I've just finished reading Sheila Jeffreys Beauty and Misogyny and she makes a very strong case for beauty practices such as hair removal, make up, heels, cosmetic surgery etc. to be counted as 'harmful traditional/cultural practices' according to the UN definition:
In United Nations (UN) documents such as the Fact Sheet on "Harmful Traditional Practices" (UN, 1995), harmful cultural/traditional practices are understood to be damaging to the health of women and girls, to be performed for men's benefit, to create stereotyped roles for the sexes and to be justified by tradition.
So far so good, but she also includes body modification practices that are more normally associated with alternative culture, such as tattoos and piercings. I get that these practices can be seen as quite literally bodily harm but I don't think they are performed for men's benefit and I don't think they create stereotyped roles. Am I missing something?
Foucault considers the body the inscribed surface of events and, moreover, alterable, a cultural construction scored with gender, social behavior, and identity. In this view, cosmetic surgery can be construed as "the literal and explicit enactment of this process of inscription." so if it is simply a way that cultural norms are enacted on your body then I suppose that is likely to beoppressive. But, with body modification, I think it is more likely oppositional - especially if you look at the concept of the grotesque body versus the classical body -
I think that in western society at least, there is still a hangover from the days when tattoos etc were mainly sported by sailors and were seen as very masculine/lower class/rough. A bit like having a doberman and the name of 'your' prison' tattooed across your knuckles would be seen today.
so while it has expanded to become more gender inclusive, it still has connotations of masculinity, particularly aggressive masculinity. Therefore women who wear noticeable tattoos/piercings are seen as not being feminine enough. The 'tramp stamp' and navel piercing were a feminization of the fashion, but it was done in a far more sexualized way than traditional male tattoos were, so once again sticking to traditional misogynist values. (Then it became denigrated for being sexy or 'tramp'ish.)
So I think that in the eyes of some people, women who do these things but not in a sexy way are a double betrayal to the patriarchy - they don't look traditionally demure NOR do they look like they're advertising for sex. As there are no other roles for them, then the only option left is to tell them that they're a freak and wrong.
Tattoos are definitely seen as an expression of individuality. Which is why certain situations require that they are hidden, e.g. corporate jobs. In fact, the more formal a situation is, generally, the more we are expected to fit into an assigned role and be less of an individual.
Whilst it is likely that women will feel more of a backlash from society for a radically alternate appearance my experience is that all who look like this will be similarily treated.
Part of it i'm sure has to do with the "why aren't you looking good for me" attitude of men but I think a lot of the negative reactions people get for looking like this has more to do with people veiwing them as outsiders to the mainstream.
People who look so different from the norm are veiwed as a threat to that norm.
For the original question I do not consider tattoo's and piercings misogynist, though some of them and the reasons for getting them can be. The important thing with a tattoo in particular is what and why.
Interesting. I never thought of tattoos as in the same camp as hair removal. If anything, I think of tattoos in the opposite way to hair removal because when I was young, generally girls did not have tattoos! I think everyone forgets what a relatively recent fashion tattoos are. (In fact, tattos were not really that common on middle class men either.) So I think of tattoos as a kind of fashion thing that men and women have gone in for more over the last 20 years and that women who have them are actually breaking the bounds of traditional feminine expectations.
lucky, Jeffreys has quite a lot to say about postmodernism and about Orlan's practice in particular in this book. She's not a fan. It's hard to summarise but basically she sees little difference between Lolo Ferrari's bodily mutilation as 'cosmetic' surgery and Orlan's bodily mutilation as 'art' - both are fetishisations of the cutting up of women.