Sticking Our Necks Out…

July 14, 2015

Cyndi Lou and I did this blog post about four weeks ago, and I was all set to post it; then the church shooting happened in SC, and then the whole conversation felt really trivial to me.  It didn’t seem like the right time, but in the interest of our poor blog, which feels so neglected, we’ll post it now.  I know it’s a month late, and in internet time, that’s like seven years, but I’m going to go with the “some content is better than no content” philosophy.  This conversation was about a woman whose project was turned down by a tattoo shop in NYC because she wanted a neck tattoo, and the tattooer didn’t want to do it.  She fired off a blog about the whole experience, and the tattooer wrote a responding salvo.  While we try to stay out of “he-said, she-said” debates, the controversy brought to light some interesting topics, and enough clients asked me about that I thought it would be worth sharing our thoughts.  Here’s the original conversation that we had last month.

Phuc: Thanks for agreeing to do this. So you had a chance to read both Jane Marie’s blog and Dan’s response? I had a few clients and friends tag me in the posts on Facebook this week to ask me what I thought, so I figured this would be an interesting opportunity for us to have a quick chat about it.

Cyndi Lou: I did read them both. Let’s chat it up!

P: Go for it: so the obvious (and maybe simple) question is: was Dan in the wrong for refusing to do the tattoo? But maybe there’s a more nuanced question or answer to this?

C: I would say no. It was his right to refuse any project that he didn’t feel comfortable doing. However, I feel that the way he said no may not have been the best response in this circumstance.

P: So it’s not what he said but how he said it? And is this based on her account of the incident or his response in Inked Magazine? Say more about what was problematic about his response.

C: It’s based on the assumption that her account is accurate in description. Of course, there are two sides to EVERY story.

P: She seems to be playing the victim card in this scenario.

C: I think running to the internet to attack someone’s career over an undone tattoo is always tacky and unwarranted. However, there’s a difference between a small concealable text tattoo at the base of the hairline and a giant obvious neck tattoo. If she was, in fact, lectured on her decision-making in the way she makes it sound, as an adult—female or not— condescending.

P: I was surprised that she made it an issue of her being a woman like when she asks him “Would you be saying this to me if I had a dick?” That’s aggressive.

C: It is making a judgment on him for sure—which is exactly what she thinks is happening to her.

P: Maybe it was? Maybe it wasn’t? His response in Inked Magazine asked people not to resort to calling her a c— or b—- because it was not about her being a woman.

But let’s get back to the issue of doing neck (and hand) tattoos since we can’t REALLY know what happened between them. Will you do neck tattoos?

C: Yes. But not always. You?

P: My policy is “not unless HEAVILY tattooed” and even then, I reserve the right to refuse.

C: Agreed.

P: When have you refused?

C: I am not sure that I have had to. Most of my neck/hand-clients have either already been heavily tattooed, well on their way to it or have been tattooers themselves. But a small something at the base of the hairline or behind the ear isn’t something I treat as the same scenario.

P: Interesting! That’s true about the tiny tattoo on the hairline or behind the ear. I guess I’m thinking about the giant neck-jobber.

C: My last neck tattoo was on a local bartender, who has served in war. I feel like he can do whatever he wants.

P: So how do you keep clients from leaving the shop feeling like they didn’t get what they wanted or feeling like they didn’t get the neck/hand tattoo that they wanted you to do?

C: You mean if I talk them out of it?

P: I guess another way to put it is: how could Dan have handled it differently? (Though I still think it’s 80% the customer’s fault for the negative interaction.)

C: I think the negative interaction is definitely 80% on her or more. But I would ask her how long she wanted the tattoo. And if I felt like it wasn’t a good choice or if I just didn’t feel comfortable doing it, I would refrain from calling the idea “tacky” and also from comparing her to an “unbaked cake with candles.” It’s funny to us tattooers but shitty to an every day client or keepsake-tattoo getter.

P: Right… Saying that it’s tacky is making a judgment about her and not owning your own feelings on it.

C: And it set the stage for the whole thing I think.

P: Fair enough. So there’s the customer service piece to it.

C: When I have clients that want any tattoo that I think won’t look good, I throw myself under the bus immediately and show them some of my shitty old tattoos without passing a judgement on them or demeaning their idea.

P: What would you say to the supporters of Jane Marie who think that she should’ve been serviced at NY Adorned? That Dan was in the wrong for not doing the tattoo?

C: I’d say Dan absolutely has the right to back up his craft and refuse any project that he doesn’t feel is for him but I don’t agree with the poor treatment.

P: And for those who feel that it’s just another example of sexism?

C: That’s tough. Because sexism still runs rampant in the tattoo industry. I think it’s important to acknowledge that women as clients and tattooers aren’t always treated equally. But this is not the situation where I see sexism as the issue. I think she’s crying wolf because he was offensive on one level but not ALL levels, and it is—in turn—just passing judgment right back.

P: So was it lose-lose? Or win-win? I mean: he didn’t do the tattoo, and she got the tattoo that she wanted. How did anyone lose in this scenario? It’s like it’s almost a non-story.

C: My true feelings are that the blog blast is just as unimportant as Yelp.

P: Any parting thoughts? That thing you mentioned yesterday?

C: That’s a new conversation about what IS craft and tradition… and how do we let it evolve.

P: Interesting… that IS another conversation to have.

C: Yes I think so. Thanks!!

Here’s some recent(ish) work that I (Phuc) have been working on.  Thanks for looking!

IMG_7218 IMG_7210 IMG_7393 IMG_7495 IMG_6857 IMG_7370 IMG_6801 IMG_7371 IMG_7372 IMG_7373

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