poojagupta

Tattoos...would you ? have you ?

100 posts in this topic

Hmmm, I definitely think there can be an Objective standard on this one. I have seen people with their whole bottom lip peirced, nose, eyebrow, etc... you name it. When I wear earrings or jewlery, it is to enhance what I'm wearing, or give a shimmer to my face. I think when it becomes unflattering, thet's where you draw the line.

I have seen some very attractive Indian woman with nose peircings, and I found that to be flattering.

Precisely - it is the way its done that can be (and, admitedly, often is) a turnoff. But a belly button ring or a nose ring, or even a small lip stud dont bother me, and if the girl is attractive, it has the same effect on me than casually elegant earings.

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Tattoos: I wouldn't do it, because I simply cannot think of anything that I would want *permanently* marked on my body. When I am 60 years old, I doubt that the sight of a tattoo on my wrinkled skin will bring me pleasure.

That said, I think a well-placed, well-done tattoo can have the same effect as jewelry -- drawing the eye toward a particularly attractive part of the body and/or enhancing it.

With both tattoos and jewelry, I think the "too much" mark becomes when the ornament no longer enhances the body and makes it more beautiful, but detracts from the body and becomes an object to stare at on its own, particularly if it is something grotesque. I hate the earlobe-stretching trend! But I do think a small nose stud looks beautiful on many women, particularly dark-skinned ones. Same with a belly chain or navel piercing that draws attention to a slender waist.

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Tattoos...would you ? have you ?

Nope.

It took me 43 years to work up the motivation to get my ears pierced.

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I would never have a tattoo. However, I have had lots of experiences with tattoos and body piercings. As a snowboarder, surfer, and skateboarder; I have noticed tattoos and body piercings are very popular in this segment of the population. Currently, I am a training director for snowboarding at Timberline Lodge. Part of my responsibilities involve training and hiring new instructors. Tattoos and body piercings become an issue everytime we hire someone. The company policy is that tattoos must be covered by the uniform and ear piercings are acceptable. Any nose piercings, eyebrow piercings, lip piercings have to be taken out while in uniform.

Over the years, I have seen the prevalence of tattoos increase. I view the tattoos and multiple piercings as an expression of tribalism. The people with the tattoos and multiple piercings think it is an expression of their individuality and a rebellion against a repressive society. Personally, I do not see any individuality in the designs. One popular trend is the band I see around the bicep. These bands look like thorns or barb wire wrapped around their arms. Another trend I have noticed are women having tattoos in the small of their back, right above the pant line.

Generally speaking, I think the tattoos and piercings serve as a distraction. If I am talking one on one with an individual with multiple piercings and tattoos, I have a hard time focussing on what they are saying. Because of this distraction, I have a hard time taking what they are saying seriously.

I will think about this topic some more and try to add some more insight. I view the increase in popularity in tattoos and multiple piercings as another sign that our society is deteriorating.

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I don't have to think of whether I'd have one or not since I already do. It's a dragon wrapped around a rose from my right shoulder to almost the elbow. I got it almost twenty years ago when I was in music and knee-deep in hair.

I think nothing of it, much like the toe next to my pinky toe on my left foot. It is just there. Sometimes it will poke out from a sleeve (the tattoo, not the toe) and someone will say: "Nice tat". But I never otherwise remember it is there. Pretty much a waste of time and money for me.

I have nothing against someone having one or two. As with everything, I think there should be a reason, a purpose for having one - a "why". Usually, it is nothing more than a whim of youth, as was mine.

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Apart from being an eyesore, it shows, along with body piercings, a certain tribal conformity. If someone goes to this length to show how they want to be seen, then that is how they should be seen.

I would love a proof of how my tattoo shows "a certain tribal conformity"!

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I would love a proof of how my tattoo shows "a certain tribal conformity"!

I would not venture to guess what motivated you to give into a "whim of youth" and "knee-deep hair". Perhaps there are other reasons in individual cases such as yours. Nevertheless, in general, that is the conclusion in that I have come to about embracing fads; conformity and the need to belong. There are always exceptions, and I'm willing to alter my view in those cases, if given reason to do so.

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I would not venture to guess what motivated you to give into a "whim of youth" and "knee-deep hair". Perhaps there are other reasons in individual cases such as yours. Nevertheless, in general, that is the conclusion in that I have come to about embracing fads; conformity and the need to belong.

I really don't think that people get tattoos out of a need to belong and conform; because, if anything, tattoos actually hurt them in that regards.

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One of my reasons for completing not considering having tattoos was : It is false form of making up for lack for personality and/or individuality. If you have enough of both as is, you will not want to have tattoos on your body. That is why I hate the very idea. Does that sound like a valid reason ?

hmmm. I always chuckle at where these kinds of discussions head. Usually start with an innocuous "give me your opinion" and always seem to migrate to discussions of the psychological implications of _______ [fill in the blank] as though there is a philosophical "generalization from particulars" that is appropriate to anyone's choice of adornment.

I understand why one is tempted to do this, because we first get to know people through their "particulars", things like outward appearance, choice of preferences, etc. but the fact of the matter is, I don't think there is anything intrinsic about a choice to tattoo (or any other choice in adornment for that matter) in general that would allow you make such generalizations. To the extent we can talk about the psychology of fads, or tribalism, etc, I think one can evaluate a particular choice in that context but that requires obtaining more data than just, "so and so has a tatoo". i.e. it entails finding the context of the particular.

Do all Objectivists take up ballroom dancing because of a tribal need to belong? Hardly. And I would venture that to make such snap judgements about any particular instance even from a supposedly Objectivist viewpoint is in a sense committing the same fallacy of tribalism that one eschews in making the judgement in the first place. It is grouping by factors that don't matter, i.e. that are arbitrary.

I think this is working the problem in reverse, and indicates a bit of intrinsist thinking. Do esthetic choices potentially indicate sense of life, psychological, and philosophical issues? Sure. But because a particular philosophical viewpoint leads to an esthetic choice, does not necessarily imply that a particular esthetic choice leads to a particular philosophic viewpoint. It is possible that an altruist might like Rachmaninoff. It is possible that some of you Objectivists out there still like rock music. It is also possible that one Objectivist's favorite color is blue and one Objectivist's favorite color is green, and there is just no explaining it, i.e. it is purely arbitrary. Consistency, contradiction, or simply arbitrary - all are possiblities.

If you're going to argue for any intrinsic issues with tattooing, then argue them on their esthetic issues. First are they a form of art or not? Then, what is a valid (or grotesque) use of the medium and what is not? Then, and only then would it make sense to evaluate a particular instance of the use of them for any further implications.

Yes, by the way, I have a tattoo. I got a firebird on my ankle about 1996, when I knew that I was an Objectivist. It's a personal symbol, a reminder of my "spiritual" transformation as a result of my choice to live my life by reason. I like the permanence of it. I have no regrets and don't intend to since I can say that I will never stop living my life by reason. I can think of nothing but purely selfish motives I had in getting it. Am I manifesting a hidden contradiction in my sense of life? Well, that would be for me to evaluate honestly, and for you, if you know me well enough, to prove otherwise.

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KendallJ - nice post!

I really don't think that people get tattoos out of a need to belong and conform; because, if anything, tattoos actually hurt them in that regards.

Not true - in some segment of the population, tattooes and piercing are a clear rite of passage, and often a majority of the members have them. Examples include:

- rock bands,

- punks, grunges, and other neo-savages,

- SCA members,

- Seattle youths :(

- Etc, etc....

If one is a member of a grunge tribe, they'll be much better accepted if they have some form of tattooes or masochistic / grotesque piercing.

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hmmm. I always chuckle at where these kinds of discussions head. Usually start with an innocuous "give me your opinion" and always seem to migrate to discussions of the psychological implications of _______ [fill in the blank] as though there is a philosophical "generalization from particulars" that is appropriate to anyone's choice of adornment.

Maybe it is one of the ways you seek answers to questions you raise of yourself and are looking for help finding it by sharing opinions with people you know share your basic values / ideas. No wonder such forums are a good medium. I found your post, didn't I ?

I understand why one is tempted to do this, because we first get to know people through their "particulars", things like outward appearance, choice of preferences, etc. but the fact of the matter is, I don't think there is anything intrinsic about a choice to tattoo (or any other choice in adornment for that matter) in general that would allow you make such generalizations. To the extent we can talk about the psychology of fads, or tribalism, etc, I think one can evaluate a particular choice in that context but that requires obtaining more data than just, "so and so has a tatoo". i.e. it entails finding the context of the particular.

Exactly, that is what was troubling me about this topic ! Tattoos are not intrinsically bad, but what they convey about a person to me was and I realized I am making some mistake here. Looks like the fact that I find it esthetically bad too mixed the whole thing up for me blocking my error. Now I am ready to delve into my mind and find out why I hate it esthetically.

There is one more thought related to this - the thought of the pain you cause yourself to get a tattoo. I had heard when I was very young that they are extremely painful and wondered why people would go to such a extend for a tattoo. Is that true ? I mean, is it extremely painful ? Or is it a made up fact to prevent people from trying it ?

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I think tattooes are painful, but pain isn't one of the objectives (as opposed to some of the weirdest piercings). People often endure pain to achieve their goals, be the esthetical (hair electrolisis) or others (high level sprot training).

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I think tattooes are painful, but pain isn't one of the objectives (as opposed to some of the weirdest piercings). People often endure pain to achieve their goals, be the esthetical (hair electrolisis) or others (high level sprot training).

And that's very nicely put too, resolves one more issue I had with it...If pain is not the "objective" of getting a tattoo, then the fact that the process is painful becomes irrevalent.

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Congratulations, KendallJ, that was a very well stated argument. And thank you. I had not previously realized the connection between volition [both on the part of the knower and the valuer] and the invalidity of intrinsicism. :(

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hmmm. I always chuckle at where these kinds of discussions head...

Very thoughtful, interesting post. And I think that the point about intrinsicism is very good. But I have an objection to a specific comment, and a comment of my own.

My objection is to the categorization of personal preference as arbitrary. Any rational preference is personal, not arbitrary. Those two things are entirely different.

And my comment is, that despite your own rational motive for getting a tattoo, I think that at least the origin of the general (recent) trend is bad. And the reason I think so is because I have read about the origins for certain trends (not limited to tattoos, and including styles of dress) that began with the desire of youth to emulate people who were in prison, i.e. the baggy-pants thing, certain shoes, tattoos, and so on.

What such styles might morph into may be another question. But the origin for the style is certainly bad. Being a prisoner is an objective disvalue. And I think that generally speaking, a desire to emulate prisoners, if the prisoners have not been imprisoned as the result of taking some principled moral stand, is not good for life.

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Very thoughtful, interesting post. And I think that the point about intrinsicism is very good. But I have an objection to a specific comment, and a comment of my own.

My objection is to the categorization of personal preference as arbitrary. Any rational preference is personal, not arbitrary. Those two things are entirely different.

And my comment is, that despite your own rational motive for getting a tattoo, I think that at least the origin of the general (recent) trend is bad. And the reason I think so is because I have read about the origins for certain trends (not limited to tattoos, and including styles of dress) that began with the desire of youth to emulate people who were in prison, i.e. the baggy-pants thing, certain shoes, tattoos, and so on.

Rose, I think a discussion about the desire to imitate prison culture is certainly the type I referred to that brings the context of the situation into the discussion, and I would agree with you. The psychology of someone who wants to imitate prison culture is certainly suspect.

I think there are grotesque usages of the medium to be sure. I'm just not sure that it's inherent or intrinsic in the medium itself.

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If you're going to argue for any intrinsic issues with tattooing, then argue them on their esthetic issues. First are they a form of art or not? Then, what is a valid (or grotesque) use of the medium and what is not? Then, and only then would it make sense to evaluate a particular instance of the use of them for any further implications.

In earlier times Tattoos were most associated with criminal gangs. By degrees, the aesthetic standards of dress, music and body modifications have moved into the mainstream, from the lower stratas of society. There are different circumstances that lead to the acquiring of a tattoo, and I find myself more accepting of a sailor with an anchor on his arm, than a punk with artwork on his forehead. This is because I can detect a difference in what led to their adornments. This is a judgement call, and like any evaluation, is prone to error.

In your case, you obviously thought your tattoo attractive, and given your philosophy, I accept it was not tribalism that motivated your particular decision. That doesn't nullify the fact that tattoos have been used as gang brandings, explicitly to prove tribal membership.

As for aesthetics, it is only my subconscious evaluation that follows, not an objective analysis. There are degrees of 'attractiveness' to a tattoo, but to me they are vandalism on the beauty of nature. Rather than enhance, as would a piece of jewelry, by highlighting the beauty of the body, they substitute for it. I just cannot fathom why one would permanently disfigure one's skin in the name of art. My reaction to graffiti on a fence, no matter how well done, is similarly negative. There are appropriate places for art, but that is a subject in itself.

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I don't understand what is gained by a tattoo. If John Galt had a tattoo of a dollar sign on his forehead, I would feel repulsed, and if he had it hidden out of sight, where it would not normally be seen, what would be the point? Does he need to see it now and then as a reminder of when he first went on strike? Something so important in his life would only be trivialized by a tattoo. If one would not have a tattoo of a dollar sign on one's forehead, why? Because it would detract from you, the person you are. Then why have it anywhere else, though it detract less?

The rational purpose of makeup is to highlight the natural beauty of the body; it draws attention to an aspect of oneself. If makeup hid or distorted one's beauty, its use would be irrational. A tattoo, by its very nature, draws attention away from the person, qua individual, on whose body it sticks. I don't think it would be right to say that tattoos are okay, and then go out and get one. A person should not motivate himself to act to gain something just because he can't prove that it's bad. It would make no sense to say, "Yes, getting a tattoo is painful and cost money, but I have nothing better to do", or, "When I find the woman of my dreams, and she is deciding betyween ne and that other guy, I'll whip off my shirt and show her my tattoo. She will know then that my character is beyond reproach."

Seriously, how does a tattoo add value to your life? Is it beautiful art? I've never seen a tattoo that could compare with even the average romantic painting, novel or song. Would a great statue be improved if it had a tattoo? If all tattoos disappeared tomorrow, would the world have lost anything?

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Tattoos...would you ? have you ?

I saw a tattoo on someone the other day and suddenly realized something about myself : that I could never even dream, of ever imagining, of ever contemplating, of getting a tattoo for myself.

So if someone asked me the above question, I would not just say a plain "No", I would actually just stare and draw a blank.

Any thoughts ? feelings ? blanks ? on the topic ? (The topic being : would you consider getting a tattoo ? why ? and why not ?)

Tattoos? No. Absolutely not. Never.

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It would make no sense to say, "Yes, getting a tattoo is painful and cost money, but I have nothing better to do", or, "When I find the woman of my dreams, and she is deciding betyween ne and that other guy, I'll whip off my shirt and show her my tattoo. She will know then that my character is beyond reproach."

These characterizations are indeed rather irrational, but surely others have given much better personal justifications than these.

Seriously, how does a tattoo add value to your life? Is it beautiful art? I've never seen a tattoo that could compare with even the average romantic painting, novel or song. Would a great statue be improved if it had a tattoo? If all tattoos disappeared tomorrow, would the world have lost anything?

I don't follow this reasoning. In the above if we replaced "tattoo" with, say, "jewelry," would you argue that if all jewelry disappeared tomorrow, would the world have lost anything?

I personally am not a fan of tattoos at all, but I cannot see any justification for an out-of-context condemnation of tattoos per se. If you think that there is something inherently wrong with tattoos, then I think you need to make a better argument than this.

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These characterizations are indeed rather irrational, but surely others have given much better personal justifications than these.

I don't follow this reasoning. In the above if we replaced "tattoo" with, say, "jewelry," would you argue that if all jewelry disappeared tomorrow, would the world have lost anything?

I personally am not a fan of tattoos at all, but I cannot see any justification for an out-of-context condemnation of tattoos per se. If you think that there is something inherently wrong with tattoos, then I think you need to make a better argument than this.

The main difference between makeup and tattoos is that makeup, like jewelry, is worn---as temporary adornment---and may be removed and changed at will. It adorns the body. To adorn is to equip or deck, as with an ornament. And an ornament implies the addition of something external. So we can't, strictly speaking, say that a tattoo is an ornament, or that it adorns. The tattoo is not external, but internal---in, as opposed to on, the skin, as if it were a natural characteristic of the body. Since it is not, it represents a falseness, and is base.

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hmmm. I always chuckle at where these kinds of discussions head. Usually start with an innocuous "give me your opinion" and always seem to migrate to discussions of the psychological implications of _______ [fill in the blank] as though there is a philosophical "generalization from particulars" that is appropriate to anyone's choice of adornment.

I think that is true about any human action. When someone asks me "Why would a person do or say ____," my response is, "Don't ask me. Ask him." I can't assume a bad motive without further evidence. Given free will, optional values, and personal context, there could be a good reason I am unaware of. If I have a reason to believe the person may have value to me, I have to inquire further.

Generally, when I see ugly tattoos or a lot of body piercings, it makes a bad first impression. It is possible evidence of impulsiveness, lack of independence, nihilism, and other bad stuff. The odds are it was not done for a rational reason, but in a small numbers of cases it may have been. The only way I can know for sure is to ask.

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The main difference between makeup and tattoos is that makeup, like jewelry, is worn---as temporary adornment---and may be removed and changed at will. It adorns the body. To adorn is to equip or deck, as with an ornament. And an ornament implies the addition of something external. So we can't, strictly speaking, say that a tattoo is an ornament, or that it adorns.

Respectfully, I think you missed the point. MY intention was not to compare tattoos and jewelry, but rather to reveal the lack of a substantive argument.

The tattoo is not external, but internal---in, as opposed to on, the skin, as if it were a natural characteristic of the body. Since it is not, it represents a falseness, and is base.

So then, following that logic, a tooth implant is internal, not on the skin, as if it were a natural characteristic of the body. Since it is not, a tooth implant represents a falseness, and is base. Do you so argue?

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I have already given my own opinion of my own tattoo. But, I am amazed at what is given as the arguments against tattoos. If there are arguments that are baseless and arbitrary, I have seen them in this topic. By what standard is a tattoo to be judged? I have heard that it is a symptom of tribal conformity. How so? If it has its origins in the tribe, how many things are then bad? Fire? Pets? Gathering, hunting, meals? Jewlery? If there is one thing that reaches back farther than any other it is certainly the advancement of jewerly.

[From B. Royce.] The rational purpose of makeup is to highlight the natural beauty of the body; it draws attention to an aspect of oneself. If makeup hid or distorted one's beauty, its use would be irrational. A tattoo, by its very nature, draws attention away from the person, qua individual, on whose body it sticks.

The implicit premise in this is the movie camera image. Someone perceiving themsselves as if through a lens perceived by others. Why does a tattoo draw attention away from oneself? How? How is it in the nature of a tattoo to draw attention away from an individual? And how does this differentiate from from the use of makeup? Specifically, since you put it in a very specific form, how does a tattoo draw away from the person's individuality "qua" individual. Namely, how does it make this person "not an individual" or; how does a tattoo by its intrinsic nature sap an individual of his/hers individuality?

To say you would not get a tattoo, or that you would not get one is one thing. But, to make an argument against the phenomena, a little more than a pinky raised on a champagne toast with smelly fish on a stale cracker is required. That is, if you want to deal with proof and objectivity.

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Respectfully, I think you missed the point. MY intention was not to compare tattoos and jewelry, but rather to reveal the lack of a substantive argument.

So then, following that logic, a tooth implant is internal, not on the skin, as if it were a natural characteristic of the body. Since it is not, a tooth implant represents a falseness, and is base. Do you so argue?

A tooth implant, or a prosthetic leg, serves a life-supporting function; a tattoo serves life not at all.

I do not mean to attack all those people who have tattoos; I have personally known some very fine men who had them. When I see someone with a tattoo I do not automatically think "What a low person that is". But with regard to men who got tattoos while in the military, the usual reason was something like "Yeah, a bunch of the guys were getting tattoos, so I got one, too." So, while not being a major vice, it still was not a rationally selfish decision. Now, I would have to ask each one of those men---if you had had a chance to get into a special outfit, but one which prided itself on _not_ wearing tattoos, would you still have gotten one?

I've heard a group of kids urging another kid to get a tattoo, and when she refused they called her names and walked away from her. Perhaps there are some instances where the decision to get a tattoo was a fully thought out rational one for personal gain, but I can't think of any. And, of course, in some instances, it might simply be a mistake. All in all, I've yet to hear an argument made for the positive rationally selfish value of a tattoo.

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