Of all the topics taught to us in children’s books - friendship, kindness, the birds and the bees, etc - tattoos aren’t something that crop up often during bed time hour. But considering the stigma still attached to body ink, wouldn’t it make sense to teach kids that being tatted doesn’t make you a bad person?
Seeing as there isn’t much of a competitive market in the tattooed themed children's book department, multidisciplinary artist Marilyn Rondón decided to fill that gap. With her book Why Does Mommy Have Tattoos she wants to teach kids that tattoos aren’t scary, they’re simply art.
“I decided that with my knowledge of tattoo culture and imagination that I should write an innocently imaginative book to make tattoos less "scary" for children since there’s still a negative stigma attached to heavily tattooed individuals,” Marilyn tells Konbini. “The world is changing and evolving, I figured as a fully tattooed woman I could offer a fun story for tattooed mommies to share with their young.”
Marilyn, with her own remarkable collection of tattoos, feels it’s important for kids to know that “tattoos are simply an art form, a very beautiful art form,” and she draws from her own experiences and channels the discrimination and stigma she faced into an important lesson for the younger generation.
“Everyone has tattoos, why is it still not talked about to children?”
Why Does Mommy Have Tattoos is about self-acceptance, teaching kids not to “judge a book by it’s cover” (excuse the pun) no matter how inked it is. We caught up with Marilyn to learn more about the book, what it means to her, and her experience being a tatted gal.
Konbini: What made you want to start a children's book?
Marilyn Rondón: It's been a dream since I was in high school to illustrate a children's book, or animate a cartoon show. I've based a lot of my practice creating imaginary friends so to share it with kids is like a dream come true.
As someone who's got quite a few tattoos, what do you feel is the stigma attached to them?
They most definitely are a point of conversation. I'll say the biggest stigma is that they're considered "ghetto" or "trashy" or "cheap". I've been approached walking down the street several times asking if I sell drugs, or how much for a night with me, it's infuriating. I've had uber drivers ask me if I'm a stripper.
I don't know where in people’s minds tattoos correlate with that, but it's extremely ignorant. I try to not take offense to comments like that, it's just mad annoying. I've been denied service in restaurants, not allowed at hotels because of my tattoos. I wish that would change.
Do you think your experience with tattoos and how people perceive you is different because you're a woman?
Absolutely, I get asked “why” a lot - "Why would you do that to your beautiful face". People I've known have literally begged me to not get another face tattoo, and again, it's extremely infuriating. Why force your opinion onto someone? Do you pay my bills? Do you walk my shoes? Do you have any idea what it is to be me? No, So don't tell me how to live my life. If I decide I wanna tattoo an ice cream cone on my cheek it's my choice. So leave me be.
When I got my first face tattoo, I got hell from it. My boss at the time actually punched me in the arm and she herself has tattoos, yelling at me at work in front of coworkers and customers "what the fuck is wrong with you". I kept my composure but I will never forget that. The tattoo was done also by a woman, a very respected, extremely talented tattooer, who had tattooed her boyfriends' face several times and no one blinked an eye - but she got hell for tattooing my face because I was a 24 year old woman. It's still very upsetting to me that anyone would have a problem with how I live my life.
What do you want to be the takeaway from Why Does Mommy Have Tattoos?
When I was a kid, my understanding of tattoos was that they were not meant for women, and if you had a tattoo, you were most likely involved in a gang, have been to prison, were a gypsy - an outcast to society. Like most projects I do, people either love it or hate it, I'm not trying to put too much of my energy in being concerned about that, it's for the kids.
I'm trying to speak about something that in my opinion has been ignored. We live in a totally different world nowadays. Everyone has tattoos, and why is it still not talked about to children?
Why Does Mommy Have Tattoos? is due for release the first week of May.