Gender and Representation in Tattooing

Over the last couple weeks, a comment I submitted to the Minneapolis Star Tribune about an article on women in tattooing has been reposted quite a bit and received quite a bit of attention from the local tattoo community as well as other women who related to the sentiment as it applied to their own professions and how they are represented. You can read the Star Tribune article here. After having more conversations on social media and reading other responses to the article, and after being portrayed by a few people as a cyber bully, I have a few things I would like to clarify and expand on in my own space. Here is the complete comment I made about this article:

“I find it troublesome that an article titled, “Minnesota’s Female Tattoo Artists are Making Their Mark,” only profiles tattoo artists in one shop in the Twin Cities. While the article gives a very brief history of women in tattooing, no information is included about the women who have been tattooing in the Twin Cities for longer than every member of the shop you chose to profile combined. Some women who tattoo in the Twin Cities I would have liked to have seen mentioned are Tanika Nolan of Acme Tattoo, an outspoken advocate for regulations within tattooing and a tattooer for 25 years, Tattoos by Kore, a woman-owned shop that opened in Uptown in 1990, Megan Hoogland, a fantastic tattooer with 20 years of experience who owns Mecca Tattoo, or Jessi Lawson, an incredibly talented woman who’s been tattooing for 10 years and works at Leviticus Tattoo. It strikes me as poor journalism to completely neglect the perspectives of women who have a significantly larger volume of experience, and also might lend some additional perspective on what it’s like to be a woman working in the “man-cave mold” for the “willfully ignorant, misogynistic, racist men,” running our industry.

I find it problematic that when journalists profile women, often the entire article centers around their gender and attitudes towards feminism, with few words left to discuss their work. I applaud the opening of businesses that create a space for people who do not feel comfortable in the spaces our community offers. However, I do not consider my gender a niche market or a novelty. As a feminist, I do not like seeing my gender conflated into one experience. It’s unfortunate that these women have experienced discrimination, I don’t doubt that they have. I have also experienced discrimination, and find it painful to see my coworkers, who are men, as well as feminists and allies, misrepresented in this article as people who women or minorities should be wary of.

While I agree with the sentiment that more women and diversity within tattoo shops benefits tattoo artists and clients alike, I find it dangerous to make a self-appointed avatar of women in tattooing our only voice. Your brief analysis of an industry I hold very dear to my heart does not paint a picture that I relate to. I appreciate that this article was not meant to be an in-depth analysis, but perhaps it could have been more accurately titled, “MPLS Tattoo are Making Their Mark.””

My point in writing this comment was to draw attention to the problems I have with the article and the way I am represented. In many of the comments and reposts of my comment, the quality of the work and authenticity of the artists who work at this shop were challenged. I don’t consider it my place to say who does or doesn’t belong in tattooing, my concern is that this very narrow perspective is being used to represent a large and diverse community of women tattooers to a broad audience, and that it misrepresents what many women experience in the tattoo industry in the Twin Cities. It concerns me that when gender is used as a marketing tool, instead of serving to develop how women are represented in the media and focusing on the things we do or make, it portrays us as victims of an antiquated industry or novelties. There are a number of women who tattoo in the Twin Cities who have been tattooing for more than twenty years, and I would have really loved to hear their perspective on a lot of the issues being discussed in this article. I hope that at least a few folks who read my comment and were unfamiliar with the women I mentioned took the time to look up their work–if you’re interested in looking up more women tattooing in the Twin Cities I would also recommend seeking out Chelsea Louviere at Dinkytown Tattoo, Sarah Biloon at Blackend Atelier, Jessie McNally at Rose of No Man’s Land, the list goes on…  My comment was in no way meant to be a personal attack nor was it motivated by feelings of jealousy for the media attention. While I don’t agree with much of this Star Tribune article, I’m grateful for the conversations that came afterwards and how supportive other tattooers (and journalists!) were of me speaking my mind on this issue. I believe that this kind of stuff gets better when people speak up and point out how it can be made better, and that it’s important to hold journalists accountable for how they represent us. Thank you again to everyone who reposted, participated in conversations surrounding the article, or reached out to me about my comment. I wasn’t really intending to receive this much attention for my thoughts on this issue, and it means so much to me that it resonated with people.

In addition to trolling our local newspaper, I also do tattoos! Here’s some pictures of some of my favorite stuff from the past couple months.










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