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A tattoo poem by Di Lebowitz: Subversion

I’m Di Lebowitz and what some would consider a heavily tattooed woman although sometimes I forget just how much ink is on my skin.

I remember being six or seven when I saw a tattooed woman for the first time – a black rose poking out of a blonde and athletic woman’s tank top at a supermarket. I was enchanted and asked my mother what I had seen. It’s a tattoo, drawing on the skin. Only cheap women have tattoos. Triads have tattoos. Good girls don’t get tattoos.

Growing up in Hong Kong in the 80s and 90s, that was the view: girls and women who wish to be accepted in society simply do not get tattoos. Getting inked was one of the greatest acts of rebellion – I ran towards it.

I was sixteen when I got my first tattoo in Paris. It was excruciating but I became addicted to the power I felt in my defiance. Getting tattooed became especially important for me after I was sexually assaulted by an ex-boyfriend at seventeen. Each line, each dot, became my way of reclaiming my body that for a long time didn’t feel like my own. In a sense, my tattoos feel like an armour, a protective suit of ink from all the incidents of assault and harassment I had to endure. All of my tattoos tell a story and mark a different point in my recovery.

For the Tattoo Anthology, I wrote SUBVERSION – a poem in which I share with the reader my journey. From a simple act of teenage rebellion to reclamation and finally a celebration of who I am as a woman that chooses not to fit the mould.

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Di Lebowitz is an Expert Level Krav Maga Instructor from Hong Kong living in London and author of her debut memoir, The Marks Left on Her. She is currently working on her second book and a collection of poetry.

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The Transformative Power of Tattoo will be released by Guts in September 2023. Pre-orders are available on our website for £8.95 (£2 off the retail price of £10.95). You can pre-order a copy here:

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