UPDATE: In the original version of this story, the date of the event was listed as April 28. The actual date of the event is April 23.
Sara Eve Rivera says she’s wanted to be a tattoo artist since she was about 7 years old, when she saw her dad’s brand-new tattoo. “I was obsessed with the idea that you could draw on yourself permanently,” she recalls.
But while things have improved in the past few years, Rivera says the field of tattooing hasn’t always been welcoming to female artists. “It was quite a struggle to break into, and there weren’t a lot of women who could help guide you,” she says. Earning respect and gaining experience were both challenges, she says, adding that she spent a lot of time not creating tattoos, but working the front desk and handling customer service.
Now she’s the proprietor of her own shop in Dormont, PMA Tattoos (Positive Mental Attitude). She specializes in cover-up tattoos, whether it’s someone adding to a now-outdated tattoo from an earlier point in their life, or someone looking to cover a scar. It’s work she takes very seriously.
“It’s really heavy, some days it really weighs on me, because you may be covering over self-inflicted scars or a tattoo that has a really strong negative connection for someone,” Rivera says. “A lot of people compare tattoo artists to therapists. The difference for us is usually the person doesn’t speak about why they’re covering something up. But you can always feel there is a tension, and so you have to build that sense of trust and respect their privacy.”
On April 23, Rivera will be donating her skills to a fundraiser for GirlGov, the arm of the Women & Girls Foundation focused on getting more women involved in government. She had been talking with fellow tattoo artist Laura Hammel, of Gypsy Tattoo in Lawrenceville, about wanting to do something using tattooing as political activism, when she was approached by the event’s organizers, 412 Resistance.
A $10 ticket, plus a $50 donation, gives participants the option to get one of six different tattoo designs, including a couple with the now-infamous phrase “Nevertheless She Persisted,” which has become a feminist rallying cry. Sen. Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, uttered the words in a complaint about Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s refusal to yield the floor during a discussion about now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ nomination.
“Obviously Mitch McConnell gave us the phrase,” says Lara Huber, of 412 Resistance.
For those not totally down with the idea of having a Republican senator’s words permanently inked on their bodies, temporary tattoos will also be available for $10.
412 Resistance came out of the January Women’s March, and is working to bring attention to issues that affect women’s rights. The group chose the Women & Girls Foundation for the tattoo fundraiser, specifically the GirlGov program, because of the poor representation of women in elected office in the Keystone State. As of January, the state legislature was only 19 percent female, with only one woman representing Allegheny County.
“This is a perfect example of the kinds of partnerships we’ve been trying to foster since our inception,” says Tara Simmons, vice president of the Women & Girls Foundation. The GirlGov program takes the place of civics classes for a lot of its participants, and it also works to train girls to use their voices to affect change in their communities, as well as for future careers in government, Simmons says.
The tattoo fundraiser will be held at 3-7 p.m. Sun., April 23, at the Irma Freeman Center for Imagination, 5006 Penn Ave., Bloomfield. Tickets are $10 (you don’t have to get tattooed at all), and proceeds benefit the GirlGov program of the Women & Girls Foundation.