While holding her 3-month-old son outside of Brass Knuckle Tattoo Studio in Uptown, Nora McInerny rolled up her sleeve to show off her newest tattoo. Two handwritten words in black ink glistened beneath clear plastic wrap and tape: “She Persisted.”
“Those words remind me of every woman I know who has kept going even though it’s difficult or it might make you unpopular,” McInerny said. “I just thought it was a perfectly beautiful sentiment. Also, I’m incredibly impulsive.”
What started as McInerny’s impulsive idea turned into something bigger when on Tuesday, more than 100 women (and a guy or two) lined up and waited at the Minneapolis ink shop for their turn to get a tattoo of the now infamous quote from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell when trying to silence Sen. Elizabeth Warren earlier this month.
“Nevertheless, she persisted” suddenly went from McConnell’s lips to tweets, T-shirts and tattoos everywhere.
It’s not the first time an opponent’s denigration has been worn by supporters — literally — as a badge of honor. Nasty woman, anyone? And in September, Hillary Clinton said that some of Donald Trump’s supporters belonged in a “basket of deplorables.” Trump supporters claimed the term for themselves and re-branded “deplorable” as a proud honor that showed up on coffee mugs, hoodies and hashtags.
“Did I ever think I would get a Mitch McConnell quote tattooed on my body? No, I did not,” McInerny said. “But those are three words that any woman would be able to see themselves in, regardless of politics.”
While waiting for their turn in the tattoo chair — some for more than six hours — women knitted, worked on their laptops or addressed postcards to President Trump. A Girl Scout troop arrived in the evening to sell cookies.
Kate O’Reilly, one of the organizers of the event prepared to get her first-ever tattoo.
“I finally found something meaningful enough to put permanently on my body,” said O’Reilly, 41, of Minneapolis. “In the face of everything right now, it will be a constant reminder to keep going.”
As the needle made its first line across her skin, O’Reilly tensed up and said: “It feels awesome.”
Warren’s rebuke from Senate Republicans, it turns out, was the battle cry some women in Minnesota were waiting for.
McInerny intended to gather a handful of friends to get tattoos and raise money for a charitable cause, but didn’t realize the Facebook event she created to invite the friends was public, not private. Since McInerny is a well-known blogger, author, and social media star, word traveled quickly. Within a few days, nearly 2,000 people indicated interest in the event.
“I thought there would be like six people,” said tattoo artist Emily Snow. “And then this happened.”
To accommodate the number of people wanting the tattoo (design courtesy of Minneapolis graphic designer Chelsea Brink), Snow settled in for a long night of tracing the same phrase over and over with her tattoo gun. She cheered when an order of McDonald’s French fries arrived to give her energy.
“I am overwhelmed and I am so grateful,” she said through tears. “We’re working for free and we’re really glad to be supporting these awesome women.”
Tattoo artist Kyle Mack came in on his day off to help out.
“How could I not?” he said.
Snow explained that anyone who they couldn’t get to can make an appointment through March, and that $55 of the $75 tattoo cost would be donated to Women Winning, a local nonprofit with a mission to elect pro-abortion rights women of all political parties into public office.
That cause is why Reanna Thompson, 39, drove from Prior Lake to wait several hours for her tattoo. Thompson recalled marching in Washington, D.C. nine years ago for same sex marriage rights and said she’d be getting her tattoo on her foot.
“It’s symbolic of the marching that has been done and that still needs to be done,” she said. “It’s sad that we have to keep doing this, but nevertheless, she persisted.”
For other women, the tattoo is a reminder of their own strength.
“It’s not about politics,” said Noël Anderson, 40, of Minneapolis. “It’s about a man saying something like that to me for 15 years, and I won’t listen to it anymore.”