More than fifty years after it was published, The Feminine Mystique is still hailed as a groundbreaking feminist work. Despite the social advances made in part by the text, new research suggests that men between the ages of 18 and 46 still do not respond well to body art depicting the author.
“Many of the men described themselves as feminists, yet still they failed to get fired up when presented with that sweet Friedan ink,” says lead researcher Dr. Taryn Gudzowski. “It’s puzzling, to say the least.”
A research team at Southwestern Connecticut University has published findings based on their examination of 900 men exposed to a wide range of Betty Friedan tattoos. The tattoos spanned several generations and were sometimes accompanied by quotes or roses. In the first experiment, men were shown slides of the tattoos and asked to evaluate them for originality and attractiveness.
“They typically had not read The Feminine Mystique and assumed the portrait was a likeness of the subject’s mother,” says Dr. Gudzowski. “Most tried to be respectful, but they thought it was a little weird.”
Once they were told the identity of the woman, participants exhibited signs of confusion and stress. Scientists recorded a sharp increase in sweat production and a spike in average heart rate by more than 23 beats per minute.
“This tells us that when men see a Betty Friedan tattoo, their vitals go haywire,” says Gudzowski. “It’s instant fight-or-flight mode.”
Another experiment examined the sexual response of the millennial male to Betty Friedan tattoos. Male test subjects were presented with various photographs of women’s arms, while electrodes connected to their penises measured their levels of arousal. Arms with Betty Friedan tattoos scored the lowest.
“The data is remarkably consistent: Men feel threatened by Betty Friedan tattoos,” says Gudzowski. “They do not perceive these tattoos as ‘chill’ in any way.”
Experts warn against seeking laser tattoo removal in response to these findings.
“It seems to go against the ethos of the tattoo,” says Liza Catone, an East Village-based tattoo artist. “There are better reasons to go in for an update, like if your women’s studies professor dumps you or something.”
According to Catone, there are many options for those who would like to upgrade their Second Wave feminist tattoo to a Third or Fourth Wave one.
“We’ve got binders full of women tattoos,” she says. “Butler, hooks, you name it. Roxane Gay tattoos are really big right now. Do some reading and get back to us.”
Gudzowski and her team will publish their findings in the forthcoming edition of American scientific journal, Inked.