to tramp or not to tramp

For my case study, I have decided on the concept of tattoos; as a form of body art, mutilation, personal choice, whatever your definition may be. Growing up (and it remains true today), there is a constant threat: “I swear to god if you get a tattoo your father will cut off that body part”. At least in my family. It makes me wonder why there is such a stigma. Why such a negative stereotype when literally millions of people around the world have tattoos, piercings, and other various “unnatural” things? What stereotypes do us non-tattooed individuals immediately associate with those tattooed individuals?

Starting off, I’d like to look at the history of tattoos; they’re certainly not a new concept, nor unique to American culture. However, within our society I think there are particularly negative associations and stereotypes that follow tattoos. Whether its assumptions about socio-economic class, recreational use or abuse of drugs and alcohol, gang affiliation, etc. I think its not always our gut reaction to look at a tattoo, and consider it a good choice. Oh that’s gonna look good when they’re fifty. Or, Well thats an interesting tramp stamp. How have these stereotypes risen to the power? Are tattoos indicative of an individual’s age, socio-economic status, heritage, or extra-curricular activities?

I’m considering using Marx (as his concepts of class structure might help to explain our stereotypes with tattoos and socio-economic status), as well as Benjamin (for his work on  art as a cultural form, and its political connotation), and maybe even Williams (in looking as tattoos as an emerging culture group).

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