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Covered in Ink"Tattoos, Women and the Politics of the Body"$
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Beverly Yuen Thompson

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780814760000

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814760000.001.0001

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Tattoos Are Not for Touching

Tattoos Are Not for Touching

Public Space, Stigma, and Social Sanctions

(p.151) 6 Tattoos Are Not for Touching
Covered in Ink

Beverly Yuen Thompson

NYU Press

Heavily tattooed women are often touched by strangers in public spaces, some of whom try to pull back clothing in order to see a tattoo more completely, often without asking. They approach the tattooed person and ask invasive personal questions about what a certain tattoo means. All of the participants have had this experience and they found the behavior unacceptable. This chapter is couched in the framework of symbolic interactionist theories, such as Erving Goffman’s in The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. In this book, Goffman covers the unspoken social rules of appropriate public behavior (i.e., studied indifference)—precisely the rules that are often broken when the public encounters the heavily tattooed woman. How and why does the public come to interact with tattooed women as they do? What would be a more appropriate way of interacting with and discussing tattoo work in public spaces? How can we develop a “tattoo etiquette” of appropriate behavior that will reduce the stigmatization of the tattoo collector? This chapter examines the interactions about tattooing between the participants and the general public. Participants also provide a framework for developing a tattoo etiquette that promotes respectful interactions and mutual understanding.

Keywords:   public space, reactions, tattoos

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