Why is it that more and more people are tattooing and/or piercing themselves? Is there a cultural reason behind this reality? Each time that we walk we see someone with a tattoo and or a piercing(s). The reality is that tattoos and/or piercing(s) have become increasingly popular not just in the United States but all over the world. I admit that I have a tattoo and three piercings. I also admit that I decided to get a tattoo as soon as I turned eighteen like most teenagers do. People have so many reasons as to why they have a tattoo or as to why they want to get a tattoo in the near future. Most of the time we receive images and messages through the media about tattoos and piercings and therefore they may influence us. Some people believe that tattoos are a form of expression and art while others think of tattoos as attractive or taboo. Through the media, adolescents see over 5,000 attractiveness messages per year. This means that most adolescents are being pressure by the media to look unique and different by tattooing/piercing themselves. Not just the media influences a society into tattoos and/or piercing but the culture that they live in. Cultural influences play a huge role on how people act, dress, speak, and even on the way they think. Tattoos and piercing have created their own culture in which people have adapted and continued Despite the fact that some people consider tattoos and/or piercing taboo, people will still continue to tattoo and pierce themselves because it is a cultural practice done for centuries and therefore it will continue for centuries.
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Tattooing and piercing are two of the oldest practices in the world. They have ancient roots that start as early as 15,000 years ago. According to Jane Caplan, “Physical evidence for the practice survives from the late fourth millennium BC in Europe and from about 2000BC in Egypt, and tattooing can be found virtually all parts of the world at the same time” (1). Tattoos in many cultures like in the Maroni culture have used tattoos for centuries and considered it as sacred art. The Maroni culture like so many cultures all the world have many purposes as to why they decide to mark themselves forever. Many cultures believed that a tattoo was powerful enough to cure anyone from any illness. Some people also believed that tattooing themselves would help them express their personal and religious believes. Body piercing has been dated as early as 1500 B.C.E. Body piercings like tattoos is consider as a way to express one’s one individuality. Similar to tattoos, a person can decided to get pierce everywhere in the body. There is no rule as to where you can get a tattoo and/or body piercing or how big or small it can be. Tattoos and body piercing have been spread out all around the world and even to the most remote places and cultures. In the essay “The Decorated Body” by Frances Borel, Borel states,
Human nakedness, according to the social custom, is unacceptable, unbearable, and dangerous. From the moment of birth, society takes charge, managing, dressing,
forming, and deforming the child-sometimes even with a certain degree of violence. Aside from the most elementary caretaking concerns-the very diversity of which
shows how subjective the motivation is–an unfathomably deep and universal
tendency pushes families, clans, and tribes to rapidly modify a person’s physical appearance. (40)
There is no rule as to where you can get a tattoo and/or body piercing or how big or small it can be. If we take a closer approach specifically to the culture of tattoos in the United States, we can see how culture has played a huge role in the popularity of tattoos and body piercings.
Pretty can be defined in various way and it is defined differently in many cultures. In India, having a ring in your neck is considered beautiful. In China, having small feet done by a process of shrinking feet called foot binding is considered beautiful. In the United States, tattoos to some people are considered beautiful. Tattoos became to be known in the early 1700s. A man named Captain Cook went on a trip to the South Pacific Islands and found fascinating the fact that most people were marked with some distinctive designs. He later brought a young girl with him to the United States and Americans were astounded. Tattoos were at first had made because there was not a specific tool for making tattoos. A man named Martin Hilderbrandt became the first professional tattoo artist in the United States. Hilderbrandt like many tattoo artist had no tool for making efficient and faster tattoos. It was not until 1891 that the first electric needled was used. A man named Samuel O’Reilly created and patented the first electric needled. He opened the first tattoo shop in New York City. After the first shop opened in New York City, many Americans decided to become tattoo artists themselves and even opened their own tattoo shops.
The number of tattoo artists and shops increased rapidly in the United States. Some Americans believed that if they tattooed their entire body, they would express their individuality. Men and women decided to exhibit themselves and some went on traveling shows or went to work on the circus. Some couples would tattoo their whole body and display themselves on public. I personally would not decide to cover my entire body in tattoos and/or body piercings. Beside the fact that tattoos and body piercings are expensive, they are also painful. I decided to get a shooting star tattoo because beside the fact that I love stars I wanted to get a design that was unique. One of my close friends designed by tattoo and therefore it made my tattoo original and unique. I did not know why I decided to get a tattoo. However since tattoos and body piercings were so new in America, many did not accept them.
While many Americans were fascinated with tattoos and body piercing, others viewed them a taboo. Some people did not have any taste with tattoos and/or body piercings. Tattoos become so popular in so little time that it was hard for people to accept them. Tattoos were not considered art or a way of individualism. Tattoos were not considered as a way of expression. Many believed that it was morally wrong to tattoo and/or body pierce the entire body. However tattoos and body piercings never went out of style and continued to be popular not just in the United States but all over the world. After World War Two (WWII), many Americans decided to get a tattoo(s) to show their courage and bravery in the war. Tattoos and body piercings become a style and a fashion. Tattoos and body piercings became a trend and it is still a trend even to this day. They are both widely accepted like they were in many different culture all around the world.
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Different forms of tattoo art have been practiced by many different cultures of the world, over the centuries.Tattooing is one of the oldest practices in the United States. Tattoos have become part of our everyday life and we cannot stop it. Andres Martin, author of the essay “On Teenagers and Tattoos” states, Tattoos and piercing have become a part of our everyday landscape” (24). Tattoos and body piercings in America are everyday things. Tattoos are not very easily removed and at the same time the procedure is very expensive and painful. But do people decide to get tattoos and/or piercings? According to Jane Caplan, “Tattooing is one of many forms of irreversible body alteration, including scarification, cicatrization, piercing and branding, and it is the probable the oldest and most widespread of these” (1).
Borel, France. “The Decorated Body.” Aims of Argument Text and Reader. 6th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill College, 2010. 40-42. Print.
Caplan, Jane. Written on the Body: the Tattoo in European and American History. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton UP, 2000. Print.
Martin, Andres. “On Teenagers and Tattoos.” Aims of Argument Text and Reader. 6th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill College, 2010. 24-28. Print.
Rubin, Arnold. Marks of Civilization: Artistic Transformations of the Human Body. Los Angeles, Calif.: Museum of Cultural History, University of California, 1988. Print.
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