bodies of subversion

Screen Shot 2013-09-05 at 10.52.54 AMBodies of Subversion: A Secret History of Women and Tattoo by Margot Mifflin (New York: Powerhouse Books)

Having read the 1997 print, I want you to know that this 2013 third edition is much, much better. There is more material in the historical chapters and a whole new section on contemporary tattoo artists. The printing is better too; this edition is printed on stock photo paper. This means the historical black-and-white images have more variation and detail. Full color images are used when available.

If you haven’t read the earlier editions of Mifflin’s text, it’s worth taking the time. It’s an easy read that introduces the best women tattoo artists and collectors, from the beautiful Maud Stevens Wagner to the infamous Kat Von D (whether you like her not, she is the most famous tattoo artist of all time). Mifflin doesn’t shy away from discussing the discrimination many women encountered as they tried to learn the trade. In the more contemporary chapters, she highlights the sexuality associated with women tattoo collectors.

Many women have faced discrimination or sexual aggression because of their tattoos. For those women, this books will act as a quiet welcome into the subculture while giving a feminist history of the art. It’s a must read for any woman with a tattoo.