Things that make me angry. Disgusted and angry.

I have also been getting asked a lot about what I think of this poor girl that got a “DRAKE” tattoo across her forehead. Here’s a picture if you need your memory jarred:

Ultimately if someone really wants to have “DRAKE” tattooed across their forehead, as long as they “get it” and have thought about what it’s going to mean in their life, I’m all for it, as goofy as I might personally think it is. Hell, I’m sure that lots of people think my facial tattoos (to say nothing of my hardcore porno gay S&M chestpiece or Nazism-evoking leg sleeve) are goofy if not worse. Unfortunately “well considered and thought out” appears not to be the case here, but the part that really gets to me is the interview with the tattooist who put this onto her. He did an interview about it that makes him look like a real piece of shit. The so-called artist is Kevin at LA’s “Will Rise” tattoo, and here are some quotes from him in that interview:

“I’m not really sure how much extended coherent thought could actually go into getting such a stupid tattoo on your forehead. I guess I feel bad that this dumbass got the name of the softest motherf**ker in hip-hop tattooed on her forehead. She was really psyched about it. She had the shitty font all picked out on her iPhone ready to go and was pretty adamant about putting it on her forehead. She didn’t say a word about what it meant to her, some of the guys at the shop asked her, and she just kinda giggled at them. I lost a little sleep over it that first night, wondering if I wanted to be known as the asshole who tattooed ‘Drake’ on some crackhead’s forehead. She was on a pretty good one when she came in, and I think by the time I finished, she was coming down, because her attitude changed pretty drastically once the tattoo was finished.”

What. An. Asshole.

It’s one thing if he wants to say this shit to the guys in the shop in private, but to slag your customer in print, in such a public forum is horrible. It shows a complete lack of respect for your customers, to say nothing of effectively bragging about doing what you think is a terrible tattoo on a person’s forehead. Let me play Perez for a moment and deface a photo:

As far as I can tell, this pretty young girl is not a “tattoo person”. For all I know they have mental problems. Given his description of her being on a high when she came in and starting to crash by the time it was over, that sounds like a distinct possibility. He absolves himself of all blame by saying that he “asked her three times” in a row.

“Are you sure? Are you really sure? Really really sure? OK, let’s do it!”

Yeah, there’s ethics for you. I’ve never heard a single good thing about the character of the folks at that shop, and plenty of bad, but this seems like a new low. Given that he in print says over and over that he knows it was a bad tattoo idea, I hope that his victim sues him and the shop into the stone age. She’d be well within her rights to, and I suspect under American law there’s a good chance she would win.

So what do I think should have happened?

Well, let me tell you a story about a friend of mine that was tattooing in BC and had something analogous happen. A guy came into the shop and asked for a Rolling Stones band tattoo. My friend drew it up — the logo of the mouth with the tongue sticking out — and asked him where he wanted it, thinking it was going to go on his shoulder or chest or something. The guy was a normal working class “Joe Six-Pack”, so the tattoo artist was pretty shocked when the guy pointed at his forehead. In fact, he thought that the guys in the shop were pulling a prank on him and looked around to see if they were snickering at him. But after asking the guy a few times if he was pulling his leg, it became clear that he was quite serious. He was decked out in Rolling Stones logo pants, a Steel Wheels tour shirt, and so on, and it was clear that the guy really was a super-fan, but still, he just didn’t feel right about this tattoo and told the guy he wasn’t comfortable tattooing the face of someone without a single other tattoo.

So the guy whips out his wallet and starts peeling out hundred dollar bills… $100… $200… $300… until there are $700 dollars sitting there (for what should be a hundred dollar tattoo) and insists that he wants it then and there. So, my friend makes an excuse about not being able to do the tattoo right then because he has another customer coming in, but offers to draw it on so he can get a feel for the tattoo. Using Sharpie markers, he draws a Rolling Stones logo on the guy’s forehead, and the guy is STOKED! He loves it. He’s super excited, and my friend says, “Look, if you come back tomorrow, and you haven’t washed it off, I will consider doing the tattoo for you.”

Tomorrow comes, and the guy doesn’t show up. Months go by. Finally, six months later a woman comes in for a consultation and he notices that the Rolling Stones superfan is sheepishly standing behind her. She asks to speak to my friend and says,

“Thank you so much for not tattooing my husband! When he came home, he reaked of alcohol and was covered in Rolling Stones logos. After he left your shop, he got markers and started drawing more and more logos all over himself and then spent the rest of the night binge drinking. He’s manic depressive and had gone off his meds and was having a psychotic break. I don’t know what would have happened if you had done that tattoo.”

It turns out that both of these people were high paid successful professionals in the film industry, and the guy was, like I said, off his medication and having a nervous breakdown. If some unscrupulous and uncaring tattooist had done this ink, it would have destroyed his life. Taken away everything he had earned, all because he went off his meds and was taken advantage of. Instead, the man and his wife ended up getting a pair of Rolling Stones tattoos, just like the one that my friend had initially drawn up, but on their shoulders. For each of them it was their first tattoo.

A wonderful, life-affirming story about healing and making the right decisions.

I wish that the piece of shit who did the DRAKE forehead tattoo had even a fraction of the decency and respect for his customers and basic empathy that in my opinion is required of a tattoo artist. Maybe it could have been a wonderful story too rather than the internet Darwin joke meme of the day. I think there is a very good chance that this girl was manic depressive or otherwise not in the right frame of mind to commit to such a tattoo. Asking “are you sure” “three times” in a five minute period just isn’t good enough. It’s not good enough ethically and it’s not good enough legally. Would “come back in a week” (and keeping his insults to himself) have been good enough? I don’t know. But it would have been a lot better. When a plastic surgeon does a procedure on someone, they are legally obligated to ensure that the person fully understands the implications of the procedure. Tattoo artists are similarly obligated. Perhaps to a lesser extent, but the obligation is still there. To ignore that obligation, and then to take it a step further and turn your customer into a worldwide laughing stock by slagging them online compounds the damage. Can you imagine if your tattoo artist pulled this stunt on you? Imagine how you would feel? Now what if the tattoo was on your face? What if you got the tattoo as a part of your mental illness? How much worse did that person just make it?

It really makes me sick. Disgusts me.

Of course I think that ultimately people have the right to get the tattoo they want, no matter what anyone else thinks, but that doesn’t absolve the professional community of responsibility. Tattoo artists are not machine-like prostitutes. They play a complex role that is equal part craftsman, artist, and therapist. Do not overlook the last part. Therapist. Body modification is a profound, life-changing, even spiritual experience. What this tattoo artist did falls analogous to raping and robbing a cripple. He spit on the entire profession and the entire body modification community with his profound lack of respect for the customer, the community, himself, and his industry peers.

Now calm down by looking at this art-bicycle that’s been parked in my neighborhood for years. “I’ve got a bike, you can fly it if you like?”, right, Syd?

Speaking of the right to express yourself, “I hate Muslims as much as the next guy”, but what’s been going on here in Canada has to be decried as bigotry. Bigotry plain and simple. Not to get all Godwin’s Law on you, but I have to wonder how history will judge the modern West? We’ve killed millions of Muslims in a variety of wars, and we’ve politically oppressed and abused them at every opportunity. I fail to see how we are any better than the Nazis in regard to the Jews sixty-five years ago. The only reason that the Nazis are reviled while the West is getting a pass is that the victor gets to write the history and so far we remain the victors. But looking at it objectively, it’s hard to say one is worse than the other.

Those in Canada may know that the Canadian government has recently said that they will not allow women to take their Citizenship Oath while wearing the niqab (as in the full face veil where you can only see their eyes). Our country’s immigration minister has said that he’s been getting complaints from judges sayin it’s “hard to tell whether veiled individuals are actually reciting the oath” and said it was “frankly bizarre” that wearing the niqab had been allowed in the past, also saying, “allowing a group to hide their faces while they are becoming members of our community is counter to Canada’s commitment to openness, equality and social cohesion.”

I’ve been listening to various radio shows on the subject, and even on rather left-leaning stations like the CBC, the overwhelming response has been positive. A lot of folks saying stuff like “if they want to come here, they should respect our traditions and show their faces.” Now, like I said, I despise Islam since I despise all religion. However, freedom of religion and freedom of expression is a fundamental right in Canada under our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The very last place that people should be told they can’t wear the niqab — which, again, I find singularly offensive for a long list of reasons — is at the citizenship ceremony. That’s the very first place the right to do such things should be protected and I really think it’s beyond offensive that the government would behave like this.

It’s a very small step from telling Muslims that they can’t express their culture with silly clothing and still be a Canadian, and telling me that I can’t express what’s important to me with silly tattoos and still be a Canadian. This is a big enough country to have them express their sensibilities and have me express mine — and have the majority sitting in the middle expressing the status quo. We’re all Canadian and we should all stand up for the freedom to express ourselves as we individually desire. You know, salad bowl not melting pot, and all that beautiful kaleidoscope stuff. We are a multi-coloured quilt not a white sheet. There is no fundamentally Canadian dress code, all jokes about the Canadian Tuxedo aside. The only Canadian dress tradition is the right to dress however we want. No matter what their feelings are about women’s rights or any specific religion, Canadians should stand up for the basic right to wear the niqab. If you’re worried about the implications of the niqab — be it oppression of women, or be it rightwing paranoia bout Sharia law — then attack the underlying issues, not some poor woman’s desire to dress in the way that makes her feel welcome and at home in our country. “Our” as in hers as well as yours and mine. Let her know that if she wants to get out of an abusive home, we’re here to protect her and we will respect her cultural traditions as she values them. But we won’t compound one oppression with another! The only time we get to object is when she tries to force us to wear a niqab too.

And guess what? That’s not gonna happen.

I can’t help but think of oft-quoted Voltaire —

“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”

Freedom rings pretty hollow when you’re not willing to defend anything but your own freedom, and even more hollow when you are actually willing to take away someone else’s freedom when you disagree with the way they use it. There is only one way to pull repressive religious fools like those that espouse the niqab out of the stone ages — by having a legitimately free society, and more importantly, by welcoming them and showing them that society is a better way to live. In time they will come to appreciate our customs and adapt to them. Stomping on the traditions of those wishing to join us isn’t going to achieve that goal.

19 Comments

  1. Dawnie wrote:

    The actions of this tattoo artist absolutely infuriate me. I also hope that this woman decides to sue him. I really hope she continues to be excited about her Drake tattoo but sadly chances are she wont be. You really said it all perfectly, Shannon. I really do enjoy reading your thoughts on your blog.

    Wednesday, December 14, 2011 at 6:03 pm | Permalink
  2. bonnie wrote:

    I agree with you totally about the rights of Muslim woman to dress as they see fit. When I heard that France was not allowing women to wear burkas anymore, I was horrified. I can’t imagine how I would feel if Uncle Sam tried to tell me how to dress.

    Wednesday, December 14, 2011 at 6:06 pm | Permalink
  3. Jared wrote:

    Not to comment off topic but… that little guy under the comments, with the floyd quote? Fantastic.

    Wednesday, December 14, 2011 at 6:22 pm | Permalink
  4. Daniel wrote:

    Hey Shannon,

    Was curious about the Rolling Stone tattoo artist. Was his name Damien? I’m curious because Damien is my artist and I remember him telling me a very similar story. Hope you are well :) DB

    Wednesday, December 14, 2011 at 6:34 pm | Permalink
  5. Shannon wrote:

    Yes, same person. I have a mountain of respect for him, both as a tattoo artist and as a person.

    Oh and you’ll be proud of my health level all things considered — I’m regularly going on 10 – 15km hikes. Really happy to see your name pop up by the way.

    Wednesday, December 14, 2011 at 7:10 pm | Permalink
  6. Thomas Moore wrote:

    Hey Shannon,

    I’ve been reading your blog for over a decade now in its various forms. I used to follow /?glider daily, and I just read this and realised how much I missed reading your perspective.

    Thomas

    Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 2:09 am | Permalink
  7. Having lived many years in muslim countries, I think you’re absolutely right about the freedom of religion. And of course about the shitty tattoo “artist”.

    Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 2:10 am | Permalink
  8. shannon wrote:

    For fun I’m going to play the other side of your argument.

    Usually artists require clients sign a release form, and normally are not allowed to tattoo anyone who is obviously intoxicated, but please don’t support the stance that tattoo artists should be able to judge a persons mental state and decline on that condition because it often takes months or years for trained therapists to get into someone’s head, and to put the burden on the industry of seemingly “bona fide sane people only” is beyond the training artists have, or should have. Shannon I think you accept that many people would think your choice of tattoo subject matter on your chest is proof of some kind of mental defect, would you have accepted being prevented from getting said work if you had any past history of mental illness? What if someone signed a legal agreement and then ignored it when it didn’t suit their mood, should that invalidate their ability to give legal consent?

    Now for a sacrilege statement: “If people could somehow be prevented from getting a tattoo until they turn 25 there would be a lot less regret because between the ages of 18 and 25 your whole world (friends, associates, likes and dislikes) often change in unanticipated ways. The sad reality is such a law would be a boom for fledgling artists with a “Complete” (no, no) tattoo kit and a dream… the last thing established artists who don’t prefer to do cover-ups would wish on the industry. There is a lot of evidence to support that people used to grow up a lot faster many years ago; in the Midwest a hundred years ago the average 18 year old was married with children and had no chance of getting government handouts; by comparison 18 year olds today are far less mature, and not as deeply integrated into adult society. I have the radical belief that Government policy is a form of unintentional selective breeding that alters future generations, and it’s giving us a heaping load of impulsive infadults (it’s a made up word, but it fits).

    As I remember many tattoo studios used to have a policy of no facial tattoos, and I support voluntarily adhering to a code of ethics over legislation. My own philosophy, which isn’t supported by many modern studios, is “Unless a client has made a significant commitment to living a modified lifestyle through collecting more than a few pieces of significant body art, they should be turned away from getting a facial tattoo as shop policy.” Even though they could just go to a different tattoo studio that might do it right away the short walk might be enough time for them to get over the obsession.

    Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 2:44 am | Permalink
  9. Jennifer wrote:

    The fact that they did it on the spot, photographed and immediately exploited the client via interviews, random public posts, and all the while making fun of the situation is telling of the real heart of the shop: MONEY, Fame, and Narcisism… This isn’t a tattoo shop, it’s a gimmick.

    Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 3:46 am | Permalink
  10. Daniel Baker wrote:

    Hey Shannon,

    10-15km!!!! That’s awesome. Shit, that’s usually what I bike in a day. Really well done :).

    I think Damien is great too. Did you know he was recently married? I tried to stay in touch with him but Damien isn’t the easiest to get a hold of.

    Glad you’re keeping well and I hope Arie and Caitlin are well too :)

    Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 3:55 am | Permalink
  11. Korina wrote:

    This is horrible! His comments below the interview are just as bad, if not worse, than the interview itself.

    Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 8:27 am | Permalink
  12. Jennie wrote:

    Wow, that tattoo artist is an asshole. So disrespectful. He said he doesn’t want to “paint the shop in a bad light” but he definitely has in this interview.

    What is this suppose to mean? “She was on a pretty good one when she came in, and I think by the time I finished, she was coming down, because her attitude changed pretty drastically once the tattoo was finished.” Does that mean she was high?
    I hope she reads that interview.

    Friday, December 16, 2011 at 4:06 pm | Permalink
  13. mela wrote:

    Thanks for your opinion about that Tattoo”Artist”. I wrote a lot about responsibility and respect inside the business, sadly only in german, so its useless to share the links to it..but i´m glad, that somebody else shares my point of view. Maybe i write about this case in my wildcat.de-blog, to let the people know about it. thanks !!

    Ralf

    Sunday, December 18, 2011 at 6:36 am | Permalink
  14. LotN wrote:

    You’ve reminded me why I miss reading your words on body modification so much. Hoping for more in 2012.

    Tuesday, December 20, 2011 at 10:20 am | Permalink
  15. B-Man wrote:

    Those women dont want to dress that way their husbands are making them. If anything the government is actually freeing them.

    Friday, December 23, 2011 at 7:03 pm | Permalink
  16. elly wrote:

    wow, that makes me super angry too. the lack of care and thoughtfulness around doing the tattoo is almost not as bad as his incredible contempt for his customers. getting a tattoo is a vulnerable experience, it makes me sick to think of this guy exploiting that. i hope this snafu puts him and his shop out of business.

    Saturday, December 24, 2011 at 5:43 pm | Permalink
  17. selina kyle wrote:

    as a tattoo artist i can say i would never tattoo someones forehead thats not already heavily tattooed. so that was kind of a dick move from this dude, however what he did and said shouldnt reflect on the shop because its a really nice clean shop with some pretty amazing artists. they should definitely fire his ass though after making the shop look like shit! i dont think she has the right to sue him, it was her choice and like it was said in your other side of the argument im sure she signed a release form and we definitely do not have the credentials to judge how sane a person is. the dude is a total shit bag with no respect for the industry for doing this but shouldnt mean the shop should suffer or that he should be sued, the fact that he is now a world renowned asshole should suffice!!

    Tuesday, December 27, 2011 at 10:09 am | Permalink
  18. Kenny wrote:

    I agree with you 100% but youre still a fag for saying “sue them into the stone age” so many times.

    Friday, January 27, 2012 at 8:40 am | Permalink
  19. anthony wrote:

    im glad he tattooed that dumb bitch…thats what she gets for even thinking of an idea that fucking stupid…i tip my hat to the artist

    Thursday, June 21, 2012 at 11:48 am | Permalink
Wow Shannon, that's really annoying! What is it, 1997 on Geocities? Retroweb is NOT cool!

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