Embodiment and Excess: Constructions of tattooed mothers in the UK



Dann C & Callaghan JEM (2017) Embodiment and Excess: Constructions of tattooed mothers in the UK. Psychology of Women Section Review, 19 (1).

The rise in the popularity of tattoos over the past decade is evident, with recent figures suggesting that 1 in 5 people in the UK have a tattoo (YouGov, 2015). Tattoos are often perceived as a ‘masculine practice’, heavily raced and classed (Sargent & Corse, 2013), and represented negatively on women’s bodies. Tattooed women have been constructed as unattractive, promiscuous and loud (Swami & Furnham, 2007) as well as being linked to displaying aggressive behaviour (Swami et al., 2015). Stereotypes that centre on tattooed bodies are not the only ideologies formed for how women should or should not ‘be’ – there is also the example of mothering. In UK newspapers, there are discourses produced that centre on ideal motherhood – the way to act, to behave, to dress amongst other things (Hadfield, Rudoe, & Sanderson‐Mann, 2007). Young mothers are often vilified for their ‘poor choice’ to become a mother so young. They are subject to constant surveillance and scrutiny for how they live, including decisions about the ‘right’ way to spend their money. For these women, choosing to spend money on a tattoo becomes the subject of debate because, as tattoos do not serve the benefit of the child, they would be considered another one of those bad choices (McDermott & Graham, 2005). In this paper, we explore the class based focus on tattooed mother’s bodies, and unpack the constructions of these bodies as discussed by tattooed mothers. We argue that the discursive policing of the tattooed mother is achieved, at least in part, through a construction of a sense of a ‘right’ and a ‘wrong’ way to be a tattooed mother.

Psychology of Women Section Review: Volume 19, Issue 1

Publication date30/06/2017
Publication date online01/06/2017
Date accepted by journal18/01/2017
Publisher URL…spring-2017.html

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Professor Jane Callaghan

Professor Jane Callaghan

Director Child Wellbeing & Protection, Social Work