Michelle McGee & the Tattooed Woman's Lament
About a week ago, the tabloids began their frenzied coverage of Michelle "Bombshell" McGee, a self-described "tattoo model," who not only had an affair with Jesse James who's married to actress Sandra Bullock, but also served up the details of their trysts in an effort to "cash in" and become "famous."
I was going to ignore it or link it as a small footnote to a news review here, but as the week went on, the news stories moved beyond this tattooed woman and became about tattooed women. From newspaper covers to radio shows like Howard Stern to gossip blogs and comment forums, words like "skanks," "sluts," "whores," "trash," "idiots," "fuckups" ... became to attached to all of us, so I can't ignore it.
Over the weekend, I sought to write this post, a diatribe against a stupid girl. The first draft was an angry rant. The second was an attempt at humor. But neither conveyed how I really feel. I feel sad.
And so this post isn't entertaining. It isn't a call to arms against the media. It is a shout out to young women, and men as well, to let them know this:
Being tattooed should be an expression of love and how beautiful you feel about yourself, not a cry for others to give that to you.
While Michelle McGee stands as a blaring example of the latter, she is not alone. The title "tattoo model" has become a sought-out occupation amongst many. "Tattooed Vixens," "Hot Inked Girl," "Painted Pin-ups." Countless young women vie for these titles rather than M.D., J.D., or Artist in Residence.
Watch this video of "Sexy Miss Tattoo" to see how ugly these contests can be.
Some blame the magazines and websites for exploiting these girls, but really, they wouldn't be able to have these features if no one sent in their naked or half-naked photos.
Inked Magazine, (which I write for so the hypocrisy is not lost on me) has a Girl of the Day, who you can "share with your friends." A girl a day. One picked out of hundreds who upload their photos to the mag's site. [To be funny, I did a feature early on in this blog called "Objectified Tattooed Man" and barely got one a month.]
Granted, the essence of tattoo magazines is to show tattoos, to show skin, and the more tattoos you have, the more skin you'll show. But it need not be done in a way that evokes the "skank" and "trash" tramp-stamp of approval.
Not an easy task, however. Next week I have a photo shoot for a magazine article where I talk about being a tattooed lawyer (and also promote my book). And it has been really tough to find something to wear to show the art on my arms, back, stomach and ribs without looking like ... well, Michelle McGee. I've thought about ditching the shoot altogether but I want more professional tattooed women in these mags and hopefully we can start that trend.
It can still be sexy -- because I believe tattooing is sexy in itself -- but as the recent headlines have shown, today's tattooed "bombshell" is more likely to be a post-traumatic mess. Our weapon of mass seduction should be the allure of strong women and men kickin ass to further their lives and, thereby, society's perception of the tattooed.
So thank you, Michelle McGee, for showing us the ugliness to inspire greater and more beautiful things for ourselves.