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The History of Modern Women and Body Art Essay

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The History of Modern Women and Body Art


I chose to do this field report on body art because I, personally, find the topic very complex and interesting. It is for this reason that I decided to narrow the scope of my field research. I am focusing this report on the trends and evolution in body art as relating to modern women. When I say modern women I am referring to the women from about the 18th century to the current day. I chose to focus on women imparticular because of the strong societal pressure that is specifically place upon them to fulfill a certain role and aesthetically look a particular way. I wanted to research the history of body art and how it related to these pressures and stigmas. In my research I found everything from information on tattooing practices to body modification through clothing.

As De Mello noted in her book, Bodies of Inscription, "Contemporary tattooing has evolved from a practice that was originally imported from the islands of Polynesia and later transformed into a form of working-class folk art" (p10). The credit should be duly given to the original tattoo artists of Polynesia, but the art form also existed in North America within Native Tribes. James Swan sights a specific tribe known as the Haida who practiced the cultural tradition of tattooing (Gilbert, 94-5). Both women and men were tattooed, but as common in many cases, the markings were different for each. The women more commonly had tattoos on their hands and forearms. Most had tattoos also on their breast and legs below the knee. These markings are very culturally significant. They allow the tribe identification on the basis of the design which tells the family name of the wearer (Gilbert, 94-5). The popularization of tattooin...


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... to be. I was looking for more information that gave details on societal views and how that influenced women in particular in the way they modified their bodies. I did find a wide variety of ways in which women modified their bodies, but perhaps not as many specifics about the society and their reaction to that particular method of adornment. I think I could've probably found much more detailed sources had a looked hard enough for them. In the future I will try to find more detailed information on a variety of subtopics within a main topic to better guide my research.

Works Cited

Brain, Robert. 1979. The Decorated Body. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc.

De Mello, Margo. 2000. Bodies of Inscription: A cultural history of the modern tattoo community. Durham: Duke University Press.

Gilbert, Steve. 2000. Tattoo History. New York: Juno Books.


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