Tuesday, November 22, 2011

my name is judge.

If you haven't already caught wind of the media outrage regarding the recently released Tokidoki Barbie, here are a few articles to catch you up:

Parents and conservatives the blogosphere over have been voicing their disdain for the collectable doll, who sports a funky outfit and an assortment of brightly colored, Asian-inspired tattoos all across her body. In each article you'll find quoted parents and community members spouting a variety of reactions to news of the toy's appearance on store shelves. These snippets, however, are tame compared to the heated responses found in the comments sections below the articles themselves. I've been sifting through them for hours now, and am quite exhausted by the back and forth between the defenders and the haters. Many of those who oppose the sale of an inked up Barbie are quick to reference stereotypes of tattooed folk as criminals and druggies, yet others seem to have delved a bit deeper and come up with some thought-provoking points. What really captured my attention were the comments regarding how tattooed individuals are judged. They made me consider not just how modders are judged by mainstream society, but also by those within the body modification community itself.
Although we (modders) don't like people to make snap judgements about us based solely on the fact that we sport body art, I have seen evidence that we from time to time make similar judgements about fellow modders who sport certain types of tattoos. I'm not attempting to claim here that everyone in the body mod community is judgmental, but if you can recall your first time in a tattoo shop you might be able to see where I'm going with this. More than a few tattoo artists I know can be quite condescending toward the newly initiated modders amongst us, and I kinda don't blame them. I mean, imagine being a talented tattoo artist running your own high-end shop, and one day an 18 year-old girl comes in asking you for a tribal sun - or worse, her boyfriend's name - on her lower back. You'd probably find it damn difficult to suppress an eye roll and a sigh. Tattoo artists are becoming fine artists of the skin, resulting in an unavoidable sense of disdain for anyone with, or who aims to acquire, a poor quality or generic tattoo. Heck, there are even tattoo artists out there who specialize in the New Skool style and think those covered in Old School designs are just plain lamesauce. There are many qualities of one's ink that can evoke a measure of contempt from fellow inked, including but not limited to motivation for obtaining the tattoo, location of the tattoo, subject matter of the tattoo, quality of the tattoo, significance of the image/words, and artistic style of the tattoo. Now the question must be raised, how can we so readily judge others by their ink when we wish not to be judged by ours?
The answer, in my opinion, lies in the fact that body modification has not yet gained full societal acceptance. When a professional, licensed body piercer sees a botched, infected eyebrow piercing that is pussing and rejecting, they will understandably scorn the wearer as a contributor to a negative perception of body piercing as dangerous and repulsive by society at large. Similarly, the gent who indelibly self-scratches a tattoo loosely resembling barbed wire across his forehead will undoubtedly get a rise out of the veteran tattoo artist who has spent decades perfecting his art and craft. We simply can't be expected to respect those whose body projects contribute to perpetuating a negative image for body modification as a whole.
Granted, widespread acceptance of mods is not necessarily something that every modded individual hopes for. Indeed, part of the allure of modifying our bodies is that we can thereby differentiate ourselves from the rest of society. If everyone accepted and practiced body modification, it might not be so appealing anymore. Additionally, many modders agree that people who immediately judge their character based on their being modded probably don't fit the bill for friendship anyway. In this sense, mods are a "friend filter," as one commenter put it. However, when it comes to acceptance of mods by prospective employers, we can't help but give a damn. If I am better qualified for a particular job than the plainskin next to me, and he gets hired, it becomes clear that there is certainly reason for someone like me to care about how society views mods. Thus, for fellow modded job-seekers, judging those with sub-par mods is somewhat of a self-serving instinct.
Despite this justification for judgement, I still don't condone holding those with inferior mods in contempt. It may be inevitable that I dislike certain mods themselves, but no matter how ugly in my eyes they may be prized possessions in the eyes of their beholder. Thus, I consider it my responsibility to try and cut the thought process short before disdain for a mod becomes disdain for a person himself. We must remember that no matter how tattered and torn, some books hold much more beauty inside than might be suggested by their covers.

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