Date of Award

January 2017

Degree Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


English and Theatre

First Advisor

Erin Presley

Department Affiliation

English and Theatre

Second Advisor

Tom Butler

Department Affiliation

English and Theatre


The importance of tattooing as an area of feminist composition study lies in its challenge to male discourse concerning the subjectivity of sexed, particularly female sexed, bodies that feminism has long ignored due to fear of essentialization. Cixous argues: "…Censor the body and you censor breath and speech at the same time. Write yourself. Your body must be heard" (8). Tattooing has transitioned from writing masculine group identity (gangs, prisoners, sailors, etc.) into writing feminine embodied experience. It is a way for women to rewrite institutionalized norms of womanhood and humanity. Consequently, this paper argues that tattoos are a form of l' écriture féminine (écriture féminine). This is problematized, however, because unlike poetry, the original écriture féminine, described by Cixous in her essay "The Laugh of Medusa", tattoos are not usually inscribed by the women in whose skin they reside. Instead, tattoos are bought. The commodification of body and experience in this transaction supports a capitalist structure that upholds oppressive phallogocentric relations of power. Tattoos are far from another act of choice feminism that has been sublated into capitalist superstructures, though. The position of tattooing as an (anti)commodity raises important questions concerning feminist practices in late capitalism. This paper explicates how tattooing differs from other popular feminist fashions. In the end, it resolves the role capital conflict for women getting tattooed. Utilizing the concept of Body without Organs outlined in Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-Oedipus, this paper asserts that tattoos still act as écriture féminine and as a result, carry revolutionary potential. Becoming a Body without Organs through écriture féminine is a resistance writing that complicates institutionalized codification.