The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

77° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    OPINION: Tattoos do not need to have meaning

    Malik Shelp

    The Tucson Tattoo Expo will be held March 6-8 this year. There will be plenty of people with serious tattoos, other more playful. 

    Why is it when someone shows a tattoo they have, one of the first questions people ask is, “What does it mean?”

    This assumption that tattoos need to have this deeper, moving and memorable meaning is cliché and is something I have never understood. I don’t even know where this idea came from or why it is ingrained into our heads. It is such a common misconception.

    All over social media, there are these posts of, admittedly funny, tattoos. I saw one from Brock McLaughlin where he posted a picture of his new tattoo at the end of 2019 — a colorful Baby Yoda holding a White Claw — receiving negative comments and feedback. 

    People are taking it upon themselves to tell these people with these tattoos on their bodies that they shouldn’t have gotten it or questioning why they would get it in the first place. Especially when it comes to younger people, there is this other idea of “you’re going to regret getting that” when there is no meaning to your tattoo. 

    The idea of even having to explain why you get a tattoo is also ridiculous to me. I feel as if because of this common misconception of tattoos having to have meaning, people feel the need to almost justify their tattoos. There is no need to have to explain the reasoning behind getting tattoos besides the fact that that is something you want to have on your body forever. 

    RELATED: Women are still unrecognized at the Oscars

    Of course, I have been emotionally moved and touched by some of the meanings and stories of tattoos that I’ve seen. 

    If you have a story that you feel strongly about, of course share it. I’m not trying to say there is anything wrong with that. I have seen many beautiful and meaningful tattoos, such as retracing a past loved one’s handwriting of a loving message or their signatures, tattoos covering scars from self-harm or those having to do with faith. 

    I myself have tattoos that have significant meaning to me. I have a tattoo of a lion that symbolizes my father, who considers himself the “King of the Jungle,” as he is the only man in our house with my mom and two younger sisters. But I also have a tattoo that has no meaning whatsoever besides that I loved this design that I had my sister give her own spin on. I have a matching tattoo with my mom that says love in Tagolog that we just decided to get one day, just because I was 18 years old and we thought it’d be cute to get matching ones.

    What I’m just trying to get across is that tattoos can literally be anything you want them to be.

    They can be a symbol for something important, an image of your favorite cartoon character or food, a portrait of a loved one, something with nature or simply a funny, drunken mistake that you’ll never forget. 

    Tattoos themselves can create memories — getting a tattoo because you lost a bet with a friend, getting a matching tattoo with your friends. Or they can remind you of a certain time in your life, whether that is something good or bad.

    Simply put, tattoos are a work of art. And art will always be subjective. All that matters is what you think of it, as it is the art you have chosen to put on your body. And that is something we as a society need to work on and normalize.

    Follow the Daily Wildcat on Twitter

    More to Discover
    Activate Search