Previous - Next Page

1.4.13 Comments, Approaches. [Sentence numbering added for reference.]

Approaches to the management of the tattooing and body piercing industry

[1] That tattooing and body piercing are witnessing a global revival makes them part of a rapidly expanding industry within Western society. [2] Such growth has led to questions over the acceptability of approaches to industry management. [3] On the one hand there is the belief by some that those who engage in activities such as tattooing and body piercing, either as practitioners or recipients, should simply be left to get on with it (Ferguson, 1999) in a similar way as they have been for much of history. [4] In general, this correlates with leaving the industry controlled and managed by unlicensed and almost wholly unregulated personnel, although pockets of practitioners are known to promote good practice, form associations/interest groups and contribute to the development of the guidance and codes of practice that are currently available. [5] Armstrong and Kelly (2001:13) aptly summed up the level of responsibility, accountability and scrutiny traditionally experienced by the tattooing and body piercing industry when they describe the industry as “an artist-customer regulated business.”

"Popularity" is the cause for the concern and the perception of health risk is to be expanded in meaning, re-defined, as psycho-social health problems. T&P are now medical problems by definition in need of a cure.

 When tattoos only afflicted the working class, motorcycle and criminal gangs, and those under government control, such as sailors, soldiers, and prisoners, marginal and lower class groups within society it was not a problem to governments, eerily the same as the lack of concern for the AIDS epidemic. The record bears witness.

As far back as the 1940s it can be shown that in the US tattooists lobbied for state regulations and they were rebuffed.

Alan Govenar writes, in Tattooing in American Culture, 1846-1966, an article in Jane Caplan's Written on the Body

ATTEMPTS TO REGULATE TATTOOING
By the 1940s, tattoo equipment and supplies were advertised in popular magazines, such as Popular Science and The Police Gazette. However, this growth in tattooing precipitated problems, or at least the perception of problems, [emphasis mine] as attention began to be paid to the hygiene of tattooing, and the question of regulation was raised. The earliest efforts to regulate the hygienic conditions of tattooing were made by tattoo artists themselves. A 1942 Collier's magazine article reported that when tattooer Harry Lawson tried to get the city councils of a dozen communities to pass regulatory laws governing tattooing practices, "no one seemed interested'. (p226)

Now that T&P, as disease, has spread to all classes, especially the young, this assault on the heritage and Christian values of can no longer be tolerated and this paper is Chalmers self-appointed cause celeb and answer to push back against this unacceptable "outbreak" by crafting a series of regulations.

The fallacy of argument presented in this section is based on a "False Choice" arguing that there are only two options: either no regulations at all or the state creates a comprehensive single set of regulations.

In Debate 101 this is called a "False Choice" fallacy. Chalmers says the choice is between on the one side, no rules or regulations (self-regulation) or total state regulation. It is not mentioned that there are other choices or combinations of answers which will be discussed in evaluating Part 2.

The view of T&P practitioners is distorted in this part and actually contradicted in Part 2. Practitioners are not against rules and regulations per se as Chalmers falsely claims but against rules and regulations that have no effect on health. It is Chalmers' proposal to decrease the popularity of tattoo by expanding the definition of Health Risk to include new psycho-social "side" effects that are unacceptable. For example, some will regret their decision to get a tattoo. Chalmers proposes that the State will evaluate clients by psycho-social standards and thus save them from their error.

As an aside, sentence [1] is confused because it describes T&P as “part of a rapidly expanding industry” whereas it is itself the very rapidly expanding industry under discussion. T&P are not a part of that which they are the whole.

Sentence [2] reveals that “growth” is the “problem”, and lays out the argument that Health Risk is the argument that should be used to attack the T&P problem.

I have to object to Chalmers [sentence2] inventing the existence of people who supposedly raise “questions over the acceptability of approaches “ as if there were a lively debate or struggle between approaches to management (regulation). There is no such debate going on, not on any level. Everyone on every side of the issue agrees to some state regulation.

Chalmers' sentence [3] above is worth exposing  as false by examination.

A) Chalmers claims that there is a belief-by-some-group of like-minded serious arguers, an actual advocacy coalition opposing regulations per se. This is total fiction. She is making this stuff up.

B) There is no support presented that Ferguson advocate/d/s a laissez-faire approach, free from all state intervention. But even if he did, Chalmers must show that his opinions have traction within T&P, that there is a competing advocacy coalition, or at the very least, which industry leaders support these ideas, not just Ferguson and his friends and that they are actively pursuing influencing policy makers. This is all smoke and mirrors and should be rejected as fictional narrative. There is no such constituency.

C)  Chalmers misrepresents the history of T&P by claiming that historically T&P have operated outside of state regulation by saying “as they have been for much of history.” The opposite is true. This will be outlined extensively below. Further: how much is "much of history"? And whose history? She obviously means much of world history of which she knows nothing relating to this subject.

Sentence [4] has several problems too.

A) The so-called "correlation" [4] “leaving the industry controlled and managed by unlicensed and almost wholly unregulated personnel” is false because today’s practitioners are licensed. Even if it were true there still is no health backlash because of it.

In any case, T&P is not run by unlicensed unregulated personnel, existing in a vacuum as she implies, doing anything and everything without restraint. Her innuendo is obvious. Everyone is licensed today and there are always general sanitary codes that apply to regulate all businesses and services as she points out for New Zealand. To illustrate that other options are available but ignored, for example, the State of  Texas where individual tattooists are not required to be licensed. This invalidates her argument. The shops in Texas have the license to operate and then they hire "unlicensed" tattooists under their perview.

By reading Chalmers' Part 2, you will see how she contradicts this false attack on the integrity of practitioners which we read in sentence 4.

Chalmers makes a very serious charge of negligence against T&P in general, that in my view needs an apology. She says the majority of T&P practitioners are not interested in good practices by writing: “although pockets of practitioners are known to promote good practice.” Her own reporting in Part 2 shows her deception: that surveys she reports on show practitioners care, that a high interest in good practices is universal among practitioners.

Associations/interest groups want to “professionalize” tattoo.

C)  There is little interest by rank and file practitioners to form, participate, or endorse  associations/interest groups except on the issue of making it difficult for newcomers to enter the business. There really is not much there in these groups that requires a group at all. The rationale offered can be traced back at least to teh 1094s: to improve the "image" of tattoo by weeding out so-called scratchers and restricting the sale of equipment and supplies. The organizations have virtually nothing to teach that requires an organization other than what is already being done by yearly OSHA pathogen training classes and the efforts of local health departments. This is why they have never had more than a few hundred members at any one time. These organizations are basically irellevant.  Fortunately they have had little-to-no effect on actual governance though they have an agenda to become a certificating agent for the state, something virtually all practitioners oppose. Plainly put, it is obvious to all that they seek to ingratiate themselves and control T&P.

Most practitioners come to T&P as outsiders, not with pedigree and social status and so resist these self-appointed groups of practitioners trying to get them to join and be subject to a new set of rules and regulations, creating two masters instead of one. This "professionalizing" is not going to happen: the state will never allow T&P to be "professionalized."

Before leaving this subject, the mischaracterization of "learners" as scratchers by some practitioners is objectionable and misguided.

A scratcher is someone who has been tattooing for years and is unable to produce minimally acceptable work: i.e., lines are scratched in rather than cleanly made. A scratcher is not someone who is learning, and is not based on where (a home) a person is working.

More importantly, the argument that new laws are required to "crack down on scratchers" is strictly economic. Even the "disease" argument is spurious. The actual health record of T&P is great. We cannot consent to the view that T&P is dangerous but must champion the truth that nobody gets anything from tattoo beyond anecdotal cases. Even in the next part, Chalmers has to dig back more than 40 years to find a shocking case.

The actual “guidance and codes of practice” Chalmers has in mind will actually be written by street level bureaucrats, enforcers without T&P consent. If practitioners  disagree, they will be forced to accept the new regulations, and in time she says, they will get used to them - like prisoners.

D) The expression “guidance and codes of practice” is Chalmers’ slippery slope because she is referring to, among other things, psychological profiling of clients before they are allowed to get any work done based on criteria to be determined later, a blank check that also includes the psychological profiling of practitioners based on the  questionable status of their risk-taking (everyone who has a tattoo is considered a risk-taker by Chalmers).

I have to disagree with Chalmers proposal to institute government censorship of content and placement. Though there are no industry-wide standard practices about placement and content,  these issues of censorship are better left up to the client-practioner interaction without seeking governmental guidelines and should be left that way. It is standard practice of T&P practitioners to have limits on placement and content based on an awareness of social prejudices, work, etc. and are pretty good discussing those issue with clients.

Chalmers smears the entire industry by claiming the majority, if not all, are careless about the social well being of the client.

This slur is false and not to be believed. Chalmers must not be allowed to pursue her censorship of content and placement and the psychological profiling of practitioners. Chalmers smears the entire industry by claiming the majority will tattoo and pierce anything, anywhere, regardless of perceived consequences for the client.  Test it yourself. Go into any shop and ask for a large black band tattooed across your face or obscene, racial, or religiously offensive words on your forehead and see what the advice will be.

Chalmers then falsely claims that practitioners have not contributed to the development of health and safety for T&P. The opposite is true.

E)   T&P has been the only source for the health and safety regulations because governments have been unwilling to allocate resources to a practice they are begrudgingly being forced to regulate. They seem to put their least qualified on the case to write the regulations. After all, the prejudice runs strong against tattoo and the most knowledgeable would not want to soil their hands. For example in the Suffolk County NY proposed regulations, how can it be possible for an experienced health sanitarian to  stipulated, more than once, that hard surface "disinfectants" had to be used on the skin. I asked that they correct this error in my analysis which was submitted to them, which they did. Currently health departments publish guidelines that no doctor would ever endorse because they rubber stamp the cacophony of contradictory instructions created by practitioners, especially in aftercare. That’s the fault of health departments, not the fault of practitioners. There has been a pervasive prejudice that prevents HDs from caring what happens to T&P clients, or practitioners. T&P is treated the way AIDS victims used to be treated until public outcry forced governments to step in. The most senior qualified don’t read anything about T&P and don’t want to know: prejudice trumps health and safety and the health care community by and large doesn’t care. Now, to turn her statement upside down we might ask, is it true that there are “pockets” of health care providers who care about T&P. Her attack is unfair and unprovoked.

Keep in mind, it is not health risk from infection that Chalmers is referring to here, but an expanded version of Health Risks composed of psycho-social guidance and codes of practice, to be written after policy-makers have granted the authority, without consent of the governed.. The paper goes so far as to warn T&P that street-level enforcers will stringently enforce the law and after time they will knuckle under.

 Chalmers claims that there is no control or regulation or management of T&P in any way, shape or form. She describes chaos, a free-for-all, out of control. She claims to sum up Armstrong and Kelly In sentence [5] of 1.4.13 as declaring that there is no control nor limit to what T&P can do. They do anything the artist and customer decide to do, that T&P is an "industry controlled and managed by unlicensed and almost wholly unregulated personnel", not interested in "good practice" lacking "responsibility, accountability and scrutiny."

However, as a little digging shows, governments have always controlled and used tattoo one way or another, that there has never been a time without treating tattoo in an intentional manner. For example, during times when the official position was that tattoo only affected the the lower, rougher classes of society, it was permitted. This is not accidental, but deliberate government policy.

This is Chalmers’ blame-the-victim speech that practitioners lack responsibility and accountability.

History is turned upside down by Chalmers because she has never read or studied the available literature. Her views are false and contradict academic literature. She blames  practitioners when it has been the policy of governments to either use tattoo for punitive purposes, for example, or intentionally ignore it and exclude tattoo from mainstream rule-making by considering it unworthy of concern or by outright prohibitions and crippling rules; to criminalize practitioners as outlaws; to pathologize the artist and the client, as degenerate savages; and then Chalmers faults T&P for not having comprehensive regulations. This is such a perversion of the actual history and of facts it is unworthy.

Concerning the blame game, historic cultures and societies cannot be held at fault for following their historically acquired cultural standards. Chalmers wants you to think it has been a wild, wild west out there. The opposite is true.

Governments and institutions have been using tattoo as an instrument for identification and punishment for most of history within their official methods of dealing with the conquered, the victimized, military conscripts, slaves, vagrants, criminals, even citizens and those who refuse to cooperate. This well known extensive use of penal and punitive tattooing contradicts Chalmers invented history of lawless practices. Governments and cultures sanctioned and used tattoo, one way or another, for society, throughout most of history.

This article shows she does not know the actual history of tattoo contained in readily available academic literature. It is arrogant to embark on writing a paper without preparation and knowledge, or perhaps thinking it is not necessary for this subject. Her attitude and indifference to accuracy is an affront. If she can’t see how lacking she is in knowledge, how can she be trusted with knowing what the issues are? In short, she cannot be trusted with anything in this paper. Everything is upside down.

T&P are not against regulations per se, they are against self-appointed crusaders, such as Chalmers, distorting the record, falsifying history, inventing imaginary evils, and promoting a secret agenda of marginalizing their target through the power of government compulsion (viz. at the point of a gun), the crusaders' ultimate weapon when faced with those who don't agree and will not obey.

Recall for a moment the three examples Chalmers' presents as tattoo history: Otzi the Ice Man, the Ice Maiden, and the Egyptian priestess Amunet. I ask: Were the tattooists licensed?  Were they “doing their own thing”? Were they uncontrolled, deficient, endangering the welfare of the tattooed? Were they degenerate or of criminal natures?

Readings on the Pacific, or India, or 19th century penal history clearly shows that tattooing has been a well defined practice used by societies, institutions, and as a custom of  people with well established procedures, even motifs, and regulations and standards of acceptable practice. T&P has never been doing their own thing.

This section is a fictional narrative camouflaging the real history so that a fallacy of argument can be floated for the purpose of decreasing the popularity of tattoo by a  complex set of regulations and rules.

Before offering examples of official control of tattoo, a little note on a few points is appropriate.

Chalmers’ Sentence [2].

Such growth has led to questions over the acceptability of approaches to industry management. On the one hand there is the belief by some...

This sentence has a definite purpose: it is the lead-in for the Either/Or, False Choice fallacy of reasoning..

Chalmers favorite fallacy of argument.

Chalmers’ Sentence [3] presents the false-choice argument.

There is no advocacy coalition referred to as “belief by some.” There is no group arguing for the elimination of all rules and regulation to let T&P merely “get on with it.” The issue T&P practitioners raise is not regulation per se, but what those regulation will be.  Contrary to Chalmers’ assertion in part 2, T&P practitioners do not disagree with the fundamental idea of regulations and licensing.  This is one of her misrepresentation. This is a false Either/Or.

The opposite is true. Established working practitioners want regulations to limit competition. Regulators, keenly aware of this, cynically play on this to lord it over tattoo.

Some person or local group somewhere, such as the recent experiences in Hawai'i, may have opinions about opposing all regulations per se, or some one local individual or local business people may oppose regulations based on indigenous culture and the rights of native populations, but it has never been on the table for consideration by any coalition of interested parties, has no traction within T&P, no relevance generally, no compelling meaning, and no widespread support within T&P circles. The opposite is the case. For example, when the state calls for a $100 license fee, I heard with my own ears a shop owner wanting a $5,000.00 yearly license fee for practitioners and a $5,000.00 yearly fee for the shop to keep the "scratchers" out. This was a serious proposal during NYC tattoo regulation conversations.

Readers unfamiliar with tattoo, readers of this journal and policy-makers, are the target for this false presentation and that is unfortunate.

A fallacy of argument is used because it will be theoretically easy to win. This is from Debate 101: if you present an obvious fictional option and the opposition is tricked into arguing the case, and then show that it is false, you win.

The argument presented here is supposed to lead the reader into assuming that there are only two options: no control, no  regulations or one set of state created regulations. Again, regulation per se is not the issue. The issue of concern to T&P is that regulations become unreasonable and expand control into ever expanding areas with no outcomes, wasting both practitioners’ and taxpayers’ money. Keep in mind that it is not an infection-prevention program because Chalmers admits there is no infection-control problem, only that the infection-prevention argument should be used to dominate the argument because it is perceived as legitimate, though not true. Furthermore, Chalmers claims that there will be no reduction in infection rates even if state regulations are imposed. The expanded Health Risk argument is a sham.

At this time policy makers should adopt a policy of watchful waiting because there is not, and has not been any medical community based problem to warrant this huge expense.

Third, as Chalmers cites Ferguson’s 1999 BMJ article, the point of the BMJ article was to reveal that Doug Molloy invented the piercing stories. These are the very stories that Chalmers copies from a children’s book and presents as fact for policy makers. You can't make this stuff up. It's unbelievably absurd.

As promised, here is some history of the ways governments were actively engaged, indeed even at times purposefully disengaged with tattoo.  From Alan Govenor, Parry’s Secrets of a Strange Art, Jane Caplan, Nicholas Thomas, Spider Webb, Juniper Ellis, Tricia Allen, Gilbert, Tattoo 1986, and personal records of Westley Wood.

Early Christian Pilgrims to America considered tattooed Indians children of the Devil. (P)

1818, Massachusetts, second term prisoners were tattooed with “Mass. S. P.” (P)

1906, NYC fines a tattooer for tattooing a minor. (P)

1907, moko banned in New Zealand. (JE)

1909, Navy bans indecently tattooed applicants. (P)

1933 the NY State Assembly passes a bill making it a misdemeanor to tattoo a child under the age of sixteen after parents demanded action. (S)

1933, Cleveland, Norfolk, and San Francisco regulate tattooing. (P)

1933, Seattle sends inspectors out to see that aseptic methods and sterilized needles are used. (P)

1942 Harry Lawson tries to get a dozen cities to pass legislation, including San Diego but was denied. (S)

1944 in NYC Charlie Wagner, the first legal action against a tattooist, was fined for not sterilizing his needles. (Many references citing the NYTimes)

1959, Gay Talese writing in NYTimes reporting there were only 250 tattoo artists in US at that time. The number of tattooists is important in the argument because it shows there was no reason for regulation in most of the country anyway - they didn't have tattooing.

Govenar, p230 writing in (J Caplan)

By the early 1950's the popularity of tattooing was clearly in decline...The circus, the carnival and tattooing were all struggling for survival in the increasingly suburbanized, family-centered era of the 1950s. American society was changing. Postwar Americans rushed to marry and have families, settling in new suburban areas far away from the city neighborhoods in which tattoo shops were located. Postwar society emphasized middle-class conformity and material comfort. All of this went against the impulse to tattooing. In this context, tattoos became identified primarily with rebelliousness among adolescents and young adults. Tattoos were considered "lower class" and deviant, associated with blue-collar workers, drunks, hot rods, motorcycle clubs and street gangs. p230

The legal action [in the 1960s] taken in New York reflected the prevailing antipathy against tattooing...But it is difficult to evaluate the extent to which the stereotype was valid. Some tattooers of that generation, such as Leonard St. Clair, say that the stereotype was exaggerated and untrue. p232

In the 1960s in California, some cities issued licenses. (S)

In 1961 tattooing was banned in NYC. (WW)

After 1966 tattoo was criminalized in cities in Oklahoma, Indiana, Connecticut, (Boston) Massachusetts, Wisconsin, (Little Rock) Arkansas, Tennessee, Ohio, (Detroit) Michigan and Virginia. ( Caplan, Govenar p232)

1962. New Zealand reverses and removes the 1907 moko ban. (JE)

For years Natan Lin and Stephan Lamfere fought to overturn the Massachusetts ban on tattooing filing a lawsuit in 1996 which successfully lifted the ban in 2001. (WW)

Spider Webb staged a protest against the NYC ban in 1967 by tattooing Annie Sprinkle with a feather, on the Steps of the NYC Metropolitan Museum of Art. He was arrested which led to the subsequent attempt to challenge the law by filing a suit, but it was defeated. (SW)

In 1970, famous tattooist Stoney was forced to move to Colombus Ohio because Florida legislature abruptly passed a law criminalizing tattooing by anyone but a doctor. (S)

By 1976 Cliff Raven was speaking out against prohibitions of tattooing. (S)

Kevin Brady was forced to close his shop in Indiana. (Tattoo, Fall 1986)

One of the most repressive municipal regulations, city of Chesapeake, Virginia, charges $1,000 a year license fee to operate a tattoo shop. (Tattoo, Fall 1986)

In 1996-97 New York City, Dept. of Health opposed legalizing tattoo claiming the cost of administering regulations was a waste of taxpayer money in areas beyond Universal Precautions, using rubber gloves and new needles, which the DOH testified was sufficient to protect the health of the community. Other rules and regulations dealing with premises would have no impact on infection rates. Even the costs associated with regular inspections were unjustified and therefore replaced with a complaint-driven procedure. The Commissioner reported that these conclusions were based on monitoring tattoo since the 60s.  (WW)

Ron White in 2004 takes South Carolina to court to overturn their ban on tattooing. (WW)

For more than a hundred years the London Missionary Society (LMS) in the Pacific fought to convince island rulers to officially ban tatau, which had successes. (NT)

In Tahiti, in 1819, Christian missionaries were successful in getting tatau banned.

In 1820, tatau was banned in some other islands of the Pacific, such as Ra`iatea, Huahine and Borabora by Island rulers and by France. (NT)

311AD. State control of tattoo can be traced to Emperor Constantine when he forbade the “un-Christian-like” tattooing of criminals on their faces, but rather to be done on their hands and calves which was acceptable. (JC)

Throughout the Greco-Roman world for a thousand years, tattooing was an instrument of state policy for marking slaves, criminals and subjugated peoples.

787 AD council in Northumberland prohibits tattooing unless done for Christ. (P)

In Samoa, the Gods gave tattooing to specific families and their descendents. Even today many Samoan artists do not engage in tattooing without the Family Elders’ permission. (TA, WW)

In the UK, besides historically tattooing deserters as punishment, it is rumored, there still exists a law declaring tattoo a sign of insanity. (WW)

The Jewish God issues a Levitical Law forbidding tattooing. (Many references)

The Muslim Koran declares the decorative practice as unholy. (Many)

Lord Krishna tattooed his wives. (JC)

Vishnu tattoos Lakshmi’s hand and promises, to those who copy the designs, to protect them from evil.

There is an unbroken history of Christian pilgrims being tattooed in Jerusalem and shrines such as Lorento. (P) (JC)

British colonial rule of India used tattoo and branding as stigmatization for control and identification until the mid 19th century when punitive use of tattoo was prohibited in areas controlled by the British East India Company.(JC)

1560, French seamen capture a family of tattooed “Eskimos” from Greenland, and display them in France and Germany. (Oettermann, p194) From a handbill of the time: “Let us thank Almighty God for his beneficence, that he has declared himself to us by his Word, so that we are not like these savages and man-eaters.”

1691, pirate and explorer Dampier takes Philippine Prince Jeoly to England where his tattooed body was a sensation, including showing for King William and Queen Mary.

1720, German sea-captain, Pecht, buys two “American” heavily tattooed natives and they are displayed in France, Italy and Germany. The ruler of Saxony, Augustus the Strong, purchased the two Indians and brings them to his court. They were subsequently sent by Augustus the Strong as a gift to the Tsar of Russia in Petersburg.

In 1774, Omai, the Tahitian brought by Capt. Cook

…came to be a national treasure: newspapers printed his life story, the most celebrated artists painted his portrait, the popular theatre made him into a hero and box-office hit, and learned men counted it an honor to shake his hand (which was not in fact heavily tattooed). Omai returned home with Cook’s third expedition to his island, bearing rich gifts [ ! ] that included a barrel organ, an electric generator, a coat of mail and a suit of armour. [ ! ]

1779, Timotiti,16 year old grandson of a Vaitahu chief, lands in London, “…fell into the hands of a group of ultra-zealous missionaries, who dragged him from one missionary event to another as an example of a particularly spectacular conversion…He died within 3 years, on 2 December 1802.

There never seems to be a time in history in which tattoo was without official sanction or use. It would be unthinkable in some cultures not to be tattooed, for both men and women.

The practice of tattoo was never “left to get on with it” – or as Chalmers writes: “in a similar way as they have been for much of history.”  What has happened is that in the West these practices which date back centuries became prohibited as savage and unholy and banned from view being brushed into dark alleys and unseemly places.  T&P becomes the victim of neglect.

The history of T&P is wrong and the history of how governments used and regulated tattoo is simply made up, fictionalized by Chalmers.

More good reasons to soundly oppose and reject this article:

Chalmers’ Sentence [4]

[4] In general, this correlates with leaving the industry controlled and managed by unlicensed and almost wholly unregulated personnel, although pockets of practitioners are known to promote good practice, form associations/interest groups and contribute to the development of the guidance and codes of practice that are currently available.

Some so-called under-educated T&P practitioners may not perform as well on written tests (Chalmers points this out in Part 2) as some privileged white middle class males, but they are able to work safely and effectively without being able to cite chapter and verse. To demonstrate how false the argument is, even the most educated in the medical community can cite chapter and verse but still struggle with performance issues. Keep this in mind as you read Part 2 and 3.

The statement: “controlled and managed by unlicensed and almost wholly unregulated personnel“ resonates with public danger, which is why this formulaic expression is found in other writers as well, almost verbatim, who also find it attractive, but nonetheless prejudicial, nonetheless false since no one is advocating that position.

Piercing has a different history.

Piercing, however, has a distinctly modern history not a continuation of any past tradition. Piercing is discontinuous though justification is sought to legitimize the practice, to “anchor it in some historical past” (as Caplan says of many books about tattoo), such as in Modern Primitives, and fictionally as was done by Doug Molloy.

As soon as tattoo magazines emerged Gauntlet was seen advertising piercing jewelry, certainly by 1986 but perhaps earlier. On the east coast and perhaps elsewhere as early as the late 70s Wild Bill was trying to convince tattooists to embrace piercing. The initial success of commercial piercing shops seemed to follow the exposure and success of Jim Ward’s Gauntlet with other prominent practitioners and promoters of piercing, like Fakir Musafar on the West Coast who became a famous name after his featured place in Modern Primitives appeared, and Wild Bill, circulating on the East Coast. By the early nineties other practitioners gained notoriety, such as Lucas Spira and Emilio Gonzales who traveled internationally and pushed piercing beyond “off-the-shelf” regular commercial piercing, creating a new phenomenon of performance art, of implant, cutting and suspension.  This was even used by groups of traveling performers in the early 21st century such as Disgraceland in the US and hard core Wild Style in the EU creating spectacle.

Jim Ward’s Gauntlet was the commercializing spearhead that created the oportunity for growth and development. Wes Wood of Unimax,  Carey Brief of Rings and Things, Wild Bill of Pleasurable Piercings, Pierre Thiebault, Barry Blanchard of Anatometal were early entrepreneurs who developed and produced what soon became the essence of piercing: fashionable jewelry, not just plain bars with balls. As suppliers, we produced and standardized the jewelry, invented, refined, and improved the tools and the techniques. It was not associations/interest groups. Suppliers provided the information, the product, the help, and the health and safety information for clients and practitioners. Let no "late-comers" writing books distort what they were not aware of.

Unimax took a lead role in providing useful Information and interpretations about best practices, including the proper jewelry for piercings. For example, while practitioners and interest groups were improperly teaching and promoting CBRs for navels Unimax had a decade long campaign arguing that the failure rate of navel piercing was caused by using CBR’s. Wes Wood also made significant efforts to oppose the practice of “soaking” jewelry in hard surface disinfectants and sterilizing solutions advocating sterilization as the minimum acceptable standard in spite of accept practice promoted by others. But it was Gauntlet that provided the first comprehensive handbook and piercing instruction manual that has remained virtually unchanged to this day. Copied and expanded today, Gauntlet’s work remains the classic reference. Jim Ward also established Piercer Training Centers and produced safe and successful piercers with a week’s training. Fakir still teaches on the West Coast. Organizations, associations and the like have had little or no impact and still have little or no members since their inception.

In should be added that T&P practitioners, more type A personalities, are not the first to line up to have self-appointed competitors subjecting them to another set of schemes, and giving up their rights to self-representation, on top of already existing state and municipal regulations. The main draw for "professional" organizations is the certificate to hang on the wall because some municipalities ask what organizations piercers belong to, and everyone wants to set themselves apart, to feel and present themselves as “professional,” to be certificated.

Tattoo shops take over piercing.

By the mid 90s piercing became centered in tattoo-run shops which had little specific interest in piercing as such, but caused the demise of the piercing-only shops. Already practicing safe tattooing, tattoo shops used their same safety precautions with the result that there never were any clusters of cases of any disease caused by piercing or tattoo itself, no public health threat, and no significant numbers of easily treated infections. Dentists are vocally opposed to oral piercings because stainless steel was originally used which did cause clients to crack and damage their teeth, especially when the person was not careful eating. This was seen early on by suppliers such as Unimax who produced soft materials that solved these problems. In spite of the cure widely practiced, misguided criticism by dentists continues long after the remedies have been in place. The rest of the arguments you hear today sound more like rationalizations and inventions than of likely concern to commercially available standard piercings. In Part 2 Chalmers presents some curious and bizarre reasons to oppose piercing.  Concerning safety, basically nothing much was needed that tattoo shops were not already doing. The fact of very few easily treated health problems proves the safety record.

Chalmers claims that written tests and observations indicate that the level of safety is very poor, in need of action, in need of management and control, and therefore proposes a sweeping overhaul with stringent new regulations including psycho-evaluations of clients to determine their eligibility for T&P; new laws regarding placement and approved content, and as she says, it is crucial to know who is tattooing and why they are tattooing. There will be psychological profiling that practitioners will have to submit to in order to be allowed to T&P.

Chalmers approach is reminiscent of what can be read in Religious Tattoos and Convict Transportation to Australia (JC)

The state also needed to gather information about convicts’ labour skills, to facilitate their allocation to appropriate work locations.  The second imperative, however, was psychological. The desire to “know” the convict was driven by the need to accumulate power over its subject. In order to re-embody the prisoner within a deferential landscape it was necessary to strip away her/his agency. Once paraded, degradingly near-naked, under the omnipotent-seeming official eye, prisoners starkly experienced themselves as humiliated subjects of disciplinary knowledge (JC, p120)

This is a common complaint when enforcers and inspectors visit. It is a universal complaint against bureaucrats "Just doing their job (and loving the power of it)."

It happened to me if I can relate a true personal story.

In 1997 I was appointed by the Counsel of the City of New York, the Department of Health, and the Environmental Protection Administration to oversee safe and sanitary procedures at the First NYC Tattoo Convention, of which I was a partner, being invited to join by the organizers, Steve Bongi and Butch Garcia. On opening day, a Friday, four Health Department Inspectors entered. I approach the supervisor with outstretched hand to give her a welcome. Miss Greene stopped, stood with her hand at her side and said "We're not here to be your friend Mr. Wood" and never offer her hand.

The problem is: the viewer has the problem, not T&P.

The problems are not with tattoo, the problem resides in the prejudices of the viewer. We don't have a problem, Chalmers has the problem.

Chalmers warns that practitioners may become hostile because of the new rules but will get used to them over time. She uses the word “hostile” and then dismisses the possibility once those rules embed themselves with effective, stringent, active enforcement. . Does anyone doubt how hostile this could become when she develops her psycho-standards based on interpreting “risk-taking” as a pathological disqualifier, and defining “risk-taking” as evidenced by having a tattoo, and censoring content and placement.

Public monies should not go to support these ill-conceived obsessions and policy makers should distance themselves from any such ideas..

More needs to be said about this back-hand slur:

“…pockets of practitioners are known to promote good practice…”

There are no “pockets” of practitioners cooperating to promote healthy procedures. There are no meetings going on, no syllabus being developed by local groups of shop owners.  In Part 2 Chalmers contradicts this statement by criticizing a lack of cooperation among practitioners. Plainly, simply, there is no need to form associations/interest groups and T&P practitioners know it.

As the running list of examples above has shown, governments have engaged tattoo when it suited their purposes. Chalmers blames tattooists for their treatment at the hands of government officials. States opposed efforts to establish health standards, licensing, and regulations wanting to continue to prohibit tattooing, but they have been forced by legal action, especially in the U.S., to rescind the criminalization and prohibition against tattoo. Even on Sept. 9, 2010 KPCC Wire Services report

A federal appeals court today ruled tattooing is constitutionally protected free speech and overturned the city of Hermosa Beach's ban on tattoo parlors. (2010)

The truth is, many governments have been forced, kicking and screaming, and resentful, and vindictive, into passing legislation allowing citizens to exercise their charter and constitution rights which the states denied them. Some vindictive legislators retaliate by imposing high and difficult hurdles to prevent the exercise of citizen rights, such as  zoning, building codes, and other clever ruses.

Chalmers' article advocates the reduction of some charter and constitutional rights by a complex set of rules and regulations to decrease the incidence of T&P thus decreasing the popularity of T&P: the final and real justification for this article.

Public Health educational efforts are the reasonable choice and the only choice likely to be considered proper, correct and effective.