On tattoos and comparing women to cars

Katie? rose thigh tattoo – detail
photo by Nils von Barth via Creative Commons

Late last month Lisa Khoury, assistant editor of The Spectrum, an independent student publication of the University of Buffalo, wrote an article urging female students to refrain from getting tattoos. Why? Because you shouldn’t “put a bumper sticker on a Ferrari.” 

Khoury writes: 

Your body literally has the ability to turn heads. Guys drool over us. We hold some serious power in our hands, because – as corny as this sounds – we hold the world’s beauty.

She goes on to imply that women who have tattoos have no class and, in my opinion, is also suggesting that women get tattoos because they’re unhappy with their bodies, which I highly doubt is true. Khoury writes:

An elegant woman does not vandalize the temple she has been blessed with as her body. She appreciates it. She flaunts it. She’s not happy with it? She goes to the gym. She dresses it up in lavish, fun, trendy clothes, enjoying trips to the mall with her girlfriends. She accentuates her legs with high heels. She gets her nails done. She enjoys the finer things in life, all with the body she was blessed with.

I nearly hurled my computer across the room after reading that. 

If you know me in real life, you know that I don’t have any tattoos so you may be wondering why I’m so upset. Why? Because Khoury supports her argument against tattoos with the age-old sexist stereotype that women were placed on this earth to look pretty and be eye candy. She specifically states that women should not get tattoos, even if the ink has a deeper meaning and symbolizes something greater. Tattoos go against the socially accepted standard of beauty, I suppose, and will cause people to question your basic values, Khoury claims, so instead young women should “Invest your time, money, and effort into a gym membership, or yoga classes, or new clothes, or experimenting with different hairstyles.”

Even though I’m fully supportive of the idea of people expressing themselves with tattoos, and I don’t view them as some sign of moral decay as Khoury does, I wouldn’t have as much of a problem with this article if her point was that instead of focusing so much on the exterior women should focus on intellect or emotional maturity. But instead she just compares women to cars. Nice work. 



  1. Good article.

    I don’t think it’s not ladylike but some tattoos do not look appealing when they cover your whole arm or leg, then you put flesh toned pantyhose (nylons whatever, I don’t know the difference) which makes it look even more weird.

  2. Hear, hear! I suppose Angelina Jolie is the exception?
    I got a small tattoo to celebrate my 40th birthday. I found it to be invigorating and liberating. Of course, I felt that way when I stopped coloring my hair and that was met with shock and resistance, too. I believe the tattoo gave me the confidence to go gray.

  3. Amen. I was infuriated when I read her article – and not just because I am tattooed, but because her arguments (even the car she chose to liken our bodies to . . .) are so archaic and hurtful.
    I especially appreciate your voice, as a non-inked woman, to help highlight that this isn’t just about defending tattoos. Thank you.

    (My response to Lisa’s initial article is here: http://swankyday.wordpress.com/2012/02/15/classless-proud-i-heart-tattooed-women/)

    • Thank you for your comment and for sharing your post. Great read! I felt it was especially important for me to speak on this issue because I don’t have tattoos and I hoped that would help stress, as you said, that this just isn’t about tattoos, it’s about sexism.

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