The tattoo industry has long been male-dominated, but female artists are working to change this trend. Instead of conforming to the stereotype that a tattoo artist should be a buff, “manly” man, women artists are appealing to an untapped group of people by taking advantage of the prejudice that women are more nurturing and less judgemental than men. They are redefining the industry by offering a safe space for clients to get tattoos in and for employees to work in.
Source: Jackalope Tattoo
Tattoos did not always carry the stereotype of masculinity as they do now. In Native American culture, tattoos were worn by both men and women. Many Native Americans used tattoos to signify war conquests and represent the tribe or region they were from. In many cases, these tattoos held spiritual or mystical significance for those who wore them. They also served as a popular accessory for wealthy socialites in the 19th century, but as the fad died down in the early 20th century, body ink became a symbol of masculinity. Many parlors, subsequently, began refusing to tattoo women unless they were accompanied by their spouse. Yet, in the 1970s, women began reclaiming their bodies through tattoos. During a time when women’s bodies were being scrutinized in the media, whether it be over eating disorders, cosmetic surgery or breast cancer, women were able to use tattoos to assert control over them. Tattoos were also used by women during this time to reclaim their independence after a divorce.
While women are now more likely to have tattoos than men, they still lag behind in terms of working in the industry, with just one in six tattoo artists being female, according to a 2010 study by Columbia University. Despite this, more and more women are entering the historically male dominated industry. This can be attributed to the popularity of tattoos, and the increasing visibility of female tattoo artists thanks to shows like Ink Master and artists like Kat Von D. The increase in female tattoo artists is beneficial for other women, especially as it results in a better understanding of a woman’s body and a greater consideration for the tattoos on their body.
Source: Jackalope Tattoo
Female tattoo artists are taking advantage of the prejudice that they are nurturing and less judgemental than men, combined with the fact that more women are getting tattoos than men and are using it to reach a group of people who have felt disregarded by and uncomfortable in the industry. Shops like Jackalope Tattoo feature an all-female and non- binary staff. In an interview with MPR News, the staff explains how they are able to offer a safe space for people who may be uncomfortable in a traditional parlor setting. Contrary to the traditional dark space, which features rock music playing in the background, Jackalope plays pop music and creates a bright, inviting setting. It is important to note, however, that just because the space is inviting, does not mean the artists can not produce an edgy design.
Source: Minuit Dix Tattoo
Creating a space that is welcoming for all clients is not an easy task though. In an interview with Tattoodo, Murial de Mai, the owner of Minuit Dix, discusses her experience with opening a tattoo shop aimed at creating a safe space for clients and artists. She explains that you have to be upfront and make your core business values clear. This is done, de Mai says, by hiring people with similar values and by ensuring that your social media presence is respectful of everyone. De Mai also explains that the aesthetics of the shop are crucial to creating a welcoming environment. Filling the space with plants and light, being conscious of the artwork you put on the wall and keeping the clients in mind when choosing music, she explains, are all key ways to create a safe, welcoming space for customers.
Because of this approach, people who would typically feel uncomfortable in a tattoo shop are enticed by the safe, welcoming space that women-owned and operated shops offer them. Many people are also more comfortable with a woman artist when getting an especially daunting tattoo, because of their assumption that women are more nurturing than men. Regardless of the reasoning behind a client’s choice to patron an all-female tattoo shop, the approach of creating a welcoming, safe environment seems to be working for all-women tattoo shops.