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What I Learned When My Lena Dunham Tattoo Went Viral

The amazing Lena, who inspired my tattoo

When I took to Twitter last summer to request a picture from Lena Dunham on which to base my newest tattoo, I hadn’t the vaguest hope that she would actually reply. Of course, she’s an amazing woman and always seems more than gracious with her fans, but she has over one million followers and, let’s face it, things like this don’t just happen every day. But, against all odds, it happened and within days, the tattoo was etched onto my foot and my saga was complete…or so I thought.

The author's (kind of) famous tattoo

The author’s (kind of) famous tattoo

In the four days from when I had received my response from Dunham to the completion of the ink, the internet had become inexplicably involved in my decision to immortalize my favorite line (“All adventurous women do”) from my favorite show. Sites like Perez Hilton, Jezebel and even HuffPost Women posted articles outlining my story. I was, of course, slightly flattered and a bit overwhelmed, as I had done close to nothing to receive that much attention. However, as the days progressed, the internet did what it does best and I found myself face to computer screen with my very first haters. I wasn’t offended or upset when I started to read all the negative comments. In fact, I laughed a lot. I laughed until I realized how many of these negative, judgmental, and sometimes even hateful comments were coming at me from other women; then I stopped laughing.

I am disappointed in the reactions of my fellow women. When news of my tattoo first spread throughout the Twitterverse, there was an explosion of tweets berating me for my “irresponsible” decision. However, the alleged irresponsibility was never in reference to the permanence of the tattoo, as one would expect. This hate spawned from the context of the quote: a scene in which Dunham’s character discovers she has HPV and is told that “all adventurous women do.” Of course, the quote means much more than that and is a celebration of a woman’s ability to accept and understand her flaws and mistakes. This, however, was lost on most of the fine people of the Internet.

Comments such as “Does this girl really want everyone to know she has HPV?” and “She’s proud of her STDs?” were abundant. And to those commenters, I say: So what if I am? I do not have HPV but if I had, this tattoo could have been my way of accepting and dealing with it. The amount of negative comments from other women condemning me for my (hypothetical) acceptance of this affliction appalled me. We constantly berate men for slut-shaming us, and yet, at the very mention of a quote that carries the slightest implication of HPV, we openly and enthusiastically shame each other. If I had had HPV, would those comments have made me think twice about getting the tattoo or (more likely) would they have filled me with shame and melancholy over the stigma of my unfortunate diagnosis?

I think we can all agree that it’s never cool for a man to tell a woman what to do with her body, but when women do it to other women, we seem to jump on board. Of the many negative comments I received, only a handful were accompanied by responses in my defense. The rest, unfortunately, devolved into page-long threads made up of back and forth negativity directed at me and my choices. To these women, and to all the women who pass judgment on the personal decisions of others, I ask: Shouldn’t we know better? Aren’t we in this together? And, perhaps most importantly, if it’s okay for a woman to speak this way about another woman regarding something as banal as a tattoo, how can we possibly criticize men for doing the same thing? In “Mean Girls,” the infinitely wise Tina Fey puts it like this: “You all have got to stop calling each other sluts and whores. It just makes it okay for guys to call you sluts and whores.”

Maybe if we were to step back and assess the damage we’re causing to our own kind when we perpetuate cattiness, we’ll see how messed up our behavior truly is. We should accept and celebrate the differences among us. We should stop the slut-shaming, body-shaming, tattoo-shaming, and shaming altogether. We should begin to set an example for men; for boys; for young ladies; for each other. We should work to create a world where women feel confident in their choices and comfortable in their own skin. Perhaps, that is what we “adventurous women” should do.

Tina Wargo is, among other far more embarrassing things, an elderly soul, a student of film, a player of ukulele, a lover of story, a scream-singer of showtunes, only okay at sharing, usually ranting, and an all-around parody of herself.  Follow her at if you enjoy people who find themselves hilarious and/or constant posts about Meryl Streep.
  • Vanesha Patel

    Brilliant article

  • Rachel Kellogg

    Lol hpv isn’t even a big deal.

  • Catherine Bruno

    People are too sensitive nowadays. When I read this tattoo I took it as all adventurous women do what they want, meaning that they achive their goals and do anything possible to get where they want to be. I think we just need to be a little nicer to each other and stop getting offended by things that are out of our control and none of our business.

  • Pamela Rodriguez

    I personally don’t like tattoos, but it baffles me that so many people feel the need to put others down because of their decisions. I mean, it IS a personal decision of yours, so why should anyone else’s opinion matter?

    Anyway, if it comes to talking about a tattoo, I think an inspirational phrase is the best you can get. It will be there with you forever, so you might as well get something that never fails to lift your spirits :)

  • Andrea Guzman

    I loved everything about this article. Very inspiring! Thank you Tina! :)

  • Kris Garvey

    My cousin chose to get a tattoo of her 3 year old daughter’s artwork and a “friend” posted it to a bad tattoo site. It has since gone crazy viral, the most recent places being’s FB page and an Australian radio Sharon’s page. She gets upset by the negative comments and like you, most are from women saying it was stupid, ugly, why didn’t she just keep the drawing, etc. Some even criticize her ability as a mother when they we complete strangers on the Internet. She is a wonderful mother whose daughter is now 7, and she has a 4 year old boy as well. She is extremely proud of her tattoo but she takes each of those negative remarks to heart, even though not only should she not be judged foe something so silly, these people are completely wrong about her. Thank you for this article, I’m going to share it with her and hope it will help her deal with those trolls with laughter and eye-rolls!

    • Kris Garvey

      Sorry for typos, posted from my phone!

  • Reena Leone

    As a fairly heavily tattooed woman, please understand that I feel your pain. While I’m not a fan of the show Girls I still commend you on your decision to immortalize a quote that means something to you. Trust me, it’s less about what you got and why you got it. It’s that you got it at all. Tattoos are another way insecure people judge others. I’ve been asked why I “ruined” myself and been told I “used to be so pretty” as if having a sleeve of nautical things somehow turned me into a beast.

    What your tattoo says about you is that you are confident in your decisions, that you do what you want and yes, you have an adventurous spirit. If people want to hate on that, then they are miserable trolls. Stand strong lady.

    • Gaby Gelpi

      Great post Reena, you completely say what i was about to… I have a lot of tatoos, some of them have significant meaning, some others don´t…. I just wanted to do it and that´s it…… People will judge us no matter what…. Worrying about another’s judgment only gives them a hold over your life that no one should ever have………. So FUCK IT

  • Rena Gottfried

    I loved your article. I didn’t know the story before, but the essence is something I encounter a lot in my research to be me, a woman and a “fellow-woman”. There is a quote from the fantastic (and normally really quirky) Irish comedian Dylan Moran on feminism:
    ‘If women were serious about feminism they would have everything that feminists talk about getting. Equal pay – you could have that tomorrow! IF…women would give up bitching about one another for FIVE MINUTES…which doesn’t seem to be possible.’
    That is surely not the whole truth about feminism, but it really struck a nerve and I try to use it as a reminder whenever I start to bitch about another women. And after reading your article I think, that “All adventurous women [should] do” that: think about the impact of your words and how they would make you feel about yourself as a woman (and a human being of course). All the best from Germany :)

    P.S.: Bitching about other people’s tattoo choices is really foolish. It’s like saying they have an ugly baby – Hey, it’s theirs and they are not giving it back, because you didn’t like it :) Not to say you have an ugly tattoo, that one is a lovely baby 😉

  • Katy Wolfe Brandes

    I don’t watch “Girls,” so I didn’t get the reference at first. However, the saying could be applied to many feminist ideals. Whenever a woman does something brave and gets questioned why she did, what a great answer … “all adventurous women do.”

    Good for you, Tina! Forget the haters.

  • Jeanie Battaglia

    I actually very recently myself became a fan of the show “Girls” & when I heard that line “All adventurous women do” I absolutely fell in love with it for all the same reasons that you probably did as well. When I heard that line, to me (being very full of wanderlust & fernweh myself) it was a very beautiful simple saying that could mean so much more. To me when she said that in the show it wasn’t only her way of accepting her HPV but it was a way of saying we as women don’t have to explain ourselves, we owe no explanation to anyone. We can do & say what we please without having to then backtrack & explain or have reasoning or apologies & that’s a very strong thing in such a small saying. I applaud you for putting that quote on your body I have hugely considered it myself, not because I have any STD in any shape or form at all, but because it truly spoke to me being a very adventurous young lady myself. It truly saddens me that so many women out you down for that when they don’t even know you & had no clue the meaning behind it for you but that right there just proved the reasoning behind why you put it on you. “All adventurous women do” we all deal with judgement & cruelty & hate from other women because they don’t understand so while they were judging they only further showed the meaning behind that tattoo. I think it’s a beautiful quote to put on your body personally myself.

  • Josilynn Reynolds

    This was great! I really love the tattoo and believe for what it actually stands for. There are not a lot of empowered women out there and I stand proudly knowing that not only am I myself an empowered women, but that there are others out there. My infamous tramp stamp is often a subject of discussion when it chooses to reveal itself . . . why you ask? Well, my tramp stamp reads “Cunt”. “How horrible you must be to have that inked onto your body!” well…lets back up the bus a little bit ladies. There is a book called “Cunt”…you should read it. I did and so did my undeniable soul mate since 3rd grade. (we have matching cunts) We are women, strong, independent, sexual women and we have a right to be. We believe that cunt means something different then what society says…and we choose to voice that through our bodies. Everyone just needs to deal with it. Love life and all will be well
    Best, Josilynn

  • Stephanie Ninfa


  • Rebecca Mis

    I think the show “Girls” is horrible, but it’s not on my body, so decorate yourself as you please.

  • Alyssa McGhghy

    I wish I could give you a high five after reading this article!

  • Missy Hardesty

    YES. I agree wholeheartedly. I will never be able to understand the women (or men, for that matter) who spend their time logging in to their favorite sites to post negative comments. It’s an epidemic that needs to stop. We’re tearing each other apart, and for what? There are so many out in Internet world who can only see things at the very surface and feel they need to prove to others how much “smarter” they are than somebody else.

    We spend our childhood learning that we should feel free to be ourselves – but at some point in our lives we can take it back? Let people do what makes them happy. It has NO effect on these negative peoples’ lives. The best thing we can do is ignore the haters and live on doing what we choose for OURSELVES.

    I’m with you, Tina!

  • Natasha | Bamboo Blossom

    I’m surprised people thought that quote was only about HPV. It never crossed my mind when I saw the show. I think it’s silly to expect other women to understand and not criticize you just because they are women too. Out of all the millions of possible differences between people, being the same gender doesn’t mean much.

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