I went to another Red Tent Evening which Khalima, a local belly dancer extraordinaire, organized. We gathered as women for a fabulous vegan potluck then spent the evening talking about Beauty and the pressure we feel as women to be beautiful, how we define beauty, what is now considered beautiful which wasn't in the past.
One of the most interesting parts of the conversation for me was talking about tattoos. It was a great conversation! Many, if not most, of the women there 35 and under had tattoos. I don't think anyone who was older did. I realized that when I was growing up, tattoos were something bikers had, Hell's Angels. Or sailors. Big dirty muscular men with bad body odor who were probably going to hurt me if they got me alone with them. I avoided said men assiduously. So when younger people started getting tattoos the last 10 years or so, I didn't have a place in my brain to put the concept. What were they trying to say? Why? Why did they choose to decorate themselves FOREVER in such a way? Didn't they realize they'd never be able to change it? Were they really sure they'd want a cartoon cheeseburger on their leg for the rest of their life? The Red Tent Gathering is a place where I could ask such questions with respect and curiosity and have others answer me with respect and pride in their choices. It's amazing to be able to be so inquisitive and get really cool answers!
I came away understanding so much more about tattoos. These women love their tattoos! (Of course!) Each one is a piece of art they have chosen to buy, with which to adorn themselves. It was a conscious choice. In some cases, the choices were made when they were younger, and they perhaps wish they hadn't made that particular choice of image, but in that case, it helps them remember their younger, more vulnerable, hurt selves and to have compassion for them. There is a story that goes with each tattoo, a clear reason why they chose that image. It's a bit like the stories people tell with their scars. You can learn so much by asking a person to show you their tattoos and to tell you about them.
It was a great lesson for me to ask these women about their tattoos. What had once been something I'd judged (out of fear and non-knowing) became something to admire and accept, a way to get to know someone better. It makes me happy to shift my consciousness in such ways because a whole other segment of the population becomes accessible to me when I no longer judge them, when I have understanding of them.
And that, in a nutshell, is what I'm trying to do with my entire project - help make people more comfortable with and knowledgeable about women's bodies of all shapes and sizes - so we can all accept each other rather than judge.