Cry Wolf

If there are Christian tattoo artists, we may have the next wave of anti-anti-discrimination cases.

I can’t say I find Mr. Bythewood’s argument for not providing the tattoo particularly convincing (is there really a “traditional tattoo honor code?”) but that’s the point. I don’t have to.  It’s his business, and unless I’m very mistaken, he’s not the only tattoo artist in New York.

Anti-discrimination laws, including those based on gender, were most needed when discrimination was extensive, unregenerate and unlocalized.  Since the 1950s, America has switched the defaults, and marginalized the kinds of discrimination that were taken for granted: based on race, gender, and now even sexual orientation.  There will never be no discrimination unless someone has finally figured out a way to make a utopia work when its inhabitants will be human beings endowed with liberty.  The best a free society can hope for is to stand, as a whole, for individual liberty, draw clear enough lines about what is truly out-of-bounds, and leave the gray areas for people to negotiate.

Getting a tattoo, ordering a cake for your wedding, arranging for a photographer to document your happiness; these are perfectly respectable gray areas where there are choices pretty much anywhere in this country.  Those choices will not always be ideal ones everywhere, but unless the rule we are seeking is that everyone must have ideal choices everywhere, every time, we have to consider what the appropriate limits on government power must be.

I don’t want my government demanding that I can get a tattoo or a cake from anyone I want.  As an un-inked American, I could no more have gotten a tattoo from Mr. Bythewood than Jane Marie could.  Going somewhere else is one of the calamities I must live with as someone who values a free society.

Bythewood is partly right that Jane Marie trivializes the tradition of feminism with her overstated “wolf cry.”  But that kind of self-dramatizing is becoming endemic.  As true discrimination has diminished, it takes more effort to play the victim.  Histrionics are practically necessary.

This does not just trivialize the profoundly important movements that got us to today, it trivializes government itself.  There are vitally important things that we should expect of our government.  But policing an infinite number of daily commercial and personal transactions is not among them.

38 Comments for “Cry Wolf”

  1. posted by Zendo Deb on

    The problem is the history of these laws. If you say, you don’t have to provide services to everyone, would segregation become commonplace? If a baker doesn’t have to cook for a gay couple, does a restauranteur have to provide dinner for a black couple? What exactly is the difference in these 2 examples?

    The decision was made during the Civil Rights fights, that if you run a “public accommodation” (i.e. a business open to the public) you have to do so without respect to color, creed (there were “No Jews” and “No Catholics” signs. And I think you would see “No Muslims” added to that list in short order.) National Origin: If you go back a ways, you could find similar stuff against the Irish, the Germans, etc. Europeans who still faced some level of discrimination when they first got to these shores. And discrimination against women was mostly done away with in the 70s and 80s.

    And I’m sure you can find folks who have RELIGIOUS-BASED objections to all of this today. Should we eliminate the “public accommodation” rules, and go back to the way it was?

  2. posted by Zendo Deb on

    So to pull that rambling back into your example… What if your tattoo artist doesn’t want to work on blacks? Or won’t work on Muslims?

    Would that be the mark of a free society? (pun intended?)

  3. posted by Tom Jefferson III on

    1. Yes, Stephen. If I give money to a baker or any other business and they fail to offer the goods and or services I have paid for, you better believe I want the government to step in. This is one of the reasons that we have a civil courts, albeit probably small claims. Maybe Stephen believes that a baker or a tattoo artist can take customer’s money and then offer a ‘religious objection-sorry-no-refunds’ excuse.

    2. I was under the impression that the Bible opposes tattoos (and wearing certain types of cloth), so I have to wonder if their is not just a twinge of selective hypocrisy involved.

    3. Several people here and elsewhere have tried to explain to Stephen and other people the problems with the proposed “religious liberty” bills and how the government can easily protect civil rights as well as Constitutional rights. The reply tends to be something along the lines of a child “lallalaalal-not-going-to-listen”

  4. posted by Doug on

    “Discrimination based on race, gender and sexual orientation is non-normative in America today.”

    You are wrong, David, even in a liberal city like Seattle. If it exists here I’m sure it does in other places as well.

    • posted by Houndentenor on

      I’ll agree that such discrimination is now rare in many if not most big cities and many parts of the country, but not everywhere. Why does it seem that every homocon lives in a deep blue area and is intentionally ignorant of what goes on in the red states, especially in the reddest districts?

  5. posted by Waldo on

    1. You people seriously want a sullen, resentful tattoo artist poking you with a needle?

    2. Did anyone read the article? He’s not even “discriminating,” he’s just refusing to perform a neck tattoo. As David Link says, his excuse sounds pretty dumb to me. But it’s his business.

  6. posted by Jorge on

    I can’t say I find Mr. Bythewood’s argument for not providing the tattoo particularly convincing (is there really a “traditional tattoo honor code?”) but that’s the point.

    Well, it’s not the kind of design one would order from someone with carpeted skin. She should have asked for a reference. One should understand that the bias goes both ways. Some of that is sexist. Not in a discriminatory sense, but in the sense that 1) a woman is more likely to be able to offer the best fit of professional service to another woman, and 2) there’s a certain minimum competency level below which one probably shouldn’t service a customer.

    As an un-inked American, I could no more have gotten a tattoo from Mr. Bythewood than Jane Marie could.

    Let’s be real here, an un-inked man getting a little neck tattoo like that is rather effeminate.

    What if your tattoo artist doesn’t want to work on blacks? Or won’t work on Muslims?

    Well here we’re dealing with actual physical differences. New York parlors should be versatile, but what about places where being “heavily tattooed” is heavily associated with being white?

    There’s a hair parlor that advertized in my community as catering to African American women, and advocated natural hair styles. They will do straitening with heat and chemicals, but the proprietor wants to teach the harms of it and encourage African American women to be proud of their natural hair.

    I could be wrong, but I think she also said she’s open to everybody. Anyway, I would not be bothered by her shop refusing to do, say perms for naturally straight hair because it’s below her preferred skill level.

    That applies to skin, too.

  7. posted by Mike in Houston on

    David – when you say ‘unlocalized’, it really betrays your regional myopia.

    Houston is the size of Delaware, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Manhattan combined. Until last year, we had no nondiscrimination protections… and had to fight hard to get them. Go to the HOUequality YouTube channel, watch the testimony, then tell me NDOs are no longer necessary… Or better yet, start lobbying your local city officials to remove your existing protections if you truly believe we’re ‘beyond the need’.

  8. posted by Lori Heine on

    Breathe, people. Please. Just breathe.

    A tattoo artist doesn’t want to give someone a neck tattoo. He is an entrepreneur, self-employed, and an artist. Why ANY of us should root for the Gestapo to kick down his door because he won’t provide this service to someone is incomprehensible.

    Think. Think about what sort of a country we’re becoming. Stop howling and shrieking, stop the mob mentality, and THINK.

    To believe, as members of a long-embattled minority, that it could possibly be a good idea for our country to move in that direction is just stone cock stupid.

    • posted by Mike in Houston on

      I’m breathing just fine. I object to having every application of properly enacted and enforced public accommodation laws being labeled as persecution,

      I want public businesses to abide by regulations that are duly enacted, nothing more or less.

      If you can’t work within the established framework, best of luck – but don’t ask to have some sort of libertarian or otherwise sainthood being conferred.

      • posted by Lori Heine on

        You do realize that this case has nothing to do with gay rights, or with anybody’s rights. Except for the right for somebody to get a tattoo on her neck.

        So if someone who hates gays and wants them dead tries to hire me to write a murderous screed against us, then I must work for him–right? Using logic that expands “public accommodations” to that extreme, of course I would.

        • posted by Houndentenor on

          You are not a public accommodation. I don’t know why this is so confusing to so many people, but it clearly is. You, as an individual, do not have to accept any work. That is not the same as opening a storefront and then refusing certain kinds of customers. You are confusing very different things. You aren’t the only person confusing this, but I do think some writers and politicians are intentionally confusing it to mislead the public.

          • posted by AG on

            Not sure about Lori, but I understand your mindset perfectly well. From the point of view of statist progressives a business owner should be delighted that a benevolent government permitted him to operate a business. Business owners have no agency, they just perform the functions that the government itself could do, but since we’re not North Korea yet, these functions were outsourced to the private sector. Within this framework a progressive cannot comprehend how a business owner may refuse to provide certain services to certain customers.

          • posted by Lori Heine on

            I’m coming from the same place AG is. (Not sure why my comment is being placed on top of AG’s, but this system is strange.) Mike expressed disapproval that a tattoo artist might legally refuse to perform a service for a customer. At least that was what I understood him to be saying.

            I think he’s thinking of the anti-gay businesses who do that. I was pointing out that first of all, this instance had nothing to do with the same-sex marriage issue whatsoever and that second, the tattoo artist is an independent contractor with an expressive business.

            I don’t think I’m confused at all about the issue. Public accommodations are those paid for (by compulsion) by the taxpayers, and/or those involving life-and-death matters. I also concede that quality-of-life matters, such as grocery shopping in small towns, may enter into it. But expanding “public accommodations” to everyone who does business, in my opinion, sets a terrible precedent and is eerily North Korea-like.

            Houndentenor, it’s good that you grasp the difference. But some people are so angry at the religious right–even though that anger is largely justified–that I don’t believe they’re thinking about where radically-expanded public accommodations laws will inevitably lead us.

          • posted by Doug on

            “Public accommodations are those paid for (by compulsion) by the taxpayers, and/or those involving life-and-death matters.”

            That is not correct. The definition of ‘public accommodation’ :

            Within U.S. law, public accommodations are generally defined as entities, both public and private, that are used by the public. Examples include retail stores, rental establishments and service establishments, as well as educational institutions, recreational facilities and service centers.

          • posted by Jorge on

            You are not a public accommodation.

            And snakeskin pits–excuse me, tattoo parlors–are?

            Within U.S. law, public accommodations are generally defined as entities, both public and private, that are used by the public. Examples include retail stores, rental establishments and service establishments, as well as educational institutions, recreational facilities and service centers.

            Mmm-hmm. I can still work with this.

            A snakeskin pit that is immersed in the culture of snakeskin worshippers is not truly a place that is used by the public. It may look like one under the law, but it’s not. It is part of a subculture of the public. Putting the law into reality, looking at how it interacts within and is perceived by the community, you would see that the normal course of business for the snakeskin pit is not truly to serve the public but rather a specific sliver of individuals who share the same prediliction. And as such, the snakeskin pit is under no obligation to expand its business to serve clients outside the snakeskin subculture.

            Oh, dear, this reasoning works in reserve. That’s a bad weakness.

        • posted by tom Jefferson 3rd on

          People seem to misunderstand what public accommodation laws are and are not.

        • posted by tom Jefferson 3rd on

          People seem to misunderstand what public accommodation laws are and are not.

          I realize that some people would love to live in an Ayn Rand, libertarian dictatorship, but that is not really on the table.

    • posted by JohnInCA on

      Unless I’m mistaken, it’s mostly people that are against non-discrimination laws in general that are trying to link this to them.

      I’d like to think that most reasonable people understand the difference in refusing a kind of service based on individual non-protected class characteristics (number of pre-existing tattoos and experience with tattoos) and refusing all services to a protected class of people (women).

      • posted by Jorge on

        That assumes there’s a difference between non-protected classes and protected classes in the first place. That difference evaporates when we’re talking about wedding cakes and wedding photographs.

  9. posted by Tom Jefferson III on

    Wow We have already gotten people bringing in the “If you do not agree with me, then you are in league with the North Korean dictatorship” card.

    For the record, North Korea does not recognize or accept same-sex marriage. What little is said about — in public — about LGBT people is generally negative and used as evidence of how bad foreigners are.

    So, I doubt that North Korea has civil right laws — much less public accommodation laws — that cover sexual orientation and gender identity.

  10. posted by Lori Heine on

    Wow! A red-herring-fest. What would summertime be without one?

    The U.S. definition of public accommodation is absurd. Yet another example of the State’s meddling in commerce. I don’t care that this is how it’s defined, because I disagree with the definition.

    And however North Korea does or does not treat gays has nothing to do with whether commerce between independent contractors in the U.S. should be interfered with and micromanaged by the State.

    Passing heavy-handed legislation requiring people to work for those who would make them do things against their consciences–and perhaps even harmful to themselves! Hmm, sounds really American to me!

    Let the cherry-picking of certain components of free enterprise–based upon an abysmal ignorance of the principles underlying it–now begin.

  11. posted by Lori Heine on

    “People seem to misunderstand what public accommodation laws are and are not.”

    Sometimes, TJ, things are not what they seem. I do not, in fact, misunderstand them. I disagree with them.

    Some people seem to misunderstand the difference.

    • posted by Lori Heine on

      Furthermore, your use of the oxymoronic term “libertarian dictatorship” demonstrates that despite all your blather about your supposed expertise in libertarianism, you haven’t the faintest clue what the hell you’re talking about.

      But by all means invoke Ayn Rand again. Libertarians are very entertained at the way proggies do that. It’s like a flashing neon sign that says, “ignorance.”

      • posted by Doug on

        “. . . despite all your blather about your supposed expertise in libertarianism, you haven’t the faintest clue what the hell you’re talking about.”

        You dismissed the generally recognized definition of public accommodation because you did not agree with it. Perhaps others don’t agree with the your definition of libertarian because they don’t agree wit hit.

        What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

        • posted by Lori Heine on

          “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”

          It’s cute that you actually think that puts me in my place. All it does is get us back to square one, which is fine with me.

          The notion that one can define any term as one sees fit is, of course, barbaric. It is a devolution. There is a rich and far-reaching body of literature on libertarianism, which anyone who wanted to acquaint oneself with the philosophy might read. I realize that this is too much like work for you.

          I shall henceforth define myself as Cleopatra. And who are you, or anyone else, to tell me that I’m not.

          Using your logic, my argument is perfectly sound. Geese and ganders and all of that.

          • posted by Doug on

            There is also a long history of what ‘Public Accommodation’ means whether you agree with it or not.

  12. posted by Lori Heine on

    Doug, there is a difference between what a particular law ought to be, in one’s opinion, and what the word used to describe an established political movement (the fastest-growing in the country) means. If you were my kid and reasoned the way you do, I’d take you to a professional who could evaluate your reasoning skills.

    But again, square one. Which is fine, because I’m here to find out how people think about things–not to change their minds. If I were going to change minds, this would not be the place I’d come to do it.

    • posted by Tom Jefferson III on


      So would you have the repeal of public accommodation laws? Why not abolish all of the private sector civil rights and labor laws — the Objectivist/Libertarian right movement would advocate for.

      • posted by Lori Heine on

        TJ, so you would have the government force me to work for anyone who demanded my labor? Even if it was demanded that I do something I believed was repugnant?

        You are incapable (unwilling is the real word) to use enough gray cells to find any reasonable ground between abolition of all public accommodations laws–at the one extreme–and forced labor on the other?

        Let’s drop the niceties. If this is what you want (and I believe it is), then just come out and say so.

  13. posted by Tom Jefferson III on

    Again, I love to actually see some of these proposed “common sense compromises”, because the only think I have actually seem proposed was what happen in Utah.

    I have actually expressed support — here and elsewhere — for such an idea and most of the progressives that I know are also open to it.

    Beyond that, I have seen the political right opposing civil rights protections for LGBT people and not really interested in any sort of common sense compromise.

    I am actually quite well versed in libertarian literature, and I can safely say that the libertarian right — which tends to dominate the thinking and the world view of the libertarian movement, libertarian media, libertarian parties, etc — is very much influenced by Ayn Rand.

    Yes, the libertarian right does have some differences between, i.e. Objectivists are not suppose to accept public or private charity — although Ayn Rand did — and atheism is not necessarily a part of the libertarian philosophy, but it was something that Ayn Rand believed very strongly in — making her reactionary views on human sexuality and gender issues all the more puzzling.

    However, Ayn Rand created a philosophy that the libertarian right agrees with on many points, i.e. unregulated free markets, property rights that are essentially absolute and looking at government services, safety nets, regulations as being just another code word for Marxism or s-o-c-i-a-l-i-sm.

    How would this Objectivist/libertarian right perspective lead to a “libertarian dictatorship”? Well, if Objectivist/libertarian right electoral sweep did not eliminate government all together it runs the risk of dictatorship in two ways;

    (a) property rights would be nearly absolute, so we have land owners operating much like feudal lords and;
    (b) what would be the point of having multi party elections under an Objectivist/libertarian right government?

    The government would — under such a system — no longer have anything to do with civil rights, labor laws, health and safety laws, education, transportation and would no longer provide social services or a safety net.

    Depending on which Objectivists and Libertarian right supporters you talk with, the government may still run courts, possible police and fire departments, but nothing else.

    Non-Libertarian Parties would either be made illegal outright or have a platform that was mostly unconstitutional.

    This assumes that some sort of government would exist — albeit one where multi party elections were pointless, if not prohibited as being “unconstitutional” and “socialistic”

    What if the political views of anarchy were to be introduced? Anarcho-capitalists certainly have a presence among Objectivists and members of the Libertarian right. So, what happens if government ceased to exist — including the courts, law enforcement and fire department? One of the (many) problems with anarchy is that it would inevitable lead to a situation where whomever had the most guns, would establish is own de facto or de jure government.

  14. posted by dddurhsu on

    są słabe sformułować pełnię próśb ślubnych, jednorazowo spośród prywatnymi, gdyby dzielą że zadanie się na nie doniesie im
    nazwaną pociechę. Stanowią wyjątkowo trzeźwe natomiast gdyby naturalnie owo potrafię złapać – żelazne.
    W 4 zbiegach na 5 osobiście interesowane ocaleniem stwierdzaj do nazbieranego

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