If we've learned anything from the Me Too Movement, it's that sexual harassment and assault can happen to anyone. Regardless of your gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation or social economic status–millions of people around the world are subjected to inappropriate sexual behavior throughout their lifetime. And while no place is better or worse, sexual harassment in the workplace is especially heinous. Every industry under the sun, from Hollywood to Wall Street, has numerous cases of inappropriate sexual behavior and the tattoo industry is no exception. Take a look at one artist's Me Too story in the gallery below and let us know how you believe that tattoo industry should stand up to sexual harassment in the comments section on Facebook.
Young Bae is a tattooer and cast member of VH1's Black Ink Crew: New York. And while she's currently the owner of Manhattan's Diamond Tattoos, her life wasn't always so glamorous. Bae was born into a struggling and impoverished family in Seoul, South Korea—at times experiencing homelessness as a child. Unlike many of the privileged clientele she tattoos today, Bae lived in Church basements, abandoned houses and even a shipping container throughout her childhood and adolescent years.
However, despite her struggles, she had a natural talent for art at a young age and earned a partial-scholarship to a prestigious art university in South Korea. After completing school, Bae traveled to NYC in 2007 with just $73 to her name. Upon arriving in New York, Bae was able to hustle and grind her way to becoming a tattooer in one of the most competitive cities in the world. And just two years later, she made the decision to open up her own shop, giving birth to Diamond Tattoos.
“I rented this little ratty spot on 46th St in Times Square. It was literally a storage room in the back of an eyebrow threading shop. I got licensed, worked like three additional jobs to afford the $1000/month overhead and scoured the area to find shelves, paint and other stuff to decorate. I upholstered my first tattoo chairs with fake leather I found on the street. Then every day I’d go hold up this human-sized sign advertising my shop, and miraculously people showed up. Eventually so many showed up I quickly outgrew the space!”
It was because of her impressive reputation in New York City that Bae caught the attention of Viacom producers, eventually landing a spot on season 5 of Black Ink Crew: New York. However, despite her unbelievable Cinderella story, Bae faced her fair share of bumps along the road when becoming a tattoo artist.
In an interview with the Domenick Nati Show, Young Bae was asked if she'd had a me too moment or had experienced sexual assault. She replied that men have said to her "Oh if you're a woman you can't do this or that. If you want to learn, you have to suck my dick."
Bae went on to explain that comments such as this are what led her to open her own business, stating that she didn't have money at the time to open up her own shop but that she did it because she couldn't deal with that. "You don't have to do nothing to be successful as a woman, you just gotta work hard," she explains.
Bae is far from the first female tattoo artist to report sexual harassment or assault in the tattoo world, however, her story can hopefully inspire other women to come forward with their experiences. Although tattooing is a male dominated industry and every apprentice has their share of horror stories, this type of behavior has never and will never be acceptable. Every artist, regardless of their gender, race or sexual orientation, should feel comfortable in their shop and not be subjected to inappropriate behavior from their bosses, coworkers or clients. And this goes for clients as well. There is no excuse for inappropriate behavior from a tattoo artist and there should be serious consequences for artists who treat their female clients in this way.
What do you think about Young Bae's powerful story? What do you think that the tattoo industry can do to combat sexual harassment and sexual assault? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section on Facebook.