One night, while on an escalator in the Port Authority bus terminal on my way home, I happened to be standing behind a young lady wearing a tight pair of jeans and a “tramp stamp” across whatever bare skin was showing above her jeans.

Without getting too explicit, upon seeing the tattoo, my first thought was...well, you can imagine.

And just the fact that I refer to it as a “tramp stamp” reinforces the idea that somehow women wearing tattoos are “trashy”, “loose”; and just about any other adjective you can apply.

Fast forward to this past weekend’s Miss America pageant, where contestant Theresa Vail was the first to show her ink.

This is not all that uncommon; since a good many women today are displaying more and more of it. And are casting off the impression that wearing one is somehow “trashy”

Yet, one had never been displayed during a pageant for fear that the contestant would appear to be so.
And Ms. Vail wasn’t the only one.

Miss Montana, for instance, has a big bold one on her foot, with a cross and an inscription.
But Theresa Vail's ink was front and center last night at the first round of Miss America preliminaries.

Between Vail's red bikini, on her right side, spanning her ribs and hip, is the "Serenity Prayer," written in a sizable series of vintage font.

Vail is believed to be the first contestant in a major pageant to display ink.

The senior at Kansas State University has one other tattoo: An insignia for the U.S. Army Dental Corps on her left shoulder.

Vail wrote on her blog the "Serenity Prayer" helped her get through her adolescent years when she was bullied, leading her to get the tattoo. She said she added the military tattoo because she's always had "a strong passion for service."

"My whole platform is empowering women to overcome stereotypes and break barriers, Vail wrote on her blog.

"What a hypocrite I would be if I covered my ink. How can I tell other women to be fearless and true to themselves if I can't do the same? I am who I am, tattoos and all."

Sharon Pearce, president of the Miss America Organization, says organizers were aware that Vail wouldn't be covering her tattoos. Pearce didn't think it was a problem.

"We believe each contestant definitely has the ability to show their individuality," she says. "We're happy to support them."

Mario Barth, owner of Starlight Tattoo shops in Rochelle Park, Belleville and Las Vegas, and the producer of the Inked Out tattoo convention taking place this weekend at the Meadowlands Expo Center in Secaucus, calls body art "the ultimate statement of self-expression."

It's a natural choice, he says, for a woman to share her tatoos on a national stage.

"I think it's a great thing that they're showing it and on such a big competition," says Barth. Plus, he says, by showing her tattoos in such a visible and large way, Vail is actually reflecting the chosen adornments of many women in 2013, in the United States and elsewhere.

"The biggest trend currently in the last year is that 75 percent of the clients are females and that all of them go for very large-scale tattoos," he says.

I feel that even today we still have a bias toward anyone that wears a tattoo. And God forbid if you’re a woman wearing one.

So imagine the “180” we all do upon seeing a contestant in the Miss America Pageant wearing one.

"You've come a long way, baby!" Or so said the cigarette commercial marketed to women back in the day.

But really, have we?

Do you think of women wearing tattoos as trashy?