Siena College Associate Professor of Sociology Beverly Yuen Thompson gave a lecture titled “Women Covered in Ink” on Thursday, April 18, as part of the Valerie J. Hoffman (’75) Feminism of the 21st Century 2015-16 Lecture Series.
Having received her PhD in sociology from the New School for Social Research, Thompson has cultivated her life as both a professor and author.
One of her five books, “Covered in Ink: Women, Tattoos, and the Politics of the Body,” provides a general outline of Thompson’s views on tattoos in reference to gender and sexuality.
As stated in the original press release for Thompson’s “Women Covered in Ink” lecture, Thompson believes that tattoos allow women to be “empowered,” as it is a way for them to “express themselves” and exhibit a “positive body image.”
Thompson’s talk reflected on the fact that for the entirety of the 20th century, tattoo artistry and tattoo wearing was a predominantly male interest.
Thompson proceeded to examine how changes in the tattoo industry throughout the 21st century exhibit a comparably stronger female influence, as more women are joining the largely male-associated tattoo industry.
“Female expression in a male-centered segment of popular culture is very indicative of feminist research,” says Andrea Foroughi, Associate Professor and Director of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program and lecture series organizer.
Thompson has done corresponding research to establish her views on this topic, including interviews with tattoo artists and “inked” women. According to Foroughi, it is due to Thompson’s research that Thompson was chosen by the Feminism of the 21st Century lecture series as a representative of scholarly feminism.
Sponsored by the Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Program at Union College, the Feminism of the 21st Century lecture series “features established and emerging feminist scholars who emphasize the links between feminist politics, the struggle for racial justice, and human rights activism” (As stated in the original press release). Thompson reflected on these topics by stressing the personal and professional consequences encountered by women with tattoos.
Despite being an outlet for individual creative expression, Thompson explains, tattooing is still largely seen as a male diversion, and therefore predominantly an outlet for particularly male expression.
One of the most problematic challenges, Thompson adds, is that expression through tattooing is not in a protected class under civil rights law.
In reference to the Feminism of the 21st Century lecture series in which this talk took place, Foroughi says “I hope that it gives women as well as men new ways to think about the influence that gender has in society and on individual’s lives. Topics in the series range very widely, so at least one or two per year might make students curious to come and have some lunch, listen, and ask questions.”
The next lecture series speaker will be scheduled for next fall. The Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Program is also preparing for the 4th Annual Alumnae Tea during ReUnion, Friday May 20 at 4 p.m.
Foroughi summarizes the efforts of The Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Program with the statement “You can’t escape gender, so why not learn about it?