By Brenna Everdale
The tattoo and piercing shop, Paradise Lost, recently hung up a sign on the window of their new location. I guess the idea was to make the sign as attention-grabbing as possible to promote the new location, because it definitely left an impression on me. Unfortunately for Paradise Lost, I don’t think I had the reaction they were looking for.
Although these days everyone and their grandma has a tattoo, body modification is still considered to be counter-cultural for some reason. It seems that many body modification shops and magazines promote a pornographic ideal of the ‘alternative woman’: a young woman with tattoos, piercings and hair dyed black, blue or neon orange, et cetera. She sometimes does burlesque or some variation of ‘feminist pornography’; you know the drill. The idea is that sexually objectifying this type of woman is somehow subverting the mainstream culture, but sorry, that’s not the case.
Whether the woman is a blonde-haired, blue-eyed cheerleader or a pin-up girl with a nose ring, a flower tattooed on her butt and a wild, flame-red hairdo, putting her half-naked body on display to appeal to the male gaze is still sexist. It’s not subversion; it’s actually regression in pretty, ‘alternative’ packaging. You want to know what’s truly subversive and edgy? Not using women’s bodies to sell your stupid gages.
Sadly, sexist advertising is nothing new for Kutztown; Pink Tac-Go, which thankfully closed after one year of selling bad, overpriced tacos on Main Street, was also an offender. The name itself was a euphemism for a vagina, and there was an image of a sexualized woman straddling a giant taco painted on the wall.
Besides the fact that risking the alienation of half of your potential customers is a pretty stupid marketing decision, there are also ethical reasons to not use women’s bodies to sell products and services.
First, when women see these images, they receive the message that they are decorative objects. It undermines their sense of self-worth and they begin to internalize the idea that they are only valuable if they are physically attractive, rather than knowing they are inherently valuable because they are human beings with thoughts, feelings and talents.
Second, when men see these images, they receive the message that women’s bodies are public property–decorative objects that men are entitled to plaster on their storefronts for other men to enjoy looking at while they eat tacos and chat about their gnarly nose rings.
To many people, this may not seem like a big deal, but this has real-world consequences for women. One in five women will be raped during college. About 20 percent of Congress is made up of women, even though we make up 50 percent of the population. Anyone who believes that these statistics are a problem should do their part to understand how the messages we receive from the media and advertisements are affecting feelings of male entitlement to women’s bodies and women’s sense of self-efficacy and worth.
Finally, I also saw many young children walking past this sign; regardless of your views on feminism, I think we can all agree that children should not be exposed to these types of sexual images at such a young age.
In short, if I ever have the money to get a tattoo, I know where I will not be spending it.