For many girls growing up in the 2000s-2010s, the likes of belly button piercings, tramp stamps, and underboob tattoos weren’t hard to find. However, their presence was not always celebrated – in fact for many these types of body modifications were associated with the stereotypical ‘party girls’ seen on programs like Jersey Shore.
The stigmatization behind these piercings and tattoos has led to a harmful culture where women are seen as ‘sluts’ simply for the placement of a tattoo or piercing. Because of this, I’d like to share some history, as well as, my own opinions on why I absolutely love female body modification.
I can not tell you the number of times I have heard the phrase “tramps stamps and/or belly button piercings are trashy.” Hearing this, specifically about lower back tattoos, I’ve always wondered if it was the actual tattoo that so drastically offended people or rather the societal taboo that has been placed on the word “tramp stamp.” I mean think about this: If a woman says she wants a back tattoo or even a lower back tattoo no one says a thing. However, if in the same vein she says she wants a tramp stamp it’s like she’s practically got the word “slut” written on her. This association between the tramp stamp and promiscuity began in the late 90s/early 2000s when popular female celebrities, like Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, and Drew Barrymore started getting – the soon to be infamous -lower back tattoos. Around this time they started to be called tramp stamps because they were associated with (as believed) overtly sexual mini skirts, micro shorts, and teeny tiny crop tops popularized in this era. But what about this tattoo makes it so promiscuous, and in turn, why does it make a girl slutty?
The real answer is… it doesn’t. Like it all. There is no argument to be made that any form of body modification has some kind of adherence or effect on a person’s personality. Rather what has happened is that body modifications can affect the way someone perceives us because of societal standards and made-up expectations about the character of a person. And while I’d love to stand here and tell everyone to just ‘not care what other people think’ it’s hard. Especially as young women, there’s a large social pressure to conform to ambiguous standards in order to be perceived as ‘an ideal woman’. But the truth is the more we take control and choose whether or not to get these tattoos and piercings, the faster we can get rid of the stigmatization of these body modifications. Nasty and harmful stereotypes about women not only affect the way we are treated by the workforce and society, but they also harm and distance the relationships between women in a time when we need each other the most. The reversal of these stereotypes starts with us, so I encourage everyone to push past those boundaries and choose what you want to do on your own terms.
It feels a little silly to say all this and not put it into practice, so I’d like to end this off by saying that I got my belly-button piercing last year at the Atomic Tattoo in Austin and had a great experience. After having it for this long I still love it and am hoping to get a lower back tattoo sometime this summer. So I hope maybe this can encourage anyone who’s on the fence to feel a little bit more comfortable.
Embrace your femininity and reject societal standards, there’s only one you.