By Naomi Harris

The first seven women filed into the small space as they were handed clipboards with forms to fill out. Conversations flowed as the first woman in line went to the back to meet the tattoo artist for the Venus of Willendorf design.

For International Women’s Day, a local D.C. tattoo shop called Laughing Hyena decided to celebrate the holiday with a little bit more permanence than a day off. From 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., the shop opened its doors to customers to choose from four different tattoos for only $40.

Tattoo artist and Laughing Hyena owner Isaac M. Colon-Francia III preparing for a very long day of work. (Joe Duffy/Bloc Photographer)

Half of the cost would then be donated to Planned Parenthood, according to the Facebook page.

“The donations to Planned Parenthood motivated me,” said Audrey Brogdon, from Baltimore. She was the first woman in line to receive one of the four tattoos in solidarity, her choice being the Venus figure.

“Everything they do is so incredibly helpful for women — we need to have support,” Brogdon  said.

The owner of Laughing Hyena, Isaac Colon-Francia III, did not initially expect the response or initiative of the 100 customers in line.

“We noticed a lot of our clients were coming in to get the ‘nevertheless she persisted’ tattoo. So we said, it’s International Women’s Day so let’s do something,” said Colon-Francia.

“We thought there might be a few of our clientele who wanted the tattoos. We did not think it would get this big,” he added.

Even so, Conlon-Francia, raised by his mother and his three sisters, wanted to do something, he said.

Something then turned into this event as the people in line waited for the four options of the Venus of Willendorf, RESIST, “she persisted” and the female gender symbol that included a fist raised in the middle. As Colon-Francia and the other tattoo artist prepared for the long day, the customers waited outside.

Baltimore resident Sarah Spurry (24) looks on at her right leg’s new permanent marking. (Joe Duffy/Bloc Reporter)

Some with friends, family or coworkers. For Kamil Arrington, a resident of D.C., she came along with her best friend to get matching tattoos of the “she persisted” because of the challenges she believes women face.

“I’m a woman but I am also a black woman,” Arrington said. “A tattoo is the perfect way to put actions behind your words so I decided to get a tattoo.”

And the “she persisted” felt like the perfect fit for her and her best friend, she said.

“It highlights the larger struggle of the challenges women face but we keep pushing forward, no matter what,” Arrington said.

Indeed, the International Women’s Day holiday seeks to highlight the achievements of women, ranging from social to political, while advocating for gender equality. The holiday began in the early 1900s and incorporates numerous groups and organizations from the governmental level to the local, according to The Telegraph.

For many, the holiday seemed like the perfect continuation of the Women’s March on Washington that took place in January and so the campaign of A Day Without Women was made.

“Including the Women’s March and other events like this, they are important for visibility so we do not get tricked by the media saying it is not an important issue,” said Goldie McFillin of Baltimore.

The arm of Emily Rodriguez (22), newly tattooed and ready to fight. (Joe Duffy/Bloc Photographer)

“It is a reminder that there are people with us who believe there are better things in store for women if we keep fighting,” McFillin said.

“Womanhood means just doing your calling and never letting anyone say you cannot because you are a woman,” said Janae Williams said. “It is about embracing your femininity while at the same time being strong.”

For Williams, she saw the strength and resilience in the women in her family.

“I just kept looking at all the women in my family and how they raised me and how much they’ve influenced my life,” she said. “They keep reminding me to keep persisting even when things get rough.”

The “she persisted” tattoo for Williams seemed to be the perfect reminder and so it happened to be a coincidence that the Laughing Hyena offered the same design for the event.  

Isaac M. Colon-Francia III tattoos an empowered Venus symbol on Amanda Tyler’s arm. (Joe Duffy/Bloc Photographer)

Back in the tattoo shop, Colon-Francia and his employees set up a system to let a set of seven customers in and each tattoo took about fifteen minutes or less with the pre-designed tattoos displayed for people to choose from

As Brogdon finished she waited for her friend while the other customers sat on the couches and waited for their tattoos.

“If I were to run into one of the women here that is getting the same tattoo as me then that would be one of the most exciting things. We could relieve this experience together,” she said.

Beyond the donation and the tattoo, each customer entered into a new community with the Laughing Hyena. The tattoos became symbols of solidarity.

“This whole thing is bringing together of the community,” Brogdon reflected. “It is almost family like in a sense.”

The support displayed by many customers of the Laughing Hyena indeed brought a community feeling as people had the chance to donate to Planned Parenthood and contribute to the celebration of International Women’s Day with a solidarity tattoo.

Featured Photo Credit: DC resident Sara Kenigsberg admires her tattoo artist’s handiwork. (Joe Duffy/Bloc Reporter)

Naomi Harris is a senior multi-platform journalism and sociocultural anthropology double major and can be reached at


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