Monday, 16 February 2015

Crossing another line

A few days ago I saw for the first time a frontal facial tattoo on a 'normal' woman. She was in her thirties, I guess, conservatively dressed in a sensible coat and fleece hat; and she had a coloured flower something like 7 cm in diameter tattooed on one cheek.

The first and most important line crossed is having a tattoo of any kind anywhere - once the moral principle against voluntary permanent self-mutilation has been violated, this opens the door (personally for individuals, and socially) to further, more visible, more viscerally-shocking violations.

(Leaving aside circus acts and ex-prisoners), at first, tattoos were placed so they could be concealed by clothing - never on head, hands, or feet.

That was violated about a decade ago en masse, first on feet and ankles among women - who are the most tattooed sex; then on wrists and hands, then more recently on the back of the neck, then behind the ear.


People used to tell me, and some still do, that tattooing in the UK was just a fad and would stop when the youngsters saw tattoos on old people. But instead the tattoos just get more common (especially in women), more numerous, more prominent, much bigger - and now it seems we have moved into a new phase of frontal facial tattooing.

I have never seen one word said against tattoos in the mainstream mass media - and instead there is indirect encouragement of many kinds and in many ways. For instance tattoos are lovingly depicted on high status and beautiful celebs, and even 'nobility' (Dame Angelina Jolie, Dame Helen Mirren); they are always treated as sexy (which for modern people is the highest possible praise); there are newspapers discussions about which are the best tattoos - implicitly accepting that the practise of tattooing is good, and only the execution worthy of discrimination.

In sum there is an established mainstream media taboo against criticising tattooing - presumably at first 'justified' on the usual politically correct grounds; and now on the grounds that the majority of young women (and a large minority of young men) are tattooed, 'therefore' we ought to accept it, and indeed 'learn to love it'. 


What is most disturbing is that people have ceased to be shocked, surprised or even to comment on what is (in world historical terms) an extraordinary phenomenon; and surely the most obvious external sign and index of the inner state of modern Western society.


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