Dear Lisa Khoury.

***Ms. Khoury’s original article, which caused a stir recently for being an extremely sexist take on why women shouldn’t have tattoos, is available here.  Her response to the massive amount of criticism she received, and the focus of this blog, is here. There was also a pro-tattoo article that she claims gave her own article enough context to somehow not be blatantly sexist is here.  Originally posted here. ***

Dear Lisa,

I find that the best way to explain to someone exactly what was wrong or offensive with something they said or wrote is to use their actual words.  And this is a deconstruction blog, after all.  So let’s deconstruct your rhetoric, shall we? All quotes are taken directly from the article “The Day I Met the Internet”.

“I never meant to be vindictive toward an entire subculture.” Except that you were. Quite blatantly, in fact. And vindictive is not all you were; you were also extraordinarily patronizing. It is hard to believe that any female reading your first article wouldn’t have felt like she was being talked down to. It’s also problematic that your article only targets women; the class and elegance of men is apparently unaffected by the presence of tattoos, as are their decision-making skills. And the best part is that you managed to sprinkle in a little slut shaming on top of it all. The emphasis on how women have an obligation to flaunt their bodies followed by the caveat “I’m not here to say a girl should walk around flaunting her body like it’s her job – that’s just degrading” was sort of like the icing on top of the cake of shit that was your article.

“I was misinterpreted.” No, you weren’t. You wrote an article that was deeply paternal and strongly insinuated that women who had tattoos also had a tendency to make childish, uninformed decisions which resulted in them “vandalizing” their own bodies and relinquishing any class or elegance they may have had. You then suggested a better way to be a woman, i.e. to stay classy, was to basically resort to unabashed commercialism and gender stereotypes and go join a gym or buy new clothes. You wrote an article full of bullshit and posted it for the world to see, and then you got called on that bullshit. Full stop.

“I am sorry to anyone who took my words as a personal attack.” Honestly, I don’t even know how to deconstruct that sentence. If you couldn’t foresee the high probability that women with tattoos (and those who care about a woman who is tattooed) would take it as a personal attack, then maybe you’re not cut out for journalism. Or at least maybe you should consider getting someone to proofread your work.

On a related note, if you say “nothing comes out of getting X” and the person standing next to you does have X, that person standing next to you is probably going to interpret your words to mean that their choice was worthless in your eyes. Similarly, if you say “An elegant woman does X”, the woman standing next to you who does not choose to do X will probably feel like you just said she was trashy. No amount of random, seemingly unrelated back story regarding your history with buying new jeans changes this. I feel like this should go without saying.

“My column – ripped from its context next to my colleague’s – became something entirely different online.” Again, no. You woke up to 938 mean emails because 938 people read your article and were incredibly offended. I read the pro-tattoo article too, and it didn’t make me find yours any less offensive. Your colleague didn’t insinuate that women who didn’t have tattoos had made infantile decisions that forever jeopardized their elegance, class or womanhood. Context only goes so far, and then you have to be accountable for the actual words that you write. Ain’t no context in the world gonna make a sentence like “If you want to insert ink into your skin as a symbol for something greater than yourself, then maybe you are proving a point to yourself or the rest of the world” not come off ridiculously pretentious.

“As a writer, I have jump-started my career with a valuable lesson: think about what you write before you write it – on paper, online, and in cyberspace. You never know what tattoo blog might pick it up one day…” You know, I almost felt sorry for you after reading your 2nd piece, regardless of how offensive I found the original article. I felt sympathy because of all the horrible names you were probably being called, names that have no place in intellectual discussion. Being a woman and a writer isn’t easy, and I know that people will rip you apart for writing things that a man could write without any consequences. While criticism is warranted, using gender based slurs or throwing out the “ugly” card isn’t legitimate criticism; it’s misogyny. And after all, you’re just a 19 year old woman trying to get her start in journalism. Maybe this was your first article ever published and maybe you really didn’t mean to come off so nasty and maybe you were truly hurt by the response and…and then I read this last snarky little gem and came to my senses. I have no doubt you meant everything you said in the first article. I have no doubt that you knew exactly how your words would come off to the demographic you were attacking.

I have no doubt because I don’t think that you’re that stupid, or that naïve. In fact, I think you might be what the angry feminists commonly refer to as an “agent of the patriarchy”. That’s basically a woman who sells her fellow women out in an attempt to gain favor with the capitalist white supremacist patriarchy which governs our society. It’s a woman who has no problem perpetuating misogynist bullshit if she thinks her career might be advanced. It’s you, Lisa. You may have gotten 938 emails blasting your article, but I’d be willing to bet that that number is dwarfed by the number of people who nodded their heads in agreement after they read it. Sexism is kind of fashionable these days, as is spewing sexist rhetoric and then crying woe-is-me when the people you target throw equally vitriolic words right back at you. So good luck with this tactic, Lisa. I hope it serves you well. And I hope that door doesn’t hit you on the ass on the way out.

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

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