Beyond the tattooed lady : exploring women's experiences in the body modifiction industry

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Kathryn A Eason (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Nancy Hodges

Abstract: "With the exception of a few females working as carnival sideshow attractions, women have historically been an invisible part of the body modification industry. However, recently women have begun making a significant contribution to this industry, as they are becoming more modified and are more often choosing to work as modifiers (Mifflin, 1997). Most of the discourse surrounding body modification has focused on the male experience. Rather than positioning women's involvement in body modification as a location for personal and creative expression, body modification has been understood via male-oriented conceptualizations of the field, thereby compromising the possibility of alternative examinations of what modifications mean for the modified female. In this study, contemporary tattooing and body piercing practices are understood as lived experience and are framed by the concept of female writing (Cixous, 1976). By situating women's experiences as both modified and modifiers within an understanding of body modification as a deliberate and creative act of dressing the body, tattooing and body piercing become modes of communication through which lived experience is understood. An ethnographic methodology, including in-depth interviews (Kvale, 1996) and participant-observation, comprised the research design for this study. The four female participants: Wendi, Jenn, Amy, and Lacie, work as piercers, tattoo artists, and shop managers in the body modification industry. Personal narratives were developed for each participant based on interview responses. Commonalities and differences surfacing within and across these narratives were then used to construct a thematic interpretation of their lived experiences as body modifiers (van Manen, 1990). Within the thematic interpretation, three conceptual areas are used to articulate body modification as lived experience: Self-expression, Creation, and Profession. Each conceptual area works to explicate the larger issues surfacing within the narratives that are important to understanding the link between the individual's lived experience and that of the women as a group. A third level of interpretation was then developed from the thematic interpretation: theorizing body modification as female writing. In this study, women's experiences are placed at the center of an exploration of tattooing and body piercing. In so doing, this study provides an alternative understanding of body modification, and thereby addresses a gap in knowledge that currently exists. Through their modifications and their work as modifiers, the four women use tattooing and body piercing to dress their bodies in unique ways, ways that were found to be important acts of both self-expression and consumption. Further research on women and body modification is needed in order to deepen our understanding of how the dressed, and particularly the modified, body can be used to explore lived experience."--Abstract from author supplied metadata.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2007
women, body modification, industry
Tattooing--Social aspects
Body piercing
Tatoo artists

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