The Controversy of Tattoos

I have ink. I love ink. And I look forward to getting more. I’ve never had issues with me having ink… other than unwanted touching… until the other week.

I’ve never gone out of my way to hide my tattoos and most people I come across love it because, in reality, they are a piece of work and they all tell a story. They are beautiful and I’m proud of them. When I’m in uniform, you can only see the tattoos on my forearms even if my sleeves are rolled up. And when we’re allowed to wear civilian attire, I never wear sleeveless as, in the office as I personally feel it’s inappropriate.

However, on that particular Friday, we had our unit BBQ and I wore sleeveless. It was a hot, sunny day, and there were plenty of other people who were topless – obviously, women were wearing appropriate tops, but still showing lots of skin.

The following Monday, shortly after getting to work, my boss asked to have a word with me. That’s never a good sign…

I might be getting charged for my tattoos… specifically, my Mucha tattoo.

Alphonse Mucha is a Czech painter who lived in Paris in the late 1800’s during the Art Nouveau period. I did a lot of research when it came time to choose which piece I wanted as a tattoo. There were some that lots of people had as tattoos but I wanted something that was unique and, maybe, not as well known. So I finally settled on this one which he created in 1890:

What I liked about it the most was the innocence about it. During that time, nudity wasn’t viewed as vulgar or offensive – the female form, all soft and curvy, was celebrated as art. His work isn’t offensive – it’s beautiful. It’s the complete opposite of now-a-days. We are censored and told to hide our body and curves. We are taught to be ashamed of our bodies and we can’t express ourselves how we want; any bit of skin exposed is sexualizing and objectifying our bodies.

So, the very reason I got the tattoo (to fight against) is the very reason I’m (potentially) getting charged for.

The fact is, if someone is offended by my tattoo, I can’t tell them otherwise. I can’t force my opinion and reasoning on them. I can explain why I got it so they might understand it better, but ultimately, they are entitled to their own opinion and I can’t tell them to not be offended by it.

I was so shocked by it that I even went into our dress regulations to see what they have to say. Yes, things have changed over the years, but some things haven’t: no tattoos are to be acquired after joining that are on the head, ears, or face. Additionally, this is what it says in reference to my tattoo: “Additionally, members shall not acquire tattoos that are visible either in military uniform or in civilian clothing that could be deemed to be offensive (e.g., pornographic, blasphemous, racist or containing vulgar language or design) or otherwise reflect discredit on the CAF.”

How does my bare chested Mucha art nouveau tattoo fall under “pornography”? Out of curiosity, I looked up the definition of pornography: “printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings”. Further, I decided to look up the definition of “sexual organ” and it’s below the belt – nothing to do with breasts. The only difference between male and female breasts is we, as women, have mammary glands to produce milk when the time comes. That’s it. Breasts play NO PART in sexual reproduction and therefore should not be included in pornography. It’s men that sexualize breasts – but how is that any different from someone having a foot fetish? What – am I not allowed to wear sandals and expose my feet now?

The fact is, several people went to the boss about the tattoo and, therefore, needs to be addressed. It’s hard to say what that will entail, but really, what can they do? It’s there. It’s permanent. I don’t know if they can order me to get it covered or “fixed” to cover the offensive bits… at this point, only time will tell.

I will fight it, though. Being topless is legal in Canada (or, at least it is in BC and Ontario). Not only that, the Vimy War Memorial in France and the replicas here at the National War Museum in Ottawa feature statues of several topless women – beautiful statues, but blatantly topless. Not only that, how about the Birth of Venus by Michelangelo, or, because I believe in equal opportunity, for the men, Da Vinci’s David and anatomy wheel (or whatever it’s called).

However, if I lose the fight and IF I get ordered to cover it/fix it, I found a tattoo shop/artist in Ottawa that I would be happy to work with!

I wish I knew who said something and why. Yes, I realize there were children there, but what is that teaching them? There was a LOT of ink there on lots of other people, but mine, which is based on an actual artist and, in itself, a piece of work, because the breasts are bare, I have to cover mine up? What is that teaching children? That, despite both men and women having breasts, only women’s breasts are bad and need to be covered up?

Censorship is being taken too far. We need to stop demonizing the female form. We need to teach children that all bodies are good bodies. We need to teach them to respect themselves and others

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