Tattoosday: Slut!

There’s a great article on Sociological Images right now titled “Examining Cultural Change: Children’s Tattoo Toys” by David Paul Strohecker. I highly recommend taking the time to read his thoughts on cultural shift, even if you aren’t personally tattooed.

In his article, Strohecker links to the Totally Stylin’ Tattoos Barbie on Amazon, where one can’t help but scroll to the reviews. Oh, the reviews. Here are just a few gems (emphasis added by me):

R. Fogerty: “Wow.. this is really a great role-model for young girls. </sarcasm>
I would never in a million years buy this for my daughter. I’m trying to teach her self-respect and her self-value. What do tramp-stamps say to a young girl? What’s next? A tongue pierced Barbie? (and look up what tongue piercings are for if you don’t know).”

Janet S.: “Little girls who are still small enough to be playing with dolls are too young to be thinking about whether Barbie should be sporting a sleeve of butterflies or simply have a “I am owned by a man” tramp stamp on her butt. Little girls use Barbie accessories to help them act out stories. Put a pretty dress on Barbie and the make-believe conversation is about a special occasion or being a princess. Barbies in beachwear have ‘conversations’ about the beach. Fairytopia Barbies ‘talk’ to other Barbies about fairy things. I can only imagine the ‘conversation’ Tramp Stamp Barbie will have. But the main problem I have with the product is that it makes tattoos seem temporary. Kids see the tattoos they get at festivals as merely a speedy, fancy way of getting their faces/arms painted. And it all rubs off with a wet rag. Barbie’s tats are peel & stick, too. Maybe Mattel will come out with Plastic Surgeon Barbie who can talk & explain to kids how real tattoos are applied using sharp needles and permanent ink, and removing them is painful and usually leaves scars. And then Mattel could follow up with Litigation Barbie who represents a sorority house full of young women who got HIV by going to cheap Miami tattoo parlor on spring break. Dolls help little girls express fantasies or cope with real life. Exactly how does Tramp Stamp Barbie help them do either?”

Lenore “aka Mom”: “Great idea! Now let’s see a “Prison Tat Ken” and “Barbie’s Piercing Parlor Playhouse”.”

Thomas E. Davis: “But I do have a serious point: the schoolgirls who constitute the Barbie crowd are not the demographic that Mattel should be selling on the aesthetics of tattoos. While temporary decals are harmless fun, we live in a world where tattooing and piercing have become obsessions. Nowadays, too many parents are absentees, and their kids can’t wait to get their first permanent body modifications. This toy, together with peer pressure, feeds their incipient rebellion. If they have involved parents, of course, it shouldn’t be a problem.”

There’s an interesting consistency to the objections posed by the various reviewers, namely the issues of self-respect and and actualization. The argument seems to be that people who get tattoos have no self-respect or concept of self-worth, and are too stupid to understand the permanence of their decision to become tattooed. Worse yet– exposing our children to tattooing via dolls and toys automatically leads to them becoming criminals, or worse, “sluts.”

It’s that last point that really gets under the some peoples’ skin. You’ll notice that there is no mention anywhere in the product description that a lower-back or “tramp stamp” (I’ll save my issues with this terminology for another post), but that’s immediately where many reviewers minds went. And how awful! “A tattoo is just a gateway to a tongue piercing… And you know what girls with pierced tongues like doing;” the insinuation being that they like to perform oral sex, particularly on men, just in case you didn’t know. And only dirty, nasty, slutty girls do things like that, right?

Wrong. The issue doesn’t seem to be that little boys could get the wrong idea (because Barbies are for GIRLS, okay?!) about what tattoos could mean for them, but that parents of little girls should be worried about their child becoming a slut because they saw a tattoo on a Barbie, and the worst thing a little girl could do would be to grow up to be a free woman who owns her sexuality, whether she’s actually promiscuous or not.

I agree with Strohecker– times are changing, and tattoos are more socially acceptable now than ever before. I believe it’s only a matter of a few short years before we’re not talking about whether or not tattoos are “professional” enough to be seen in the workplace. I wonder, however, how far behind general acceptance for women with tattoos will be? Can body art equalize, or will tattooed women still have to fight the slut perception?

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