What a Difference a Tattoo MakesDecember 02, 2008
Tattoos seem to be in favor again as a decoration of choice among young women. Lower back, neck, or arm tattoos have become very evident during the summer months in recent years. I was just shown a new one by a friend of my niece, who very proudly wore a short shirt to showcase this latest work of “art” (brrrr, given that its 34 degrees at the moment).
I was a very young girl when I saw my first tattoo. It was on the arm of a neighbor’s grandmother, and I had no clue what it represented until my own mom took time to explain it to me one afternoon. Over a cup of hot chocolate, I listened as my mom told the grandmother’s story of being in a concentration camp during World War II and receiving the tattooed numbers as an identification mark. She said the grandmother had been separated from her family and never saw them again, but that she was fortunate to survive and have a family of her own. I apparently sighed with contentment, clueless and pleased with the “happy ending.”
It was only years later that I heard the full story of horror, pain, and despair relayed to me when I started asking questions again after reading Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl at school. I was struck by remembering the story of the grandmother down the block and finally put two and two together. I made a promise to visit the Anne Frank house when I went to Europe and eventually did so. I learned to question authority and never took “because that’s the way it is” as an answer (much to the annoyance, on occasion, of my parents, teachers, or bosses). Until I paused to think back, I never realized what a difference that tattoo ultimately made in my own life.
This December is Universal Human Rights month, celebrating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted on December 10, 1948, by the General Assembly of the United Nations without dissent. Human rights and women’s issues are unfortunately intertwined. We all know that education is a key deterrent to human rights violations, and I encourage you to use AAUW as a vehicle when teaching others about their rights as women. In the meantime, I will be buying a few copies of Anne Frank’s book to give to some young folks I know — to help them question their world, too.