Tattoos women should avoid at all costs


Tattoos that carry the weight of insecurities

dreamt up by boardrooms and conservatism.


That might sound like clickbait, but hear me out. This is important.

From the dozens of conversations I have each week with people exploring tattoo ideas, personal preference is not as closely linked to what they ask for as you might think. Other people’s preferences are, though. And sometimes we confuse the two.

Tattoos for women


I’ve lost count of the number of women who excitedly arrive for their consultation with their partner in tow, only for their partner to railroad the conversation towards the kind of tattoo they’d prefer them to get.

In heterosexual relationships in particular, these are usually described as ‘delicate’, ‘subtle’ and ‘feminine’. On a number of occasions our artists have had to invite (insist) the client join them privately to continue the consultation.

Similarly I’ve had as many conversations with men who love the tattoo design created by their artist, but are worried about it not being ‘masculine’ if it contains any florals or more decorative elements.

They love it, but the doubt in their mind has a face. And it’s usually the mug of their mates.

Tattoos for women


Her partner isn’t an asshole and his mates are not philistines.

The opinion of those we love and respect matter. However recognising the part social expectations and narrow beauty standards play in our decisions is important.

Are they really our preferences? Is the art you’re choosing for your body the same art you enjoy elsewhere?

If I could ban the words ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine’ I would. For tattoos and beyond. But sticking with tattoos for a minute;

Tattoos are no longer reserved for the antagonist. You do not need to be making a statement or any outward declaration to justify getting a tattoo. That is a lot to live up to for the rest of your life.


Yet for women in particular, large tattoos on certain body parts seem to still be reserved for those who are outwardly active in their shunning of social expectations.

Arms – I’m talking about you.

For women, deciding to get a large tattoo on their arm – particularly their upper arm, is the placement most agonised over.

“What about my wedding day?” (What about it?)

“What about when I wear short sleeves at work?”

“Do you think I’ll look like a docker?”

Tattoos for women


Which moves me neatly on to social expectations’ toxic auntie – fat phobia. Often our own.

For tattoo artists, the bigger the space the better. Give us all the thighs. All of them. If the top of your arm is wide, get in the chair. Narrow tubular spaces are harder work with.

However (and this is a generalisation) fat women feel pressure to choose ‘pretty’ tattoos.

Emma has a lifelong love for 80s cult classic movies that weaves its way dominantly through her personality and other aesthetic choices.

Emma chooses florals and butterflies for her tattoo. Which look beautiful, but Emma hates the outdoors. Especially insects.

She looks on enviously at the tattoo of her dreams on a woman with a thin arm (or a man with a thick one) but didn’t choose it for herself. Because her arm is fat.

And she can hear boomers with opinions everywhere. She’s judged enough.

But I say fuck that.


Not in a demonstrably mutinous way. You are not Greta Thunberg trying to juggle her shopping out of Lidl so as not to get caught using plastic packaging.

You are not required to cut the sleeves off your clothes, shave your head and become a spokesperson for others.

If Emma had got a full tattoo sleeve of The Goonies, ET and Karate Kid fighting Zangief from Street Fighter, she doesn’t need to shun pink glitter for the rest of her life.

It doesn’t put her in a box she has to defend.

All the tattoos in this post are on women. Their tattoos decorate them, not define them. Their choices were their own.

And whether that looks like a songbird wearing a flower crown riding a unicorn, or a portrait of Metallica’s James Hetfield, you do you and high5 me on the way out.


*All tattoos by artists at Nomad Ink, UK