After our last article on prejudice towards tattooed people, we had a huge influx of emails with people wanting to share their stories of tattoo discrimination. In this second article we talk to artists Troy Tuck and Mereci Fade about the problems they have faced, the negative stereotypes they have encountered and how despite the hate they show their ink with pride.
“I've had doctors discriminate when I have my tattoos on show to the point of being misdiagnosed and mistreated. I saw a new doctor today in London about my eye injury. A shit beautician got glue remover in my eyes and I now have a lifelong eye problem and even had eye surgery this year.” Explains Meraki Fade over Skype.
I’ve worked with Fade many times over the years and she was the first tattooist I interviewed when I broke into the industry. She is one of the most talented artists I have ever worked with and her work documenting indigenous tattooing has taken her all over the world. It’s a shame that people judge her fantastic collection of body art before getting to know the exceptional human being underneath.
“I saw the new doctor and covered all my tattoos with long garments and my hair down to hide my neck. He was lovely and got to know me before finding out I was a tattooist and he remained super helpful when I explained showing him how intricate my work is.”
“I've had so many discrimination and even have people grab at my skin to "see my tattoos" without introduction or invitation. They think its okay to touch you because we must want our tattoos looked at. I've had people assume I'm into pain and had people say I'm more likely to have HIV because I've been tattooed!”
“In tribes of Borneo women are considered a higher standard of beauty and skill the more tattooed they are; or they are royalty."
What Meraki is acutely aware of is societies double standard when it comes to tattoos; that women are judged harshly for their body art while men are praised.
“Yes woman's tattoos have nicknames like tramp stamp and slag tag. Men’s don’t have that for Bulldogs or tribal bands! And old fashioned people thought prostitutes where tattooed women. The word prostitute is always assumed female unless named male first which is one of many ways oppression is written into language.”
Fade has travelled extensively studying the tattoos of none industrial tribal societies. She has spent considerable time in the jungles of Borneo learning about hand tap tattooing. She has found that the Iban tribe of Borneo have a very different perspective to tattooing compared to so called western civilisation.
“In tribes of Borneo women are considered a higher standard of beauty and skill the more tattooed they are; or they are royalty. In Mentawai tribes of west Sumatra tattooed women are shaman.
Sadly in the UK it is a different story.
“When I was looking for a bigger shop to rent in Lewes, the property owners refused me viewing or applying because they have old fashioned views on tattoo studios and me being a heavily tattooed women; even when I had references and book work from my existing shop in that town. That's why I moved it to Brighton as it's a more leftwing town than Lewes.”
“My granddad gave me a clipping from his newspaper. It was an article showing a cricket players sleeve with the headline "tattoos make people look cheap and nasty.” He thought it might interest or influence me! He’s known for his humour though.”
“When I'm with remote tribes studying tattoo anthropology people warm to me because I'm tattooed."
Meraki has though found other peoples prejudice is less humorous and more hurtful.
“People assume a lot about tattooed people and I regularly get stared at, cold customer service, remarks and inappropriate questions. Its most people’s go to talking point when trying to make conversation with me and I don't really like it because it's always the same questions about "did it hurt", or, "what's it mean" which gets tiring to answer.”
Thankfully Meraki hasn’t let others narrow mindedness put her off her passion for tattooing.
“When I'm with remote tribes studying tattoo anthropology people warm to me because I'm tattooed. It's a mutual respect and interest and the art from is respected as sacred and part of cultural tradition. When I was a kid I showed my grandma my drawings and said I wanted to be a tattooist when I was adult. She tried to put me off like it was a bad job and said I'm a clever girl and I could go around the world with my mind and career. I have been all over the world tattooing and I'm fortunate it's taken me places such as USA, Australia, most if Europe, Asia, Easter island, Tahiti, Borneo and West Sumatra. She’s seen documentaries I've made with the tribes and magazine articles about my studies and it's like I'm an extreme explorer to her now!”
Troy Tuck is one of the Yayo Pro Teams most talented artists with a stunning collection of body art; yet his talent hasn’t stopped him being on the receiving end of negative attention.
“You can’t help the fact that once your tattooed you will always get looked upon differently; and the more tattoos you have the worse that is. I feel one of the worst places I get looked upon different is on holiday specially when you go to fancy hotels and that! The first day round the pool I come down with my wife and kids, and my wife has a lot of coverage as well, so we come down and everyone stares. They look at us and I’m like: here we go again!”
“I feel like I need to walk around and introduce myself so they know I’m a normal guy."
It’s a shame Troy has to compensate for others narrow mindedness. He’s a genuine, friendly, stand up kind of guy.
“I feel like I need to walk around and introduce myself so they know I’m a normal guy but over a couple hours or so a few people will come over and talk to us or ill make a point of saying hello or making some holiday remark like it’s hot to break the ice. It’s something I’ve learned to live with as in most places you go and you have lot of tattoos you get looked at some in a good way and some in a bad way, but if you can’t take it in your stride then maybe think twice about getting a lot of tattoos !”
Have you ever had negative response to your tattoos?
Share your stories with us on our Facebook page.
A final thought from the author: "Don't let the haters get you down. Its a sad thing to say but if you are heavily tattooed you probably won't get a job as a bank manager. But who ever dreamed of being a bank manager. Be like Meraki Fade and Troy Tuck; were your ink with pride and live your life to the full. And always remember to heal your tattoos with Yayo; if you want the best then use the best. Use Yayo!"
Yayo, be part of the family!
Words by Matt Haddon-ReichardtImages by Matt Haddon-Reichardt, Meraki Fade, Troy Tuck, Yayo and NHS England