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Date of Award


Document Type

Restricted Thesis: Campus only access

Degree Name

Master of Arts in English Composition



First Reader/Committee Chair

Cavallaro, Alexandra


More often than not, when we think about visual rhetoric, especially in the fields of composition and literature, we imagine such visual texts as video games, advertisements, and graffiti/art. It’s rare that our thoughts turn to tattoos and the idea that women’s tattoos in particular, as visual text, act as a rhetorical device subverting dominant social norms of how heteropatriarchy defines woman and femininity. The dominant notions of how we think about text – writing, rhetoric, and the publication of narrative – facilitates the construction of a tattoo rhetoric. Utilizing a feminist lens, this thesis demonstrates the visual rhetoric of women’s tattoos and the construction of a tattoo rhetoric, drawing from elements of queers of color, women of color, and visual rhetoric scholars, as well as such theorists as Judith Butler, Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Roland Barthes, and Mikhail Bakhtin. I explore Shelly Jackson’s Skin and the embodied texts of Kat Von D’s tattoos to convey the disidentification from and deconstruction of traditional and dominant notions of writing, rhetoric, and narrative, as well as heteropatriarchal constructs and governance of women, women’s bodies, and femininity. The visual rhetoric of women’s tattoos empowers women to radically challenge mainstream perceptions of feminine beauty, reclaim agency over their own bodies, and construct new meaning of woman and embodied texts. Women’s tattooed bodies facilitate the deconstruction of dominant ideologies of woman, femininity, and of text; the reconstruction of how woman and visual text are defined; and the construction of a tattoo rhetoric.