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Your Bod, Your Mods : Women’s Bodies

I am someone who loves piercings and tattoos. They add to a person’s unique look. There are a lot of opinions out there about body modifications like these. The most common criticism is that they are permanent, so you may regret and that they are unprofessional. Though the opinions vary and thoughts are changing, I have noticed that the criticism about women with tattoos and piercings are criticized more heavily. Like reproductive rights, when women take ownership of their bodies, it challenges the status quo, and everyone has something to say about it; that status quo being men’s history of wanting you to control and regulate a woman’s body through politics and societal norms. Whether it is intentional or not, when a woman chooses to modify her body, in any way, she is taking ownership of her body, and this is something that makes many uncomfortable because it is not the norm.  

Ever since I was young, my mom told me that I couldn’t’t get tattoos because it is not “ladylike” but I promised her that when I turned eighteen I would because I would be an adult and she waited for me to test her. I kid you not on my eighteenth birthday I went to get my first tattoo just like I promised. I have added more art to my body since my eighteenth birthday but when I got my first tattoos and the others that followed, it was an active choice that I made for myself. To defend myself from my mother anti-tattoo beliefs, I would say “well, it’s my body, I can do what I want” and even though I was a sassy teen, that very much was and still is the face?, it is my body.

 Whenever women do anything with their bodies, people tend to react in a negative way. God forbid a woman is a sexual person, gets an abortion, doesn’t want children, or gets a few tattoos. Acts like this threaten the status quo of women being passive about their existence to men. If you ask people how they felt during the process of getting inked or pierced, it is usually a feeling of slight pain, but clients also speak of a sense of self-empowerment, growth, and feeling like a badass, at least that is how it feels.

 We are all influenced and are overexposed to the beauty culture and standards of the world through personal but especially the media . We develop an identity based on gender performance, race, age, sexuality, etc. Body modifications like tattoos and piercings add to those lists of identities. I also wanted to point out that perceptions even differ among different women with tattoos. For example, a white woman might be given more nonjudgmental freedom to experiment with tattoos, women of color, especially a black woman is more harshly criticized for having a heavily inked body. The body’s of people of color are usually discriminated and criminalized, so the pressure is amplified when tattoos become part of the question. There are many levels to reclaiming ownership of your body through ‘bod mods’. The reasons for getting body modifications vary from person to person, but overall they are small (or major) alterations that someone actively decides for themselves to feel better about themselves and also to break away from the societal standards of beauty.

Jahaira is a double major in Psychology and Women's and Gender Studies and a campus correspondent for the Her Campus chapter at Wells College. 
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