Why you should care
It seems like everybody’s got one – an opinion about tattoos, that is.
Tattoos are so common these days that it seems like we all have to face making a conscious decision about them: Will I ink up or won’t I? And yet, despite how much we’re used to seeing them, tattoos still carry more meaning than any other common body adornment. You may know whether you’d put a tattoo on your own body, but are you so sure about whether you have preconceptions about other people’s tattoos?
As Election Day rolled around in the U.S., OZY’s Lorena O’Neil asked just how much personal appearance affects the votes we cast. What if you couldn’t see the person you were voting for at all, but placed your vote The Voice style, only after hearing what they had to say about the issues? And what if, when you turned around, the candidate of your liking was covered from head to toe in tattoos? In the Czech Republic, Vladimir Franz, a teacher and painter whose face, ears, lips and most of his body are covered in tattoos, ran for president in January. Even though he lost, his support in the polls was high. Could such a thing happen in the U.S.?
Los Angeles-based Homeboy Industries is the largest gang-rehabilitation program in the country, providing its members with skills for not only getting a job but for coping with life after gangs, prison, or both. They even offer free tattoo removal. For many of the young people at the center, their tattoos reflect more than just personal choices; the tattoos brand them with their gang membership, mark them as dangerous and in danger – and for some, the sign is written right across their faces. Photojournalist Melissa Golden says she was a little intimidated by the former gang members at first, but as she ”got to know the people behind the tattoos,” she found that ”these people were there in search of redemption.”
Go ahead and ask – you know you’re curious. Even if tattoos may have permanently lost their status as the preeminent sign of rebellion, they will always have stories to tell. That’s why Wendy MacNaughton and writer Isaac Fitzgerald launched their blog Pen & Ink, where the tatted-up share their often poetic tales about what and why they got inked. Illustrated with fine line drawings, the stories and the site will suck you in and make you think twice about that stranger at the cafe with the giant screeching eagle lining his arm.