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Arkansas’ Anti-Tattoo Legislation

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I’ll preface this by saying that I’m a member of the 1%: the one percent of Americans under the age of 40 who remains without a tattoo. So while I have no personal stake in the issue, the Arkansas bill banning “untraditional” tattoos or body modifications, whatever that means, is completely ridiculous. It’s unenforceable, unconstitutional, and outrageous. It also makes Arkansas look like a bunch of reactionaries fighting against the hippies, stereotypes that the Natural State does not want to reinforce through grotesque legislation. While I’m real curious as to the future of this tattooing fad, in many ways it’s not too different from the fight against long hair on men that led to violations of civil liberties in the 60s and 70s.

Maybe I’ll go get a hammer and sickle tattooed on my face and then drive to Arkansas.

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  • wengler

    Stupid state, stupid law. Moreover laws like this are a distraction from passing far more important legislation outlawing abortion and Sharia law.

    • LeftWingFox

      Shit, I thought this was sharia for a moment.

      • MAJeff

        It’s almost Levitical….they just didn’t go far enough.

        • Vance Maverick

          I’m pretty sure tattoos are forbidden in Islam, perhaps straight outta Leviticus.

    • Tennessee’s going to have to step up their game.

      • Tennessee Tea Party

        Challenge Accepted!

    • It’s the state I’m from. And actually there are pockets of it that are really cool.

      This law is pretty fucking stupid and, yeah, I’m not sure how it passes muster.

  • Bob

    A bill to outlaw Jorts would get my full support, but this, nah.

    • DrDick

      That would make almost everyone in Arkansas an outlaw.

  • Murc

    I’ve had the long-hair argument a time or two; I’ve found that it’s really helpful to point out that both Jefferson and Washington wore ponytails, as the kind of authoritarians who think it is vitally important we control hair length generally also worship the founders as near-deities.

    • weirdnoise

      Forget near-deities. How about Jesus?

      • Snarki, child of Loki

        Yeah, how about that Jesus dude?

        Rumor has it that he had a tatt on his butt: “Property of Hell’s Angels, Greater Palestine Chapter” (in Hebrew, of course)

        And now, every new Pope has to do the same.

        That’s why the papal elections take so long, all of the “Wait, I have to do what? You’re shitting me!” before they buckle down and do the deed.

  • bob mcmanus

    Sorry, it is different, although long hair and the reaction to it were different things in 1964, 1969, and 1979+.

    By 1979 condemning long hair on men would be the absurd or desperate act of a insular local minority or self-consciously disciplining anti-social authority. Bob Jones U or the Marines were not policing the broader culture.

    What percentage of young people have tattoos?

    • Dan Miller

      32% of people ages 30-45, according to the NYT.

      • JMP

        But 30-45 year olds are not young people.

        • Stag Party Palin

          Sez you, whippersnapper!

          • JMP

            Whippersnapper? I’m 37; just have two and a half years to go before I officially hit middle age. Old here myself.

            But with family the other night I somehow thought I could keep up with the fresh out of college 23-year-olds; ugh that was a big mistake.

            • We’ve all had this realization. Or will have it.

            • Vance Maverick

              Keep up in terms of tattooing? Characters per second of texting?

            • gmack

              Meh. Having come from a long line of alcoholics, I can say that I’ve never been at an age where I’ve been able to keep up with my grandmother, or nearly any of the folks in my family. Straight out of college types are just amateurs

          • DrDick

            Damn straight! My baby boy is only 40.

    • EH

      What percentage of young people have tattoos?

      Is that really where you’re drawing the line?

  • NewishLawyer

    What do constituents get out of these kind of laws?

    I agree that this is absolutely unconstitutional and I am nother one percenter like you. I do not have tattoos and have no intention of getting one but it seems like tattoos are basic free speech.

    I am curious about the background of this bill. Who is it suppose to please? I never heard about this being a culture war issue among the right-wing.

    • MAJeff

      Their constituents are Eric Cartman, with a fundamentalist twist. It’s about the fucking hippies.

      • LeeEsq

        Not the good type of fucking either.

      • NonyNony

        I’ve got to say it – how the fuck is this “hippie bashing”? For the past few summers I’ve been going to the Ohio State Fair and, frankly, people without tats on their arms and necks are in the minority.

        The only way that this counts as “hippie bashing” is if you consider anyone under the age of 30 to be a potential hippie. Hell I might even make that under 40, given the folks I saw sporting body art at the fair this year.

        I don’t have any myself and have no interest in getting one – not my thing. But the idea that it’s some small minority of “liberal weirdos” who are getting body art done is just bizarre at this point.

    • Hanspeter

      They find tatoos icky and anything that’s icky is against God’s plan for Murica.

      • NewishLawyer

        How do they feel about the wrestler with non-standard piercings who got the Romney tattoo?

        Seriously I find that appearance has nothing to do with politics.

        Two of the most conservative/reactionary people I knew were heavy-metal warrior guys with long hair.

        • MAJeff

          What can we say, they’re not bright people.

    • NBarnes

      I’m pretty sure that it’s not about tattoos. it’s about hippie punching and about demonstrating one’s tribal identification via hippie punching.

  • Ha! Now that pretty much everyone has a tattoo and/or piercing, my total lack of them makes me the edgy rebel!

    So, hipsters, how’s it feel to be a bunch of conformists?

    • FMguru

      I’m planning on supplementing my retirement income by working as a traveling sideshow attraction: come see the hideous un-tattooed man! born a member of generation x, but without a single drop of ink or piercing in his skin! this horrifying freak of nature will astound, disgust, and terrify you!

    • EH

      my total lack of them makes me the edgy rebel!

      That, or observantly Jewish.

      • sparks

        Let ’em think it. I’ve seen too many truly ugly tattoos to even want to attempt one.

      • elm

        Potato, Po-tah-to.

      • Oy vey!

    • Snort. I like this. It makes me feel less dorky.

    • njorl

      At this point, tattoos are just like big sideburns or wide lapels – which will require laser surgery to get rid of.

      • LeeEsq

        I know dermatologists who are betting on their being a lot of money to be made from tattoo removal in a few years.

    • Keaaukane

      But you are an Officer and a Gentleman. According to another ’80’s documentary tats were frowned upon way back when.

    • So, hipsters, how’s it feel to be a bunch of conformists?
      Exactly how you’d expect it would

    • DrDick

      Hey now! I have had pierced ears for 42 years now. That means I never have to do anything cool or edgy for the rest of my life and I am still rad. The fact that I did it in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, just makes it even more awesome.

  • I’ll preface this by saying that I’m a member of the 1%: the one percent of Americans under the age of 40 who remains without a tattoo.

    Actually, % of people responding that they had 1 or more tattoos as of 2012 harris poll:

    Age 18 – 22: 22%
    Age 25 – 29: 30%
    Age 30 – 39: 38%

    So, I don’t think you’re in the 1% :)

    • NewishLawyer

      My age bracket is the highest. Interesting. I wonder what the 40 plus percentages are like.

      • They are all there in the link. But I’m friendly:

        Age 40 – 49: 27%
        Age 50 – 64: 11%
        Age 65+: 5%

      • And where they live.

        • If you want region, follow the link.

          If you want addresses, well, I’m not THAT friendly.

    • 18-24 (sorry about the typo)

      • Anonymous

        heh and I was thinking for 2 years tatts were uncool :)

    • Hogan

      That’s still an awful lot of people on my lawn. Yard. Whatever.

      But I have learned a lot from Lydia.

    • Warren Terra

      I know it’s the wrong way to read those data, but I look at them and see a steady progression: for every year you live, you’re about 1% more likely to get inked. There may be no escape other than the sweet release of death itself!

      • I was wondering about that. What’d be interesting is to separate out the age effects from the generational shift. To wit, there’s always some percentage of people who want a tattoo but have not yet gotten one (pre 18 year olds make a nice example since, presumably, they have less access) so it’s natural that, within a cohort, the number rises (as long as tatted out folks aren’t dying disproportionately). But then, also, over our lifetimes, tattoos have become more accepted and more popular, thus increasing the pool of people who want or would consider tattoos.

      • When you reach 100% inked, you’re magically transported to Raybradburyland, where all suits are icecream and and all martians are boring suburbanites.

        • herr doktor bimler

          One of these days I plan to write an update of “Harold and the Purple Crayon”, where Harold has a tattoo gun instead of a crayon to create his magical world.

    • DrDick

      I would say that they are over represented among my students.

  • Anna in PDX

    I’m a member of the 1% of Portlanders who don’t have some form of body art (both over and under age 40). And I think this is an incredibly stupid law. And yes actually, for anyone interested, I have heard that in some Muslim schools of thought tattoos are considered not-OK, though they are also a folk tradition in lots of Muslim countries. So they are imposing a Sharia law, basically.

    • Snuff curry

      And I’ve heard Mormons can’t drink soda, dance, or play cards. If we’re gonna twist ourselves into human pretzels trying to make this about religion, why don’t we choose one a bit closer to home?

      • Karate Bearfighter

        Tattoos are also prohibited in Leviticus.

      • Anna in PDX

        Only because I thought we were riffing on the similarly stupid laws passed recently in other states (maybe North Carolina?) outlawing Sharia law. I agree that the specific law in question was probably more about hippie punching than religion.

        • Snuff curry

          Ah. Fair enough. I’m wrongly interpreting the Sharia discussion here as something else.

          • Cody

            It happens. Sometimes it’s hard to believe what Republicans pass. Who thought “Lets pass laws banning Sharia laws!” and then went and though “Lets write this Sharia law!”

    • LeeEsq

      No, they are imposing Halacha. ;).

  • zombie rotten mcdonald
  • Jordan

    So, true story: I have a hammer and sickle tattooed on my shoulder.

    Now! This was done while I was young and stupid and very, very much on drugs. And because I had to cover up a pretty bad lighter burn. But still! I really regret nothing. Except, I guess, being able to go to Arkansas.

    • Barry Freed

      I’ll bet the story about how you got the lighter burn in the first place is even stupider.

      • Barry Freed

        And by stupider I mean more entertaining.

        • Origami Isopod

          I wish I could dig up the story from ~6 years ago about the guy in Texas who, while visiting a friend with cattle branding equipment in the basement, and (shocker!) after having drunk quite a bit of alcohol, decided it would be fun to have the number “69” branded on his ass.

          • witless chum

            This is why I heard all the dairy farmers moved on to ear tags.

            • Warren Terra

              Anyone else now imagining drunken cattle farmers with ear tags?

              • Lee Rudolph

                Which ear is tagged codes whether who holds the branding iron. Much more convenient than hankies, unless you’ve undergone the hot new body mod and have pockets in both your buttocks.

                • George Carlin weeps at the obviousness of it.

          • Jordan

            This was part of the problem, actually. We were in Texas, and I had some friends with actual brands. I was not that … “hardcore” so a lighter smiley face seemed good.

            It was not.

        • Jordan

          Not really.

          Stupid Person 1 (me): Lighter Smiley Face!

          Stupid Person 2 (“friend”): YEARRRRGGHHHH! *presses heated lighter into shoulder.

          Stupid Person 1: MY GOD THAT HURTS!.

          Stupid Person 1, later: That isn’t a smiley face at all! That is just a big bunch of scar tissue!

          • Actually, I thought that was pretty funny :)

            • Jordan

              It gets … more funny … in that I did it again several years later on the other shoulder. That one actually *did* turn into a smiley face!

              /I am very, very, stupid.

              • Duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuude!

                • Mike Schilling

                  That’s nothing. Once, some friends and I got really high, and we modified the BSD kernel to …

                  Where’d everybody go?

        • MAJeff

          I’m just imagining the morons on my freshman dorm floor doing flaming shots of Bacardi 151. A fair bit of burned clothing and scarred lips/chins that year. None mine.

          • Jordan

            Pretty much, actually.

  • Karate Bearfighter

    The scope of the law has gotten blown up a bit in the re-telling; the only actual changes it makes to the law are: the definition of “body art” is changed so that only only licensed tattoo artists can pierce ear cartilage, a definition is added for scarification (which is not banned,) and “artist trainers” are required to have 5 years of experience/apprenticeship instead of 3. The only ban enacted is that licensed tattoo artists are prohibited from placing subdermal implants.

    If anything, most of the changes seem designed to protect licensed tattoo artists as a profession from low-skilled competition. I don’t know how accurate the health concerns about subdermal implants are, but they can still be placed by medical providers/plastic surgeons.

    • Anna in PDX

      There were lots of complaints at the link that the article was badly written and did not describe the law very well at all.

      • Karate Bearfighter

        You can find the actual text here.

        The ban on subdermal implants is a little loosely worded, but the law as a whole strikes me as having more in common with the licensing laws that protect barbers and cosmetologists in a lot of states.

        • Anna in PDX

          That’s it? It seems to bear no resemblance to what the article was about.

        • Lee Rudolph

          So Matt Yglesias will be right on it!

    • Warren Terra

      Or by vets, I suppose, if you decide to get your children chipped.

  • herr doktor bimler

    the Arkansas bill banning “untraditional” tattoos or body modifications,

    Tattoos? Where are you getting that from?
    The crucial text reads “An artist licensed by the Department of Health shall not perform or attempt to perform the insertion of a subdermal implant.”

    • herr doktor bimler

      A murrain upon Karate Bearfighter’s faster fingers.

      • Karate Bearfighter

        That’s some sort of Danish blessing, right?

        • herr doktor bimler

          May your akvavit always be cold.

        • guthrie

          He’s calling you a cow…

          • herr doktor bimler

            Nonsense. A ‘murrain’ is merely a special kind of not-at-all-incapacitating bodymod tattoo.

            • Bill Murray

              no a murrain is a type of glacial rock and soil material

              • Anonymous

                No, it’s a member of Bill’s family…

              • Mike Schilling

                And it falls mainly on plantains.

    • herr doktor bimler

      Apparently the bill originally controlled scarification as well, but this was amended back in March.

      It’s unenforceable, unconstitutional, and outrageous

      In practice, federal regulations on plastic surgery already keep body artists from doing subdermal implants

      — Good luck with that constitutional challenge!

      • weirdnoise

        Well, as long as they draw the line at trephination.

  • Hanspeter

    Erik, get a nice big full back tattoo of a crucifix with St. Ronnie weeping over it. Make Reagan’s face have those tear drop tattoos.

    • sparks

      Worked at my state’s DOJ years ago when there were a lot of gang killings and saw a lot of those in autopsy photos from the closed out files of the dead.

      • Anonymous

        Of Reagen?

        • witless chum

          They respect him for the death squads and his performance during Iran Contra.

  • heckblazer

    My Republican father was a partner at a BigLaw firm. He celebrated his retirement by getting a tattoo, and has since gotten two more. I suspect this means tattoos aren’t as transgressive as they once were.

    • catclub

      When George Schultz has a Princeton Tiger on his butt? You are correct.

      • Joel Patterson

        Can he make it roar?

  • Barry Freed

    I suspect there has been a sharp drop in younger cohorts being interested in getting tattoos and that this bill is being surreptitiously supported by the tattoo parlor lobby to make it seem rebellious and cool again.

    • catclub

      Now that makes sense, except it happened in Arkansas.

    • Keaaukane

      When tattoos are outlawed, only outlaws will have…

      Oh, wait, that’s the point.

  • sharculese

    I don’t care what any of you think. Getting tattoos is fun and relaxing and I will continue to do it on a near-impulse basis without regrets.

    • herr doktor bimler

      My tattoos are all in invisible ink so they’ll only show up, briefly, in the crematorium.

    • Oooh, can I do a few on you?

      • herr doktor bimler

        Barcodes are the Mark of the Beast, sir.

  • bob mcmanus

    There are seven tattoos in this geezer household. I am the one with zero.

    Always felt like a waste of money and pain, but then I think socks, shaves, and haircuts are useless hassles.

  • I just read to “1%” and was gettin’ ready to pitchfork Erik.

    • anthrofred

      Well, he is a college professor.

    • Warren Terra

      Pitchfork him? Not put his head on a pike?

      • Hogan

        It’s not an either/or so much as a first/second.

      • bspencer

        What? His head would fit just fine on a pitchfork.

  • It would be fun to get a tattoo on my lower back that says “tramp stamp.”

    • NBarnes

      C’est ne pas une tattoo.

    • DrDick

      You and pretty much all of my female undergraduate students.

  • The prophet Nostradumbass

    I’m gonna get a tattoo of a butt that has a butt-shaped tattoo on it. And I’m gonna get it right on my butt.

    • bspencer

      So it’s settled: we’re all getting ironically tattooed.

      • herr doktor bimler

        With a picture of an iron.

        • Lee Rudolph

          With a picture of an iron.

          Oh, wait. That’s branded.

          • Mine’s gonna be of a guy with a hangover saying “What the hell happened last night?”

            • herr doktor bimler

              “Contents may settle after packing”.

              • bspencer

                So, that’ll be on your butt, right?

                • Keaaukane

                  i met a girl who had “exit only” tattooed on her butt. She did not like anal sex.

      • herr doktor bimler

        Now I want an ironic tattoo of a circle, done with FeO as the pigment.
        If anyone asks I will explain that it is a Ferrous Wheel.

        • zombie rotten mcdonald

          I’ve always visualized you as tatted up like an old biker chick, or a member of Lemmy’s band.

    • Barry Freed

      Your avatar fits that comment perfectly.

      • bspencer

        *snort*

    • weirdnoise

      Lemme guess. If you look real carefully, that butt tattoo on the butt tattooed on your butt will have a tattoo on it’s butt?

  • FridayNext

    I was discussing this law with some friend. They swore that this law did not actually outlaw anything, but prescribed who could do what and what kind of licenses they would need to do so. (Sub-dermal implants could only be done by licensed Physicians, for example). I could not then, nor still can’t, find the actual language of the actual law. All the links and the minimal googling I have done so far contain people discussing the law.

    Anyone know where to find the exact language? If it is more of a licensing and fee driven issue, that makes it a little different to me than merely outlawing them.

    • FridayNext

      I should add that many stories contain links to what they claim is the law, but is only the addendum to the law and contains little to know information in the law generally. Just changes in wording in a few areas.

      • Richard

        Looking at the links to the law, it looks like the article which Erik links to and which says that the law prohibits non-traditional tattooing is totally wrong. All the law seems to say that only licensed tattoo artists can perform tattoos and piercings and that sub epidural procedures can only be performed by medical personnel. If that is all it says, seems like a good law and one that many states already have. Can anyone link me to any language that even mentions non- traditional tattooing, much less prohibits it?

        • Warren Terra

          To be a bit more fair, people are responding less to the actual law as enacted, which is limited and mostly a guild-style licensing law, and more to the arguments propounded by the law’s sponsors and greatest enthusiasts.

          • Richard

            So the law doesn’t ban non- traditional tattooing and all we are talking about are the comments of a few yahoos?

            • zombie rotten mcdonald

              It’s the Internet, Richard.

            • FridayNext

              Thus far I can neither confirm or falsify this. I thought I found the original law, but the link was dead. Still looking.

            • Anonymous

              Loomis’s sense of skepticism about too-good-to-be-true wingnuttery seems to be on strike be engaging in a slowdown, I swear to god.

              • Anonymous

                Aw fuck, I meant this post about maps. And I shouldn’t have made it so personal. I just like to see people make the effort to correct the error.

                • Cody

                  Meh. I do think there should be an update if we can ever prove this is false.

                  To be fair, Republicans have passed some stupid laws. It’s pretty tough to tell when someone has fiddled with the truth or they really are just that crazy.

        • herr doktor bimler

          sub epidural procedures
          Best left to anesthetists.

  • Joel Patterson
    • LeeEsq

      Bill should have kept his beard. That way we could have had the first bearded President since Benjamin Harrison when Bill was elected in 1992.

  • LeeEsq

    I don’t have tattoos either and my opinions on them actually got me into trouble once. It was the only timed I got homophobic in my life. How “I don’t find tattoos attractive” turned into “I hate the gays” I don’t know but people are capable of wild leaps of logic. Anyway this law is stupid. Law can’t be based on personal aesthetic preferences no matter how tempting that is at times.

    • Richard

      Agreed but it appears that all this law does is require that tattoo artists be licensed

      • LeeEsq

        I can actually support that than. It makes since to require tattoo artists to be licensed considering what they do to the skin.

        • Richard

          Absolutely. As far as I can see from the very few links to the actual legislation, it amends previous laws so as to specify what procedures a licensed tattoo artist can do and makes clear that only a licensed tattoo artist can do these procedures. It also bans anyone other than medical personnel , therefore excluding tattoo artists, from performing subdural procedures. And I can’t find any reference in the legislation to banning non traditional tattoos or even any reference to non traditional tattoos. The article Erik linked to just seems to be DEAD WRONG

          • Dr Meredith

            Always…no, no…never…forget to check your references.

    • cpinva

      several years ago, a member of the va state legislature proposed a law banning pants from dropping below the hem of one’s underwear, in public. when asked the source of this proposed bill, he stated that a constituent friend of his had asked him to do it, because he felt that kids doing that made black people look bad. both the legislator and his constituent friend are black, from the tidewater area, I believe.

      most of the rest of the legislature actually agreed with this proposed bill. however, a couple of them apparently came down from their anti-undies showing reverie long enough to point out that a law such as this was unconstitutional on its face, and reports of it were making them look like a laughingstock besides. the proposed bill was dropped.

      • rea

        Fint, Michigan and a town in Florida tried this, but courts ruled it unconstitutional:

        http://www.finalcall.com/artman/publish/article_5281.shtml

        “The ordinance was overwhelmingly passed by the citizens,” said Francis Muhammad, Nation of Islam student study group leader in nearby West Palm Beach. “That city is 80 percent Black and the people were just tired of seeing it. The elders and most of the homeowners were just tired of seeing it.”

        • LeeEsq

          You see if the GOP was intelligent they would try to promote themselves to the Grand and Petit Bourgeoisie of all races and sexualities. The nudity ban in San Francisco was pretty much a battle of the Petit Bourgeoisie of the LBGT community against their more bohemian brethren. This is pretty much a classic Petit Bourgeoisie concern, its just in this case that the Petit Bourgeoisie were of color.

          A GOP that follows this electoral strategy; drop most of the culture war stuff except the things that are about respectability and develop a saner more European center-right economic policy would be unstoppable electorally because most Americans like to see themselves as Grand and Petit Bourgeoisie even if they don’t use those terms.

          • cpinva

            I hadn’t really thought about it, but you may well have a good point here. it’s all about “respectability”, a huge issue with the middle/upper-middle class, and those that aspire to be. this transcends racial/gender/sexual orientation boundaries. I know, I’ve caught myself doing it, and I consider myself reasonably progressive, with respect to cultural issues. some things kids do annoy me, but: a. they’re not my kids, so not my problem., and b. if they’re just annoying, and not dangerous, who effing cares?

            at this point, i’m not convinced there’s enough rational brain power left in the GOP, to figure this out. plus, it would make them too close to democrats to stand.

            • LeeEsq

              Honestly, I’m not a fan of people engaging in wild displays of behavior or otherwise make a fool of themselves in public either. I believe in calm, peaceful public spaces. Ordered liberty if you will have it.

            • LeeEsq

              Salentin pointed out that conservatives shouldn’t fear same-sex marriage because the result seems to be mainly bringing about the inner bourgeoisie of the LBGT community.

          • witless chum

            The problem with that idea is that a significant fraction of the GOP as currently constituted wouldn’t agree to it. There’s too many people who are in it for the white nationalism who are not going to stand for an inclusive vision of who gets to be respectable. And there’s too many people who are in for the various flavors of religiously-justified patriarchy to accept a ceasefire in the War on Women.

            Honestly, the Democratic Party is better positioned to become that party at this point and it really fuffills a lot of the requirements. If they aren’t fought, the sane 1 percent will get complete control of the Democrats.

  • A sickle and hammer tattoo could probably be argued to be traditional and therefore legal under the law. Both vory and Red Army men often had the sickle and hammer tattoo during the 1930s and 1940s. On the other hand very few of them had it done on their face. You would have to either be very bad ass or more likely bezumnyi to do that.

    I am pretty sure Leviticus is as least as strict in banning tattoos as it is in banning homosexuality. So banning tattoos has an Old Testament basis. Maybe next they can ban the wearing of mixed textiles? Might as well do the Jewish equivalent of sharia right.

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