 16ish year olds, but as I’ve bought clothing there before it was the first thing that came to mind), I’m a size 11/12, mostly due to my bust size. I have a definite hourglass figure as well.

I’m not posting all of that just for the sake of sharing personal information over the internet. I’m just saying, I am not the fashion industry’s ideal by any means. I have a pretty big ass for someone my size. and yet I wear skinny jeans constantly, without trying to cover it up. Why? Because I don’t CARE if my hips or my ass look big, as long as I’m wearing what I want. So that’s why you’ll see me wearing mid-calf boots, even if it supposedly makes my legs look fat. And skinny jeans, even if they supposedly make my hips and butt and thighs look huge. Because for the most part, I hate flared or boot-cut jeans, feel like they make me look shorter, and don’t feel like they fit in with the aesthetic/look I’m trying to achieve. Horizontal stripes, too - LOVE them, even if they make me look wider. I wear what I want and damn the fashion rules, and I wish more women/girls would do the same.

While in training at work, I was sitting next to a coworker/friend and we were flipping through a fashion magazine. I pointed at a pair of skinny jeans in a spread and said “ooh those are cute!”. She responded with “I HATE skinny jeans!”. When I asked her why, she recanted a little, and said that she doesn’t actually hate skinny jeans, but doesn’t think her legs are “good enough” (yes, her exact words) to wear them. Her thighs are too big, she said. This girl is probably six inches taller than me and maybe weighs 15 pounds more. She wants to wear something but won’t, because she’s been told that skinny jeans are for stick figures and nobody else.

Aside from my whole “wear what you want and damn the man” issue with fashion “rules”, there’s also the fact that most of them are geared towards making people look skinnier. Which is of course a common phenomenon and to be expected in our weight-obsessed culture, I guess, but annoys me nonetheless. Wearing horizontal stripes will make you look wider, yes. Is looking, seriously, like an inch wider THAT bad? Is it so heinous that it’s worth avoiding horizontal stripes at every cost, even if you really like that top or dress? I love my engineer style boots to death and they make me feel uber-badass and I will never stop wearing them. And hopefully, that ridiculous exuberance for them shines through when I wear them, and when someone sees me they think “She is rocking those shoes!” as opposed to “Oh my. Those are mid-calf boots and thus TERRIBLY unflattering. Someone call the fashion popos!”. Granted, around here, people are more likely to think “Holy shit, what color is her hair and how did she get it that way?!” but that’s rather beside the point.

In case you’re wondering what spurred this, I was reading the Feministing archives and came across a post which referred to street fashion blogs as an Unfeminist Guilty Pleasure. Which I disagree with, but more on that in a second. Anyways, the Sartorialist was mentioned, this post in particular. The post REALLY grated on me. Can you say, get off your high horse, mofo? As one commenter said, “Gosh, I hope one day you’ll spot me in a shop so I (and everyone that reads the site) can hear how you think everything about me is wrong. Such a lucky girl.”. And the outfit of the girl in question isn’t bad at all IMO. A little bland but seriously - give her a couple of silver bracelets (charm style, not bangles) and a waist-cinching belt and I think it’d be an awesome outfit. But no, the boots are wrong, this is wrong, that is wrong, blah blah blah. Instead, let’s dress her up in J.Crew and the GAP! Which he refers to as “reasonably priced”. Yes, $100 for a pair of knit pants is reasonably priced. That post exemplifies a lot of the things I hate about most fashion blogs - just because YOU can drop $100 on a pair of pants doesn’t mean everyone can, OR that that is affordable. Seriously, I redid most of my wardrobe my whole wardrobe (clothing wise, anyways, it’d be a bit difficult to fit shoes in this budget) for marginally over $200 According to his standards of inexpensive clothing, I’d have two pairs of pants. Awesome. I also found it kind of funny that those boots are apparently a heinous crime against All That Is Fashion but currently on his front page is a woman wearing sweats with a black jacket over it. Riiiiight.

Erm, back to the other off-original-topic topic, re: fashion being un-feminist. As one commenter, citymaking, stated - “Everything is fashion. What people wear a major venue of cultural development and communication that no one can escape and that can be both a site of empowerment and disempowerment - but usually the latter is related to economic injustice, and not to fashion itself per se. Fashion is a major form of cultural communication that I personally find to be a really important tool in not becoming invisible or my identity taken for granted.” And another commenter, wax_ghost, replied with “It reminds me that we should remember that the supposed superficiality of fashion is intricately connected to the historical tendency to consider most things associated with women unimportant and superficial.”.

Those two comments do a REALLY good job of summing up how I feel about a lot of issues related to fashion.

But! to get back on topic and wrap up the post. Wear what you want, people, and wear it with confidence! It doesn’t matter if it has horizontal stripes and you’re plus sized, if you love it, then rock it, and screw the rules! You have it in you, even if you don’t think you do. I promise.

Related links to read and love

How to Be Confident at iCiNG

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