One woman explains:
The tattoo is of a Paranthropus boisei specimen, KNM-ER 406. Paranthropus boisei is an early hominin that lived in Eastern Africa about 2.6 - 1.4 MA. I find the derived craniofacial morphology of the species to be very striking and beautiful.Then there's the woman who wrote a dissertation titled "'Blood at the Root': Lynching as American Cultural Nucleus" — and wanted some image representing that permanently inked on her body. She writes:
I've gotten some interesting reactions to the tattoo. One person said it was "uhm ... very occupational." Another told me it was "aggressive." Most people are able to recognize it as some type of primate cranium, although I once had someone confuse the cranium with a Koopa Troopa from Mario, the video game!
Initially, I wanted to tattoo myself to represent some kind of closure to this research but, by the end of the process, I realized there is no closing, no seam between my intellectual and personal life or between my mind and body. The tattoo concretes intellectual, affective, and ethical commitments.Initially, I read that as an expression of the desire to wield the needle herself — perhaps to heighten the experience of pain and really understand something about lynching. Then, I realized "tattoo myself" just meant get a tattoo. And "concret[ing] intellectual, affective, and ethical commitments"? Well, isn't that what everyone who gets a tattoo is thinking, more or less?
And one woman got her calves tattooed with the giant letters "READ" (left calf) and "BOOKS" (right calf), which I think stands (literally!) as a warning not to read books (if this is what it leads to).