I Guess This Kind of Sexist Behavior Is Totally Cool in the 'NY Ink' Shop?

How the first episode of "NY Ink" pissed me off mightily, and what my awesome hot talented lady tattoo artist has to say about it.
Publish date:
June 9, 2011
sexism, TV, tattoos, Reality Tv, ny ink

While relaxing in a Cleveland hotel room over the weekend, I watched a lot of random television, like "Say Yes to the Dress" and this crazy show about gypsies.

Since I don't really care about wedding dresses, I was pretty happy when the first ep of the new "NY Ink" came on. I've only seen a few episodes of "LA Ink" and never seen "Miami Ink," but I like reality TV and telegenic people and getting tattooed (well, I don't really like getting repeatedly stabbed with needles, but I like having been tattooed), so I was game.

Until this happened:

Um, ew? And despite the fact that shop owner Ami Jones is all like "I really don't like that kind of talk directed at my dainty womanfolk," the cameras don't show him saying anything or meting out any kind of discipline, so it seems like he's pretty OK with it actually.

Even the woman in question, Megan Massacre, who is an alternative model in addition to being a tattoo artist, seemed pretty willing to tolerate his behavior -- she laughed it off, and later in the episode says something along the lines of, "It's one thing when he does it to me, but if he acted that way with a female customer it would be really inappropriate."

This all brought to mind my beloved tattoo artist, Virginia Elwood, who also happens to be a pretty lady. It was hard for me to imagine her taking this kind of guff, so I emailed her to ask her what she thought. Her response below:

"Unfortunately, this attitude is fairly prevalent in the industry. I'm lucky (or in reality I worked my ass off) to be a tattooer decent enough to gain some respect from my male peers... but I'm not a moron and am (somewhat) aware of what goes on behind my back.

I also don't present myself in a way that leaves room for excess lecherousness. This is an art form in and of itself: How not to be the ditzy sex-pot or the counter part: castrating bitch. I'm friends with and really love all of the guys I work with and so any hazing I get is coming from a good-natured place. Occasionally one of them crosses the line and I absolutely let them know.

I was just about to type that I've never been leched on in any major way.... But then I watched the clip you sent and I take it back. That's actually happened to me quite a bit. With my own co-workers it's not usually so blatant and I'm almost certain that they consider these remarks to be complimentary. I take it in stride and usually come back with a cutting remark said with a smile on my face.

Don't even get me started on reality tv... Tattoo reality tv specifically. The cast is chosen to create high drama. There are probably very few producers concerned with representing a strong female presence. They want eye candy and someone who will meet the status quo and not interfere too much with the men folk.

The show needs characters, and lots of the really talented folks out there are too busy refining their craft to engage in the sort of controversial behavior needed to carry a mainstream reality show. If that was Dawn Cooke or Valerie Vargas or Katie Sellergren (or I hope myself) cast as the female role, that remark probably wouldn't have happened or if it did that guy would of been made to look like the small-dicked asshole he is.

That guy's comment sucked and I wish that Megan had said something, but she is in a new shop and probably very intimidated. I hate being put in the position she was put in. There's never a clear-cut way to handle it, especially when you risk further alienating yourself at work.

So the question is: Do we female tattooers stand up and fight or take the path of least resistance? I often choose the latter and I feel OK about this. I'm too busy and am getting too old to have the energy to take on the world. I pick my battles, try to let my work speak for itself and conduct myself in a professional way. This seems to work most of the time. When it doesn't work, I fuck someone up.

Love you Emily! Thanks for asking me my thoughts. Xo

All of the above makes sense to me, and everybody has the right to deal with sexism in a way that is safe and comfortable for them, but I can't think of a good reason why a shop owner shouldn't have a zero tolerance policy on this kind of behavior. I was unsuccessful in reaching Ami James for comment, but feel free to ask him yourself.