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Tattoo Column Goes Viral

News Editor and Asst. News Editor

Published: Thursday, February 2, 2012

Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11


Meg Kinsley /// The Spectrum

UB students shared their tattoos and their stories following an outbreak of responses to Monday’s tattoo columns.

Fifty-nine thousand people visited The Spectrum website in the past two days.

Almost 23,000 people clicked on Lisa Khoury's column against tattoos.

Six hundred forty-four comments came from readers around the globe – in nations like Australia, Canada, Germany, and New Zealand – and that's on the website alone.

Countless blogs have shared her column, and she's received 827 response emails before press time.

The Spectrum has gone viral.

On Monday, the newspaper published two columns – one in defense of tattoos and the other, a counterpoint, against body art. Counterpoints are a common practice at The Spectrum; it gives editors the chance to have a dialogue about controversial issues.

Lisa Khoury and Rebecca Bratek did just that, but the response to Khoury's column has been monumental and largely negative.

"My friend sent it to me from a blog that wasn't [from] UB, but a national tattoo blog," said Sarah Kost, a junior theater design major who has six tattoos. "That's a big deal. We have to make sure we realize that on the Internet, everything is everywhere now."

Khoury's piece has been popping up across Facebook news feeds, tattoo blogs, Tumblr, Reddit, and Twitter since being published in Monday's edition. The Spectrum's writers and editors didn't expect such an intense response.

The "tattoo community" has been the main source of criticism.

"We kind of form a little family," Kost said. " If you have a tattoo, you kind of have a bond with [members of the community], like, ‘Oh, you went through that.'"

Most of the responses – that's thousands at the time of press – have been direct attacks on Khoury's personality, looks, upbringing, position on gender roles, and morals. For every positive response, hundreds more were negative.

On Thursday, The Spectrum sent reporters across campus to find members of UB's tattoo community in attempt to understand the overwhelming responses. Is the criticism meant to attack Khoury or the anti-tattoo mindset?

"I don't agree with anything she said," said Courtney Alwais, a junior theater design major who has two tattoos. "I don't think my body is a temple, I think my body is an empty canvas for art. She has her right to her opinion, and I have the right to mine."

A room full of theater majors exploded in commentary, passing around copies of The Spectrum, and voiced their opinions on Khoury's column. Many even shed their inhibitions and ripped off various items of clothing to share their tattoos and the stories behind them.

Gabrielle Gorman, a sophomore musical theater major, rolled up her shorts to reveal her tattoos – memories of a dear friend who passed away from brain cancer.

Alwais lifted up her skirt to show off a piece she got to commemorate her first theatrical performance – One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

Kost, who has six tattoos, peeled back her sleeve to present a phoenix on her upper arm – it represents her renewal and rise from the "ashes of her old self." She also enjoys mythology and Harry Potter. Despite disagreeing with Khoury's opinion, she can understand some of her perspective.

"I get her point [that] if you want to feel better about yourself, don't spend $200 on something that is never going away," Kost said.

While the hatred was apparent in the website's comments and the hundreds of emails Khoury received, there are those who thought the column was simply an opinion piece and should not have sparked such a venomous response.

"I thought that for an opinion piece, people totally over-reacted," said Hannah, a junior biomedical sciences major who didn't want her last name published for fear of receiving attacks similar to the ones Khoury received. "Her opinion is just that – an opinion. Her ideas backing her opinion rubbed a lot of girls the wrong way…oops. She messed up a bit. Big deal. It's an opinion piece; take it or leave it."

Hannah went on to add that she is heading into a profession that doesn't allow visible tattoos, and she has found other ways to value her self-worth without bodily ink. She said this doesn't motivate her to judge other people with tattoos, and thought that this was the intention of Khoury's piece, as well.

"She's a writer who will take this as a learning experience," Hannah said.

One of a newspaper's purposes is to create a conversation – whether it is through unbiased articles that inform readers of the day's news or columns and editorials that express opinion. The Spectrum runs almost all of its editorials and columns on "page three," and labels them as opinion. Editorials are considered the view of the entire editorial staff, while columns are regarded as solely the opinion of the writer.

This disclaimer is clearly stated on the masthead:

"The views expressed – both written and graphic – in the Feedback, Opinion, and Perspectives sections of The Spectrum do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial board."

Any student or member of the community is welcomed to submit opinion pieces of their own for publication.

"I wish she had stressed that these were personal opinions and that she was only explaining her own personal reasons for not getting a tattoo," said Pauline Konarski, a senior communication major. "It seems like she was painting all women to be materialistic, and it seemed like [she was] saying women should only be concerned with stereotypically ‘girly' things, like shopping and their bodies."

Kost commended Khoury for her courage to say what she thinks; in her opinion, it is a topic that can be compared to the gay rights movement and both topics would warrant similar responses.

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Mon Mar 18 2013 14:27
And then there is the slut-shaming cherry on the top, AND the potentially racist implication that women from around the world who receive tattoos because it is considered beautiful in their culture or because it is a write of passage are also trashy classless beasts who are infantile and short-sighted. Oh, Lisa Khoury.
Mon Mar 18 2013 14:04
If the criticism is from tattooed individuals why are most of the commenters who are upset, women? What I find extremely offensive is how The Spectrum continues to dance around the main issues being addressed by commenters in every piece they write 'examining' the reaction to Lisa Khouray's article.

We are upset about the blatant sexism and her internalized misogyny. When you make offensive generalizations about half of the world's population prepare for backlash. Most of us (perhaps not all of us because women are not a collective) would get over it if it was acknowledged and addressed rather than shoved under the rug but I suppose sexism is a non-issue in the view of The Spetrum. She acts as though she speaks for all women as if we are a collective but she only speaks for one. We are not playthings and objects that exist for the entertainment of others as Lisa would imply. As a self-respecting female I don't enjoy being compared to a sports car or a temple. I am more than my body and I will treat myself how I choose to, not based on how men feel I should act.

She enforces this toxic stereotype that all women are superficial 'creatures' and that the key to female happiness is through senseless shopping, shoes, getting their hair 'did', and mani-pedis. Women need a man in their life to validate them by thinking they are worthy when their physical form meets expectation- please. There is a reason that feminism has been a thing for, I don't know, 90 years or so; it's important. A marginalized group of people do not take it lightly when you enforce harmful stereotypes and then continue to add fuel to the fire by belittling it and dancing around the issue as if it never transpired.

Oh and then there is the, not only sexist but, classist statement that all classy women wear trendy clothes. What of the women who cannot afford such clothing? Are they less classy because they do not have the wealth afforded to Lisa Khoury to go out and buy trendy clothes? Class is how one acts, Lisa Khoury, not how one looks or dresses. It must be a sad world you live in when you base your self worth on the opinion of men. Her piece also manages to be hetero-normative by acting as though all coupling is heterosexual.

How can The Spectrum be run by such thick headed and ignorant people to not realize that this has become more than a piece about tattoos? I don't want to come to this conclusion but it almost seems as though the sexism just isn't seen as significant enough to be addressed here, with all of the mansplaining that has been going on to dismiss us, as always. Emotional creatures like women don't know how they feel so when they get offended it doesn't really mean much, herp derp.

Sun Feb 5 2012 02:44
I'm offended that this article barely even mentioned that the tattoo article was sexist. I guess it is possible that the spectrum staff doesn't recognize sexism as something that matters. Lisa Khoury wasn't writing just about getting tattoos, she was writing about women getting tattoos, and she suggested better investments in happiness would be shopping and getting manicures. This article suggests that Khoury was plainly writing to the whole tattoo community, when clearly Khoury was actually just speaking to women demanding that they try to be classier. Khoury suggests even that women should enjoy their ability to turn heads as if we should enjoy feeling objectified and encourage it through 'investing' in our bodies. "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." sounds like patriarchal propaganda to me. This is completely sexist and i for one am offended at being told how to be feminine, how to be attractive, and most of all to CARE what people think of the way i look.
Eric Salas Productions
Sat Feb 4 2012 20:16
I shot a video on Tattoos and the meaning behind most of the tear jerking interviews I documented were from amazing people. They did not deserve to be disrespected like that. I too feel that freedom of speech is a honor that has been passed down to us, however it should not nor was intended to be used as a place for a responsible editor to hide behind by letting this hate article be published! I have met more people with no tattoos that are fake, self-centered and morally unacceptable than people with. I have been in situations where more class was displayed by someone with a tattoo than with no tattoo. That excludes the cultures and kings and queens where the most respected people in kingdoms displayed marks on their bodies. Your excitement and pride of this going viral unfortunately is not a positive thing for you as an editor of this publication it is the proof of you not being responsible enough to edit an article that had no bering or factual truth that could hurt thousands of people.
Sat Feb 4 2012 16:06
People have been harsh, but if you express an opinion be prepared to have people disagree.
Fri Feb 3 2012 23:29
Lisa is entitled to her own opinion. I believe we still have freedom of speech in this country. People always act stupid and react like idiots to anyone who doesn't have the same opinion as themselves. How sad that they are entitled to their opinion but she is not. It's such a shame that people cannot respond without vulgar language and childish responses. Good Job Lisa. Keep up the good work and some day I'll be responding to your article in Life Mag. I promise I won't respond like all of the "ugly" people out there.
Beatiful with Tattoos at 40
Fri Feb 3 2012 10:40
She's an obnoxious close minded moron... Really?

"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."

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