By Meghan Kliewer
Women are often judged more harshly than men for having tattoos.
“Tattoos for women is all about empowerment and your body and what you want to do with it, not giving a shit about what society thinks,” Tiffany Lynn, an artist at Old Towne Tattoo Parlor in Orange, said.
For some women, ink transcends empowerment. It can convey a deep personal meaning, such as a memorial tattoo for a loved one. Or it can even be spontaneous.
“I got mine on Friday the 13th,” said Santa Ana College student Tammy Nguyen. “A group of my friends wanted to go and said ‘you’re not down’ so I did it.”
Yet tattooed women tend to be perceived as less attractive and intelligent than those without, according to a 2012 Harris Poll.
“People sometimes associate tattoos with uneducated, bad people but that’s not the case,” said environmental science major Jessica Gallardo. “As long as you carry yourself with confidence in your character and respect, I think that makes all the difference.”
That’s not stopping women from modifying their bodies. The same poll found that women are more likely than men to have a tattoo.
“I tattoo more women than men,” said local artist William German of Sid’s Tattoo Parlor in Santa Ana. “Women are actually tougher and way more tolerant of pain.”
P. ink, which stands for Personal Ink, is an organization that helps breast cancer survivors reclaim their bodies and feel beautiful by providing information about artists nearby who have experience with post-mastectomy tattoos.
Being a female artist in the industry can also be difficult.
“When I started my apprenticeship, there used to be a lot of hazing, a lot of mental and emotional strain,” said Gloria “Goonies” Ulloa of Old Towne Tattoo.
Millennials are more likely than other generations to wear tattoos, according to the Pew Research Center, but women of all ages get them.
“The oldest woman I tattooed was 87 years old. She didn’t care what anyone thought anymore,” German said.
Sometimes social pressures are enough to convince women to remove body art.
Physicians completed about 96,000 tattoo removals in 2013, a 56 percent increase from the previous year, according to a survey by the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery.
More than twice as many women as men get tattoos removed, some pushed by negative comments, according to a 2008 study by researchers from Texas Tech University.
Still, many women find ink as a means of expressing thoughts, feelings and ideas, Lynn said.
“Tattoos represent a choice—that women are free to do what they please with their body and will not be intimidated into doing otherwise,” Gallardo said.