‘Body Art’ and Social Status: Cutting, Tattooing and Piercing from a Feminist Perspective

This article by Sheila Jeffreys, published in Feminism & Psychology vol. 10(4) 2000, analyses the developing industry of body modification, in which cutting, tattooing and piercing are carried out in studios for profit. It seeks to offer a feminist understanding of this industry which places it on a continuum of harmful cultural practices that include self-mutilation in private, transsexual surgery, cosmetic surgery and other harmful western beauty practices. The ideology created by industry practitioners, that ‘body modification’ replicates the spiritual practices of other cultures, reclaims the body, or is transgressive, is supported by the use of postmodern feminist theory. These ideas are criticized here. On the contrary, it will be suggested that such harmful cultural practices of self-mutilation are sought, or carried out on, those groups who occupy a despised social status, such as women, lesbians and gay men, disabled people and women and men who have suffered sexual abuse in childhood or adulthood. Download full article here. Body Art