Is That a Fail Whale On Your Arm, Or Are You Just Erroring Out: Niche Tattoos

There is a long and glorious history of getting tattooed to proclaim your profession or status. Probably the most classic tattoo that comes to mind is the noble anchor, proclaiming your status as a sailor.  Nowadays it probably means the bearer has asymmetrical bangs and a collection of odd scarves. Recently I have been seeing scissors tattooed on hair stylists, and of course you could fill an encyclopedia with prison and crime tats. But what about more obscure niches?

In the past few years, there has been an explosion of internet and geek culture related tattoos. Violet Blue, omnimedia queen, got a "blogger" tattoo on her ankle in 2006. There are also many people with other types of blogger tattoos, including a really cool Wordpress logo!

Critter got the "Failwhale," a cute picture of a whale that appears sometimes when Twitter chokes, earning him the title of Most Bestest Failwhale Fan Ever from the Fail Whale fansite.  The Failwhale was created by Yiying Lu, an interesting artist who has created many cool designs beyond the whale. I asked Yiying Lu what she thought about the Failwhale tattoo and se replied, "I felt a bit surprised, in a good way. I suppose it goes to show how much tattoos have become a part of the everyday - something so permanent - yet everyone is getting them in the here and now - although it will always be a reminder of this day, this time."

Another offshoot of the geeky tattoo are science tattoos. Who needs a generic and anatomically-incorrect heart tattoo when you could have a heart diagram tattooed over your chest? Science writer Carl Zimmer is tattoo-free himself, but oversees the Science Tattoo Emporium at Discover Magazine online. 

One of my favorite obscure tattoo niches is the feminist tattoo. Elizabeth from All Girl Army talks about her experience with and reason for getting a feminist symbol tattoo the day she turned 18:

People see it all the time, I get looks, I get glares for having a tattoo, but most of all I get question’s from people who don’t know what the symbol means… They ask “What is it?” and then I can talk about women’s issues, I tell them it’s the symbol for being a feminist, I tell them that it basically means for us to keep fighting for equality and did they know women still don’t make equal pay to men? (Surprisingly most people I’ve encountered think that women are equal with men in pay which just shocks me.) This tattoo lets me bring up things that I wouldn’t just bring up with some stranger, but now I can.

There is a new documentary in post-production that I am excited to see called Covered: A Social History of Women and Tattoos. There is a teaser up at the site with women talking about getting ink and making a career in inking. About the film:

For women, social approval of tattooing practices is based upon the understanding that she will keep her ink small, discrete, and cute--anything more, and she has definitely crossed the line of acceptable inking practices. Many women never cross that line, they utilize their ink to capitalize on their sexuality, to promote it--the infamous "chick spot" tattoo. For others, those that do cross the line, tattooing represents a resistance to social norms of constructed female beauty--their tattoos are large, public, and potentially offensive. This project is for those women that cross the line, become heavily tattooed, and interpret this as an integral part of their identity. These women are often leaders, feminists, activists--those strong enough to go against the mainstream current.

I digress here slightly, but this is worth mentioning. In opposition to this way of thinking, Liz Jones wrote a piece for the Daily Mail: Why DO Women Have These Tramp Stamps? which ran with a picture of a famous actress and her prominently-displayed "tramp stamps," which Jones defines as any tattoo. (Others who speak derisively about tattoos refer to "tramp stamps" as tattoos placed on a woman's lower back.)  Jones writes:

They are a mark of temporary insanity, instantly turning the classiest, chicest woman into trailer trash. Not for nothing are they known as 'tramp stamps'.

WOW, stay classy, Liz. I like what blogger and artist Rachel Setzer says in response:

Yes. A woman's physical appearance determines entirely their level of classiness. That's why there are no fat chicks at fancy parties for classy people. That's why people with tattoos don't have classy weddings. That's why blondes have more fun.

"Classy" and "chic" are traditionally words that apply to appearance because in the bad old days, before people decided it was okay to be themselves, you could tell the working-class from the upper-crust based on their clothing. Since the surge in middle class, however, it's become increasingly difficult to tell the working-class from the upper-crust, and "classy" has become a personality trait. A person's class, at least this side of the pond (the Daily Mail is based in the UK), is now determined based on how they treat others, whether they are heartless bitches who judge other women as "trailer trash" for having tattoos or not.

Got a nichey tattoo? Drop us your ink link. If you are thinking about getting one, I hope you find this inspiring. 

Related Links:

Literary tats. I like the Douglas Adams reference.

Tattoo-inspired hair cutting scissors.

Hanzi Smatter: "Dedicated to the misuse of Chinese Characters in Western Culture"

SJ also writes at I, Asshole, where she swears her next tattoo will be in gangsta font.


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