At least I am not getting the Chinese character for "Dishwasher"
May 7, 2011 10:19 AM   Subscribe

Is my potential tattoo reminiscent of anything that I'm not aware of? (An image on flickr)

I came up with these flags (a tic-tac-toe style X and O on triangular flags) for an art project, and I want to get them as a tattoo. But I have heard enough horror stories of people innocently getting tattoos that are reminiscent of something really horrible. (I already have a tattoo that people always think is a nicotine patch, which is annoying and I am going to get it revised.) Flags are always a volatile symbol; I want to make sure I don't end up reminding everyone of some crypto-racist thing that I don't know about.

So, hive mind: what does this image remind you of?
posted by 100kb to Society & Culture (39 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The signal corps?
posted by restless_nomad at 10:23 AM on May 7, 2011

It looks kind of like a stylized cat face if the cat were missing an eye.
posted by phunniemee at 10:25 AM on May 7, 2011 [3 favorites]

It looks kind of like a stylized cat face if the cat were missing an eye.

Compare it to this:
Now that I've seen the cat, I can't un-see it.
posted by endless_forms at 10:31 AM on May 7, 2011

Because the flag is tilted, it looks like a cross to me; I'd never guess that it's an "x". But, of course if you changed it, then it wouldn't be a cross when the flag was straight up...

At any rate, seeing it in the wild, I likely would have thought it was some kind of religious thing.
posted by lesli212 at 10:33 AM on May 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

They look like yacht club burgees. But that's not a bad thing.
posted by bubukaba at 10:35 AM on May 7, 2011

ha I see the cat too, but I don't think the resemblance is all that strong.

because people in general assume that flags symbolize a particular group or population, I think you'll be asked to answer "what does this stand for?" fairly often. my first thought is that it connotes something militant -- as in, a particular army regiment.
posted by elephantsvanish at 10:37 AM on May 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

It looks like a white power logo to me. I don't know why, it just does.
posted by Slinga at 10:39 AM on May 7, 2011 [8 favorites]

Totally Spy vs. Spy.
posted by rokusan at 10:40 AM on May 7, 2011 [8 favorites]

Slinga, I was coming here to say the same exact thing. It screams "white power" in my head, but I can't put my finger on why.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 10:48 AM on May 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

Agree. I also think it looks like a white power tattoo.

Speaking as someone whose first tattoo is based on a photoshop design, and who wishes it wasn't, but it's thick black lines that are difficult to do anything with, I think you should go to a custom artist who can design a colorful, nicely drawn, less geometric version of what you have here. A more illustrated image of a pair of flags won't seem nearly so much like a racist/gang symbol.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:52 AM on May 7, 2011 [7 favorites]

I must also admit it makes me think of white power. I thought that before seeing the other responses as well.
posted by otters walk among us at 10:53 AM on May 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

Here is a database of white power symbols from the anti-defamation league. I don't see anything close to your design.
posted by TheBones at 10:53 AM on May 7, 2011

It looks really militaristic to me.

I don't know that I'd associate it with White Power, but I would assume you were/had been in some branch of the military or possibly just had jingoistic quasi-fascist political leanings.

There's also the possibility that you'd inadvertently piss off someone in some branch of the military, sort of like the people who get all bent out of shape when civilians wear military fatigues as a fashion statement.

I would say the same whether it was rustic/geometric or you got an artist to do something a little more stylized.

Aside from all that, it seems odd to me to get a meaningless tattoo that seems so chock full of symbols. People are going to assume it means something. That could get really annoying, even if you didn't offend anyone.
posted by Sara C. at 11:02 AM on May 7, 2011

Response by poster: @Slinga @otters @PhoBWan That's what I was afraid of! Good pont about the black lines/flatness... I hadn't realized how many racist symbols have that sort of line quality. If the flags were fancied-up and wavy, it might look less weird. Should I should drop the flag idea altogether? Maybe getting a tattoo of a flag = weird connotations no matter what?
posted by 100kb at 11:02 AM on May 7, 2011

Slinga, I was coming here to say the same exact thing. It screams "white power" in my head, but I can't put my finger on why.

It does to me, too. I think it is threefold: a) the triangle flags are echoes of Klan hats; b) the cross on the flag looks very white powerish; and c) the flag poles are echoing that nazi rune and the AWB logo.
posted by Forktine at 11:02 AM on May 7, 2011 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: @Sara Yes, exactly... that's what I sort of suspected.... ugh.

Given the fact that I'm white, married to someone who isn't white and I hang out with a lot of queer anti-racist activists, maybe this isn't the smartest idea. If anyone's interested, here is the original context of the flags. I think the gold outfits really contextualize the flags.
posted by 100kb at 11:07 AM on May 7, 2011

I think flags are always symbols of something, so it's impossible to get a flag tattoo without people constantly asking you what the flags stand for. And yeah, even though the one on the right would be an x when it's standing straight up, it looks like a plus sign here. It looks like it should have meaning, and if it doesn't (beyond just being a design you like), you'll get frustrated with all the questions.
posted by MsMolly at 11:10 AM on May 7, 2011

I agree that the geometric starkness of it gives it a sort of militaristic hostile vibe, and the x looks like a + which enhances that. HOWEVER I do like the idea of X vs O (as in tic-tac-to), If you do decide to go with a revised less scary-looking version, if anyone asks what they stand for, it would be cute to tell them X and O is hugs and kisses.
posted by aubilenon at 11:25 AM on May 7, 2011

part of the nazi problem is that the flag poles cross and with the flags at the end, the whole thing sort of visually moves towards a swastika. basically, anything that looks like a cross but isn't quite goes into aryan nations territory. the X flag looking like a cross just seals the deal.

i think if you had two flags side by side it wouldn't have the same visual connotation. plus the X would look like an X not a cross.
posted by at 11:29 AM on May 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Somehow reminds me of Minesweeper.
posted by zengargoyle at 11:32 AM on May 7, 2011

Also reminds me a little of the semaphore letter U. And it sort of looks like .--. below it, which isn't an actual letter in morse code.

Turn the whole design to the right 90 degrees and turn the scratches into ... and you'll be spelling X and O again.
posted by aubilenon at 11:41 AM on May 7, 2011

That looks a bit like a neuropsychological test called the Rey-o:
posted by namesarehard at 11:43 AM on May 7, 2011

Something something straightedge something. There's no way to have a bold X on a tattoo not mean "straightedge", IMO.

Also, part of the white-poweryness is that the triangles are right triangles instead of pennant-shaped, which makes them kind of not look like flags and kind of look like hoods.
posted by mendel at 11:44 AM on May 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

If tic tac toe were elevated to Olympics-like status, this is what the logo of the tournament would look like.
posted by MuffinMan at 12:00 PM on May 7, 2011

Looks like two birds, one (on the right) dead - or a camouflaged swastika.
posted by iviken at 12:01 PM on May 7, 2011

And it sort of looks like .--. below it, which isn't an actual letter in morse code.
... which is the letter P in Morse code. FTFY. But I thought it looked like ...., which is H.

The flags, even if they didn't have right angles, aren't the same as any international signal flags; numbers 1 & 2 are triangular with circles, numbers 4 & 8 are triangular with crosses, but not like yours. And they would be one above the other, rather than being crossed, to mean anything as a flag hoist (but if you put them the other way round and did them in different colours, you could pretend they meant '42').
posted by Lebannen at 12:20 PM on May 7, 2011

I saw an angry bulldog with and x and an o on the ears.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:37 PM on May 7, 2011

The original context image has the flags asymmetrical. That would actually go a long way in taking it away from looking so military or white powerish. I would definitely take this sketch in to a tattoo artist whose work you like and ask them for their own rendition, pointing out the concerns you have.

Just repositioning, retexturing, resizing, etc. can get rid of all the issues mentioned in this thread.
posted by Vaike at 12:43 PM on May 7, 2011

Why don't you get a tattoo artist to do a rendition of the original photo you linked to up thread? I think the simplified design doesn't capture the energy of the photo. You could have line drawing people holding the flags or just silhouettes of figures, but I think the image could make a cool tattoo with, say, sailor style cartoonish people. The figures in the photo take away from the stark "X" the flag poles are forming, and provide some context in the "x" vs "o" symbolism.
posted by smartypantz at 12:47 PM on May 7, 2011

A lot of people associate the plus sign with being HIV-positive. My first thought was you might be making some sort of statement about seroconversion or "HIV-negative and HIV-positive unity". Or something. Oh, and the white power thing too.
posted by aquafortis at 2:51 PM on May 7, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for all your responses... I imagine you've saved me from getting a lot of weird looks and uncomfortable reactions in the future! It looks like I will have to completely re-think this tattoo and approach it from a different direction.
posted by 100kb at 2:52 PM on May 7, 2011

On the other hand, if your blood type is O-positive it will be a useful guide for anyone trying to give you a transfusion.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 3:18 PM on May 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

When I looked at it, I saw a face.
posted by lover at 4:50 PM on May 7, 2011

Reminds me of the grumpy old cat on The Pinky Show.
posted by ovvl at 4:54 PM on May 7, 2011

I see two people kissing. But one of them has their eyes open.
posted by iamkimiam at 5:27 PM on May 7, 2011

If you get something that isn't concrete people will interpret it differently than you. YOUR interpretation is the important one. I'm not saying that you should ignore everything anyone has to say, only that you will never ever get everyone on the same page, so make sure YOU are seeing what you want to see.

That said, for me, I like the X and O flags, but would like them more organic. I don't see anything white power-y about it.
posted by dirtdirt at 6:23 PM on May 7, 2011

Well, they do look like the components of the Odin's cross shown on the ADL page TheBones posted. I didn't know the symbol, but that vague similarity might have something to do with why some of us are finding it obscurely sinister-looking. Angling the flags more or less so that the X reads more immediately as an X really could help a lot.

The shape of the flags is odd, as mendel mentioned, though I didn't go to a "klan hood" reading—rather, it just looks weird, which would draw added attention to the tattoo and thus encourage people to try and interpret it, thus, in turn, making it more likely that some percentage of people would read into it something racist.

If tic-tac-toe is your explicit intended reference (this isn't 100% clear from your question or follow-up responses), is there some way to incorporate the 3×3 grid into the flags themselves, or even behind them? Having, for example, an in-progress tic-tac-toe game in the background could both look good and encourage your intended reading. Rendering the X and O as handwritten rather than typeset could accomplish the same.

Along the same lines and as has been mentioned, the graphic quality of the design doesn't help. More naturalistic flags would look "softer" and perhaps less menacing. If you're not averse to sporting color-work, that could also steer people away from unsavory interpretations. I'd avoid solid black, red, and blue. To my knowledge, no white power groups color their insignia green or yellow or orange or purple or brown.
posted by wreckingball at 8:34 PM on May 7, 2011

They remind me of maritime flags. I think people assume that flags are a symbol of something, so even though they may not read anything sinister into it, you might get tired of explaining that it's just a design you like.
posted by emd3737 at 9:42 PM on May 7, 2011

This is like a fun inkblot test. I thought of maritime flags, and hugs and kisses.
posted by sugarbomb at 9:17 PM on May 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

« Older Rural living close to the big city?   |   What do you call a sweater with thumb holes? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.