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Social norms and self-fulfilling prophecies (or, I can't have a tattoo WAH!) - Tactical Ninja

Jan. 16th, 2015

11:18 am - Social norms and self-fulfilling prophecies (or, I can't have a tattoo WAH!)

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I want a facial tattoo.

I would be lying if I said I'd wanted one forever. Fact is, until I saw the possibilities of facial tattoos that are portrayed in Dragon Age in 2009, I'd only ever seen gang tats and ta moko, neither of which has any appeal to me. Gang tats because they're, well.. gang tats, and ta moko because cultural appropriation is not my bag and even if it were, the aesthetic doesn't do it for me.

I would like to have an asymmetrical set of rays across my forehead and cheek and incorporating one eye, similar to the one I sometimes wear in cosplay.

Problem is, facial tattoos are a big no-no in our society, to the extent that it's insta-rejection from employers (ta moko is something different in NZ but white folks don't have a cultural claim to the right to wear a facial tattoo in the same way), and unless I want to work here - who might be ok with it - forever, then I can't have one. At least, not until I'm either independently wealthy or retired.

Can I just say here I'm going to be the funkiest (or scariest, depending on your perspective) granny in the resthome.


So, why are facial tattoos taboo in western culture?

Dr Wheel has suggested that it may be to do with the way they make it more difficult to read facial expression, and how that makes people uncomfortable. Others have suggested that they denote aggression and dominance in the wearer.

On this second point, that ties into the gang relationship - certainly gang tats tend to be by definition associated with aggression, and are generally quite scary to look at. Ta moko are related to social status and mana and therefore don't directly have that aggressive association, but their appearance can still be still quite scary (ymmv)


[edit] Wow, Tame Iti has giant earlobes.


I do wonder if the connection between facial tattoos and aggression is somewhat self-fulfilling. We see them as aggressive so aggressive people may get them to enhance their innate menace. Or, if someone has a facial tattoo then we treat them differently, which in turn isolates them from 'us', which could lead to an aggressive response.


I'm self-aware enough to know that I have innate aggression, but my reasons for wanting a tattoo aren't to make me more scary. I don't want to be more scary. I am, however, interested in the dynamic of interaction created by having a facial tattoo. I'm a little afraid of the self-fulfilling part I described up there, but would actually like the reverse to happen - for it to be something that demonstrates that facial tattoos do not need to be associated with aggression*.

Anyway, I've been investigating the various methods of creating temporary tattoos that will last about a week, as part of an experiment in which I plan to wear a facial tattoo for a while and see how people react, whether I can actually pull it off, and whether it really is something I'd be willing to have on a permanent basis. I've a discreetish row of dots above one eyebrow, and some exaggerated eyeliner a la Cleopatra. I've done this with a couple of media.

So far, henna is winning. Temporary tattoo ink doesn't actually penetrate the skin but sits on top. This means that in places of high movement or humidity (like eyelids) it very quickly clumps and flakes. It is easy to apply and did look snappy (if somewhat fake) for about 12 hours, but by 24 hours it looked like yesterday's makeup.

Henna, on the other hand, is much harder to apply. I ended up settling on applying it and then letting it dry a little, then covering it with a layer of liquid latex. This kept it damp (important for staining) and allowed me to move without it smearing or falling off. 2 days later I had a reasonable brown which has lasted 8 days now. It has faded some but it still visible.

Thing is, henna is crap around the eyes. For a start it works by penetrating the outer layer of dead skin cells - and on soft, mobile areas like the eye, those cells are very thin and don't stay long before being replaced. I got some faint staining on the eye surround, but it disappeared after maybe four days. Also, it contains clove oil. If you've ever put clove oil anywhere near your eye, you'll know why it's not fun. And god forbid getting any *in* your eye!

So what I have so far is moderate success with henna for everything except the bit directly around my eye. The design requires colour right up to and including the eyelid, which I simply won't be able to do with henna.

So my question to you all is, do you know of any solution to this problem? I can use stage makeup or the temporary tattoo ink, but neither are all that good and don't have the same look as the henna.

Surely some of you have experience with this?

* it might take someone less direct than me to make that point though, eh?

Comments:

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From:m_danson
Date:January 15th, 2015 10:22 pm (UTC)
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I don't but I know people. I'll ask around.


Edited at 2015-01-15 10:28 pm (UTC)
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From:tatjna
Date:January 15th, 2015 10:31 pm (UTC)
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Thank you! ;-)

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From:m_danson
Date:January 15th, 2015 11:10 pm (UTC)
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I'll comment the answers as they come in.

This was suggested: http://temptu.com/pro/shop/makeup/dura
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From:ms_hecubus
Date:January 15th, 2015 10:55 pm (UTC)
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This was like fifteen years ago, but I knew a tattoo artist who refreshed her facial "tattoo" daily with sharpie for a year before deciding she was ready to commit to a real one.

I don't fancy sharpie near the eyes though.
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From:tatjna
Date:January 15th, 2015 10:56 pm (UTC)
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It might be good for touchups though.
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From:ms_hecubus
Date:January 15th, 2015 11:03 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, maybe a combo of marker and make-up.

I saw a temporary tattoo maker at the store, but that's probably stuff like unicorns and such. I can take a closer look for you if you'd like. I need to go buy milk tonight anyway.
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From:richdrich
Date:January 15th, 2015 11:00 pm (UTC)
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I was wondering the other day if you could use DMSO (a substance which penetrates the skin together with a solute, like LSD) to make needle-free tattoos. Others have had the same idea: http://www.halfbakery.com/idea/Ink-Jet_20Tattoos

If you used some kind of bio-degradable ink, this could make a temporary tattoo. (You could also, I guess, use a temporary ink with needles, but you might not want to).
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From:richdrich
Date:January 15th, 2015 11:02 pm (UTC)
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Or, use zinc cream as a resist and apply as the negative of the tattoo you want, then go out in the sun to expose the unblocked layers?
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From:tatjna
Date:January 15th, 2015 11:03 pm (UTC)
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Sunburn on my eyelids? No thanks.
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From:tyellas
Date:January 15th, 2015 11:02 pm (UTC)
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Henna on eyelids is pretty close to impossible, especially because body art henna is often activated with acids like lemon juice.

As an alternative, try searching for 'temporary eye tattoos' or "custom temporary tattoos". I believe that you could have your temporary tattoo printed out and sent to you. Then, you could apply it on your face. You could try several!
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From:tatjna
Date:January 15th, 2015 11:09 pm (UTC)
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I did look into the custom decal style ones, but they didn't seem to have any better wear resistance than just using the ink. I could be wrong though, and when I have more time I might get one and test it out, just to see.
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From:ecosopher
Date:January 16th, 2015 12:04 am (UTC)
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I was going to suggest henna :) I can imagine the problem on the fine skin around your eyes, though. Hmm.

I think the self-fulfilling point is a valid one. By getting a tattoo like this, it's very much in your face (no pun intended) and people find that confronting. I can imagine white people coming to NZ for the first time and seeing Maori people with tattooed faces, and finding it terrifying. Personally, I think it is very cool. I like ta moko especially... I like the pattern (even though I understand that is not an option for you).

Would love to see pictures when you decide what to do!
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From:dreadbeard
Date:January 16th, 2015 01:02 am (UTC)
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I don't know that they are taboo, precisely. Certainly uncommon, and not seen as desirable by most people. I would suspect that it is more tied up with our ideas of beauty, in which faces matter a lot, and in which context facial tattoos would function often more as a blemish than a boon.

Randomly I know someone who does cosmetic tattooing, which includes facial stuff, but more normal sort of stuff than weird stuff, if that makes sense? More like, permanently tattooing on eyeliner rather than a face-squid. And I once randomly met a girl who had a series of stars tattooed on her cheeks and eyebrow.
About a year ago there was a blond guy around town with weird lines tattooed on his face. He seemed like an odd guy in general. So there are people about doing it; like many forms of expression, it is a question of whether or not you want to pay the social cost.



Edited at 2015-01-16 01:04 am (UTC)
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From:jaelle_n_gilla
Date:January 16th, 2015 02:52 pm (UTC)
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"Dr Wheel has suggested that it may be to do with the way they make it more difficult to read facial expression"

I was gonna say the same thing. Like a burka or a covered face, it scares us because we've learned to read facial expressions to determine if someone is friendly towards us, and changing or hiding them is by itself perceived as an act of aggression - simply because the other one seems to hide their intent. And why would they if they were not hostile? That's the lizard brain speaking.

It's the same, btw. with black faces in middle Europe. We get so few dark people here that we have a problem reading facial expressions from them.

ETA: Of course that becomes moot if the tattoo is not in itself aggressive and as one can see nicely in the picture you posted: it's still possible to read his facial expression and it's quite friendly :)

I think tattoos can be used to make yourself look more or less aggressive of course. Think of additional/enhanced eyebrows going up or down.

As for the henna problem: You can buy pure henna powder (at least over here) in red, brown, or black. You can mix it with water, black tea, or add some lemon juice. I think around the eyes I'd go for back tea, black henna and nothing else. It might be a little less staining but softer for the eyes.

Over here they also offer something called "permanent makeup". It's basically a tattoo but going less deep into the skin. One of my doctors has that around the eyes (like eyeliner) and says she has to renew that every two years because it fades. Just a thought.



Edited at 2015-01-16 02:55 pm (UTC)
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From:dreadbeard
Date:January 19th, 2015 10:58 pm (UTC)

also

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why not tattooed eyeballs, too?
http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-30750361?ocid=socialflow_twitter
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From:richdrich
Date:January 20th, 2015 12:32 am (UTC)
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Interesting article on that subject. Tattoos anywhere are a lot less mainstream outside NZ. (I wonder if NZSIS (NZs secret police MI5 equivalent) requires its staff to not have visible tattoos. If everyone had them, it would be easy to pick out the spies).

http://www.theguardian.com/fashion/shortcuts/2015/jan/19/how-having-a-tattoo-can-still-limit-your-life
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From:kehleyr
Date:January 21st, 2015 06:37 pm (UTC)
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Can I just say here I'm going to be the funkiest (or scariest, depending on your perspective) granny in the resthome *GIGGLES*... and AWESOME!
I hope you'll share photos of what you come up with!
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From:pundigrion
Date:January 22nd, 2015 05:17 pm (UTC)
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Fine tip brown Sharpies are great for playing around with henna designs without all the mess!

I've never actually gotten around to playing with henna on my skin, but I have loads of experience with it for hair. You don't actually *need* to use an acid for good dye release I find. Just hot water alone can do it as well. I often use tea, with only a weak acid. You also don't need the clove oil. I do often add powdered cloves because it makes the mix smell nicer and stain a little darker (ditto for rosemary), but I still get a good result without it. Something that makes it a lot easier to handle for me is to mix in some honey after dye release. My hair likes this and it makes the mix less runny.

And hey, saw this and thought of you! http://www.huffingtonpost.com/johann-hari/the-real-cause-of-addicti_b_6506936.html
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From:adam_0oo
Date:January 27th, 2015 04:05 pm (UTC)
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Faaaaascinating.
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