Friday, September 21, 2007

How Did We Get On This Topic: Above-the-Butt Tattoos, Raven, and Pregnancy

Okay, here's a topic I didn't expect to find while browsing through my comic blog feeds:

Avi at the Four Color Media Monitor brings up the case of Raven from The Teen Titans, who early in the Wolfman/Perez run warned females that using drugs could complicate their pregnancy. He points out that later on in the Geoff Johns run Raven gets an above-the-butt tattoo.

He then cites medical research that the ink from these tattoos could complicate a woman's pregnancy if an epidural injection is used.

The issue is whether it's safe to stick a needle through a tattoo in the lower back for an epidural -- an injection of painkilling medicine that can ease the discomfort of labor. There has been an explosion in recent years in women's lower-back tattoos -- often ornate designs that take up a lot of surface area near the vertebrae where epidural needles are typically inserted. In 2002, a pair of Canadian anesthesiologists published a report that questioned whether administering an epidural through such a tattoo could be risky. The doctors speculated that complications like inflammation or nerve damage may arise if the needle pulled a bit of dyed skin along with it, and then deposited it into the nerve-rich region outside the spinal column.

His point?

Raven's a hypocrite. Or DC. Or both.

Personally, I think he might be looking a little too far into the storyline. Was Johns aware of either Raven's previous stand on pregnancy or the potential complications of lower-back tattoos? Probably not.

But Avi does bring up the bigger topic of whether these superheroes, especially teenaged ones, are role models for young people and should not be presented smoking, drinking, getting jaguar paws tattooed on their butt cheeks, and so on.

On a related topic, I am still deciding what above-the-butt tattoo I want to have done. I'm torn between the following images:


  1. I guess maybe because it's cause I'm a hippie liberal, but I wouldn't put lower back tattoos (or any tattoo for that matter) on the same list as smoking or drinking.

    I guess yeah, there could be complications with pregnancy. But the health risks pale in comparison to drinking and smoking.


  2. I'm a hippie liberal myself, although a straight edge one, and I think above the ass tattoos are the tackiest thing ever. I don't think the concern should be pregnancy so much as it should be the aesthetically vomit inducing look of the tattoos. Plus, aren't they going out of fashion? To give one to a female comic character in 2007 would be like giving one a tongue ring in 2007.

  3. Whether they're tacky is up to individual taste, but lower back tattoos sure don't seem to be going out of fashion. And tongue rings still abound as well. I guess it depends on what circles you run in.

    Anybody point out yet that Raven might just not get an epidural? They aren't required. Women can choose to not have painkillers.

    I had an acquaintance who gave birth without painkillers, standing up so as to allow gravity to aid in the delivery. She said it was much easier than she expected that way.

  4. As an empath, Raven getting painkillers would moot the tragic nature of her powers!

  5. So, wait - because Johns apparently didn't do extensive medical research on any potential negative side effects of a dumb tattoo (and apparently didn't remember ever word uttered by the character many, many years ago), DC and the fictional character they own are hypocrites?

    I'm genuinely stunned that somebody feels this worth discussion. I just... yeah, I'm gonna go outside or listen to records for a bit, or do something else as far removed from comics and the internets as possible.

  6. I must echo the comments of my fellow liberal hippies: tattoos on the same "morality level" as smoking or drinking? I have a full sleeve on my left arm, and I don't think that lessens my "role model" impact as a HS art teacher...

  7. The "back tattoos are a risk during epidurals" thing is a bullshit health-section meme that's been popping up in newspapers for a couple years now. It's nonsense, of the "potential baby-carriers ought always behave with propriety" type.

    The WSJ, as with most publishers of such panic driven and implicitly moralizing tripe, of course waits until VERY LAST SENTENCE OF THE ARTICLE to point out that there is not one iota of medical proof, or even an accumulating body of evidence, that back tattoos cause epidural complications. None. It's a borderline urban legend.

  8. Holy friggin' Hannah, is that stupid.

  9. Anonymous3:31 PM


    Raven's dad is a demon. I think she dosen't want a child, period.

  10. I'm not a hippie, and I think a more pertinent question is why a young woman would want a tattoo of a bird flying into her butt-crack.
    What kind of message is this supposed to send - that bird-based sodomy is 'kewl' among young womens? I though women only got those generic celtic bands in a vaguely triangular shape - this bestiality-condoning porn tattoo is a new one on me.

    Perhaps Johns is trying to start a trend.

  11. I have to agree with Ford, more or less. There doesn't appear to be any medical consensus that lower back tattoos are dangerous during childbirth. Furthermore, not every woman wants children, not every woman gives birth and not every woman uses epidural during labor.

    I think the pertinent question has nothing to do with tattoos, their tastefulness, their location, or their possible sexual implications: Why is the automatic question of women's health to do with reproductive health? I think it's appalling that a PSA to teenaged girls focuses 100% on their potential future pregnancies, and not on their own health, mental and physical.

    And to all the detractors of tattooed women: If you don't like them, that's your business, but going around calling any woman with a lower back tattoo a slut or a whore is absurd.

  12. Right ON, Lea.

    I have a tattoo that takes up most of my back. It's a tattoo. If someone wants to make an assumption about me based on my tattoo, then that reflects poorly on them. Not me.

  13. Good Lord, and they say female comic fans read too much into comics. Sheesh. A tattoo does not a slut make. Now if they slapped a tattoo on a character to "slut her up" or to make them all "emo" then yes I would have a problem with it. For example Wonder Woman with a tattoo might be a stretch or Super Girl (don't think you could give her one anyway). Now Raven has always been emo (correct me if I'm wrong, I only know her mostly from the cartoon). I mean she's the daughter of a demon etc. If anyone is gonna get a tattoo, I can see her doing it. As for health concerns, having a baby itself is more dangerous then getting a freaking tattoo. The USA is horrible when you look at the mortality rates of mothers vs other first world countries. Besides all of that who cares? She could probably use magic to get rid of the darn thing if she wanted to anyway.

  14. Hmmm...I was good up until someone went off about how girls with above the ass tattoos aren't sluts. Did anyone, either in the article cited or in the comments, call girls with those tattoos sluts? If they did, I missed it. It's this kind of raging against straw man arguments that quickly defeat any point you're trying to make.

    And to Jason, maybe I just run around in classier circles, because every woman I know considers ass tattoos and tongue rings to be tacky and passe.

    And to Leslie, just like I dress in button-up shirts and dress pants everyday because I want people to assume I have class, I'm going to think people with above the ass tattoos look tacky. They're my thoughts and I'm allowed to have them.

  15. Kenny, I was referring to Occasional Superheroine's original post and the quoted implication that a character having a tattoo makes them unsuitable to be a role model for children. I most certainly was not replying to you, nor was I trying to tell you what you should think.

  16. Because I know I judge whether someone's classy or not by the buttons on their shirt. Good grief, what kind of nasty little person makes spiteful judgements like that?

    The base of the spine is frequently used for tattoos because it's a fairly flat, large and stable area - it won't warp much with weight fluctuations. It's also central, so good for symmetrical designs, and easy to cover if you work with judgmental people like Kenny.

    Why is it considered socially desirable for women to waste time staining their face daily, but not to etch a bold design on their body? Ridiculous.