Media SkepticismPop CultureSkepticism

To Tattoo or not to Tattoo

I’ve been thinking a lot about tattoos lately. I’m pondering getting a new one (my current one is pictured), and I know I’d get bad reactions from my parents and other adult-type figures in my life. But I know that I’ll get more. Why do I not care about the sage advice of those who are older and wiser than myself? What are the pros and cons of tattooing? What could possibly go wrong with jamming ink-filled needles into your skin? Dear readers, I am here to tell you why I believe that tattooing is something that should be given more acceptance in workplaces, schools and other formal settings. Because we shouldn’t judge each other by the pictures on our skin, but the content of our characters.

Oftentime when a young person is interested in getting a tattoo, they’re told that they’ll regret it. “What happens when you get old and your skin gets saggy and that looks horrible?” you’re asked. Or you’re told that it was impulsive, irrational, and will harm your chances of employment/marriage/admission to schools. Tattoos are viewed as negative because they are permanent, out of the ordinary, and associated with youth, impulsivity, and rebellion. Apparently all of these are bad things. I have also heard that tattoos are bad because they are covering up what God created, or a more secular version of that argument, that bodies are so beautiful on their own, why would you cover them up with something that’s not as beautiful? I suppose these are all perfectly fine attitudes for someone’s personal decision to get a tattoo or not, however the freedom to do what I like with my own body is important to me. And for me, the ability to get a tattoo reflects that my body is my own, and I don’t have to keep it looking the way that others want it to. I don’t owe others the beauty of my skin.

There are a number of reasons, logical and illogical that people get tattoos. Personally, I only get tattoos that are meaningful to me, that represent a time in my life that I want to remember. Other people may get tattoos strictly for aesthetic reasons, or to be rebellious, or because they’re bored. I think it’s important to realize that there is no justification to judge any of these reasons for getting a tattoo, because whoever is doing it IS NOT YOU. They are not harming your body, your life or your world in any way, and restricting or judging their choices because you feel it’s tacky or ugly is the worst kind of body-policing. Tattoos can be meaningful, and I think that’s important to respect, but they also don’t have to be meaningful in order to be a valid form of personal expression and in order to be an acceptable thing to do.

It is important to note that there is a practical side to body mods like tattoos. While we can, from a perfectly rational point of view, argue that there is nothing wrong with someone tattooing themself, it is true that the world today is judgmental of many body mods. It does make getting a job difficult, and it can lead to judgment from other people. As a skeptic, I’d like to say that other people’s biased opinions don’t affect me, but they do. So for any young person out there considering a tattoo, I think it’s important to balance the decision: no, a tattoo does not say anything about who you are as a person, nor should it affect the way people view you. But yes, it could have an impact on your life, and likely not in a positive way.

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Olivia is a giant pile of nerd who tends to freak out about linguistic prescriptivism, gender roles, and discrimination against the mentally ill. By day she writes things for the Autism Society of Minnesota, and by night she writes things everywhere else. Check out her ongoing screeds against jerkbrains at

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