Today Nick (our shop guy) asked me why there weren’t that many good women tattoo artists. He felt there should be more I suppose. I said two reasons, first most women aren’t tough enough to work ten times harder than their male peers and take tons of shit along the way. Second they aren’t taken seriously enough in the first place to even be offered the opportunity. Then if they are offered the opportunity based on their skill or looks which ever go back to reason one.
They aren’t willing to put up with the nonsense that will go along with being in the shop environment. Either you have some scumbag trying to get down your pants or you have some other asshole that gets off on making you do shit. But that is the way it goes for any apprentice and women shouldn’t expect special treatment there. But it’s the sexual harassment that becomes a bit much. In the tattoo culture there is still a lot of sexism that goes on.
The women who do make it are usually forced to put on a facade of ultra bad-assness. Then criticized for it and often accused of being gay when they don’t want to have sex with their male peers. Some women become very promiscuous thinking that this will get them where they want to be and only find that they have given their male peers more reason to not respect them.
It is a delicate tightrope to walk. I personally resolved to take every situation on a case-by-case scenario and to never let my sex interfere with my success. Instead I try to maintain self respect and respect my peers as much as possible by rarely or never getting sexually involved with clients or peers and working on the quality of my skill in the craft. Increasingly there are more female tattooers who are good at the craft of tattooing.
I am proud to say that I am part of a growing community of strong and skilled women in tattooing. What is happening now is that women are struggling to regain their role as a woman. It is difficult to embrace the beauty and softness of femininity and still play a respected dominant role in the culture. Women are often not included in projects and opportunities because they aren’t part of the boy’s club. I feel the need to point out that it shows the insecurity of the male counterparts when they purposefully exclude females from the equation.
In my experience I have been respected and included in many ways and I am grateful. Guys, if you know or work with a female tattooer who throws down and kicks ass, think of her the next time the boys get together to do a project. Don’t just think about her tits or how nice her ass looks in those jeans. We all have to help support and promote one another in positive ways to keep our craft sacred and thriving. The whole cutthroat approach is unnecessary really.
You don’t have to give out every secret of your trade to any old Tom, Dick and Harry but seriously anything anyone wants to know is out there. Everyone and their sister wants to be a tattoo artist. But no one wants to really put any work in, both guys and girls! Guys and girls have to respect themselves and the craft before they can gain respect from others.
(Dawn Cooke is a contributing blogger for Tattoo Artist Magazine can be found at Depot Town Tattoo, 33 East Cross St. Ypsilanti, MI 48197 www.dawncooke.net and www.dawncookeart.com)