Despite all of the enjoyment that it sometimes brings, more often than not, Twitter is a platform where people loudly voice their opinion about any number of things. From politics to Star Wars to tattoos, everybody has a take and the ability to share it with the world. Sometimes, like in the case of journalist Joan Meiners, the hot take forces the world to clap back.
Meiners—an ecologist and data journalist who has written for ProPublica and Smithsonian—tweeted on Tuesday that she wanted to start a business consulting people before they get a bee tattoo, along with a photo collage of bee tattoos.
Coming from a strict taxonomical point of view, there is nothing wrong with this tweet and she is 100% correct. The problem is that you can't fairly judge art when looking at it from a purely scientific point of view, particularly not these tattoos.
These particular tattoos are of the worker bee design used as a symbol of the city of Manchester, UK. And, more importantly, this design became a symbol of strength after the 2017 bombing at an Ariana Grande concert that took the lives of 23 people.
Sam Barber, an outstanding tattooer working out of Manchester, put together the Manchester Tattoo Appeal in response to the tragedy. Tattooers around the world inked the worker bee design on people as a sign of solidarity with the people of Manchester, with the proceeds going to help the victims of the bombing.
The worker bee in general, and this design of it in particular, has been associated with the British city since it became a hub of the Industrial Revolution during the mid-nineteenth century. There is a great deal of history attached to the symbol, thus making it a perfect way for people to show a connection to the city of Manchester. Like with many tattoos, it's easy to see how one of these worker bee tattoos would be packed with emotional meaning and symbolism for the person wearing it.
Meiners likely had no idea about the story behind the worker bee tattoos and she certainly wasn't coming from a place of malice and trying to hurt people's feelings with the tweet. Thankfully, and almost unbelievably, most of the responses were from people respectfully explaining the symbolism behind the tattoos.
Maybe, just maybe, this can serve as a learning experience for all involved. If you're looking for a taxonomically correct bee tattoo, consult your local ecologist before having the design put permanently into your skin. And if you're thinking about publically criticizing somebody's tattoo, maybe do your homework beforehand. Or, better yet, just don't criticize. Let's be a little kinder in 2020.
UPDATE: Pretty much right as we posted this article, Meiners posted the following on Twitter.