Ever notice how the words 'tramp stamp' are never used in conjunction with male celebrities? And that while men are viewed as being rugged and cool, women with tattoos are often viewed as being unfeminine or portrayed in a certain way?

Fed up with the negative connotations surrounding women with tattoos, two photographers - Christina Theisen and Eleni Stefanou undertook a project to show the many faces of women who choose to be inked. And according to the two women, it's a conversation that needs to be had considering that in the US, tattooed women outnumber the men.

Eleni said: "Despite the news in The New York Times that more women have tattoos than men, Christina and I struggled to find imagery that meaningfully illustrated what this shift might signify - all our searches lead to glamour photos and headlines including “Women with tattoos seen as being ‘easier’.

"We found 13 women who we believe could tell us more about tattoos as a means of expression and empowerment. We wanted to explore how women use tattoos as a means of expression and empowerment, given that our relationship with our bodies is complex and tangled up with all sorts of pressure from the outside world. For example, the idea that your body should be ‘pure’, or that once you get a tattoo you take away from your femininity. How are women these days rejecting these limited notions?"


Elise Harrison, furniture/product design student, 25

"Elise has wanted a tattoo since she was a child. She describes her tattooed body as a scrapbook."


Juanita Carberry, merchant navy steward (passed away in July, aged 88)

"Juanita first got a tattoo when working in the merchant navy. She believes they are a matter of taste, and no different to changing the colour of your hair or using permanent makeup."

The idea that women with tattoos are seen as 'painted ladies' or with questionable morals seems incredibly backwards in this day and age, though, doesn't it?

"In a way," explains Eleni, "I guess people like to define things quickly, to know what’s right and what’s wrong, what they would and wouldn’t do and how the other person fits within their moral framework. When you judge someone based on how they look, you’re also revealing how you understand the world. It’s part of what makes us human, but this mind-set is also a source of prejudice, discrimination and even violence.


Sukran Sahin, journalist, 33

"The line in Sukran's tattoo is a play on words and perceptions, a line from a Suede song that also doubles up as a reference to her social background and interest in politics."

HuffPost UK Lifestyle had questions around why people had such a narrow view of women with tattoos - for instance, that it somehow subtracted their femininity. Eleni added: "This statement exposes a limited view of femininity. It’s like saying pants aren’t feminine, or a woman who smokes is unattractive. If we’re talking about femininity as a set of attributes society assigns to women (i.e. delicate, sensitive, beautiful), then tattoos can take on this role too, just as men can get feminine tattoos."


Candy Fathers, therapist, 39

As for the women themselves, the two photographers tried to involve from diverse backgrounds, ages and professions. Candy Fathers says that for her, tattoos are a release. "I love my tattoos they are an expression of what I feel inside on the outside. They are part of me, my journey through life."

Eleni says: "They were born in different places, decades and follow different beliefs and religions. By photographing a diverse group of women, we wanted to disprove the idea that someone with a tattoo fits into a category. Hopefully, once you see the human element, you begin to contemplate the story behind each woman, instead of projecting your own views onto them."


Zoe Kinross, film student, 28

Why do the media make such a fuss over Cheryl Cole and not David Beckham?

"A woman's appearance is generally scrutinised much more than a man’s is," says Eleni. "Most media outlets play to this and consequently reinforce it. Most ‘beauty horror stories’ are about women, whether focused on weight gain/loss or ‘extreme’ tattoos.

"It would be impossible to explain this phenomenon without looking more broadly at women’s position in society. That’s one of the reasons why feminism is so important - it encourages us to ask why we freak out when Cheryl Cole gets a large tattoo, to understand that our reaction is deep-rooted in how we think women should behave and evolves from a long history of a woman’s place in the world."

Earlier on HuffPost:

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  • Joan of Arc

    <a href="https://twitter.com/killianczuba/status/396286544354365440" target="_blank">Killian Czuba</a>

  • Virgin Mary

    <a href="https://twitter.com/vividinktattoo/status/241467875687292928" target="_blank">vividinktattoo / Twitter</a>

  • Ganesha

    A man displays his tattoo, depicting Hindu elephant headed god Ganesha during the second International Tattoo Convention in Katmandu, Nepal, Sunday, April 29, 2012. Tatoo artists from 15 different countries are participating in the three-day event which concludes Sunday. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha)

  • Saint Francis

    <a href="https://twitter.com/brittanykrone/status/363069899779764224" target="_blank">thekatvond / Twitter</a>

  • Buddha

    Bangkok Thailand Tattoo Arts Festival

  • Jesus With Rainbow

    Our <a href="https://twitter.com/noahmichelson" target="_blank">Huffington Post Gay Voices Senior Editor Noah Michelson</a> shows off his ink.

  • Om With Buddha

    <a href="https://twitter.com/brittanykrone/status/363069899779764224" target="_blank">brittanykrone / Twitter</a>

  • Star Of David

    An Israeli army reservist, who sports a tattoo of a lion surrounded by Star of David, works on his tank as another performs his morning prayers at a forward base where the Israeli army have deployed dozens of tanks and armored vehicles, near Israel's border with Lebanon 08August 2006. Two Israeli army reservists were killed today in clashes with Shiite militant group Hezbollah in south Lebanon, the army said. The deaths brought to 63 the number of troops killed since Israel launched its offensive against its northern neighbour on July 12 after Hezbollah captured two soldiers in a deadly cross-border raid.

  • Buddha

    A huge Buddha head decorates the back of a young man at the International tattoo Convention in Frankfurt, Germany, Saturday March 23, 2013. (AP Photo/dpa, Boris Roessler)

  • Jesus

  • John Paul II

    <a href="https://twitter.com/halinabobina/status/312045651015892992" target="_blank">halinabobina / Twitter</a>

  • Buddha

    Iris (R) from Taiwan presents her tattoos at the international tattoo convention in Frankfurt/M., western Germany, on March 31, 2012. More than 650 tattooers from around 20 countries present their skills during the event running until April 1, 2012. AFP PHOTO / BORIS ROESSLER GERMANY OUT (Photo credit should read BORIS ROESSLER/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Jesus

  • Virgin Mary

    <a href="https://twitter.com/TheTattooNation/status/212242132449247232" target="_blank">Georgyharibo / Twitter via TheTattooNation</a>

  • Isaiah 43:2-3

  • Virgin Mary

    Tattoo artist David Glantz, takes an iPhone photo of the progress he has made on Arvin Alvea's, 20, tattoo of a classical portrait of the Virgin Mary, based on a painting of Michelangelo, at the end of the fourth sitting at Archive Tattoo, in Toronto. March 23, 2011

  • Jesus

    <a href="https://twitter.com/ChrisDrake87" target="_blank">ChrisDrake87 / Twitter</a>

  • Buddhist Prayer

    Picture taken 21 May 2007 shows the tattoos on US actress Angelina Jolie's back. Done in a traditional Thai style<a href="http://weirdnews.about.com/od/celebrityescapades/ss/Angelina-Jolie-Tattoos_2.htm" target="_blank">, the Buddhist prayer reportedly says</a>, "May your enemies run far away from you. If you acquire riches, may they remain yours always. Your beauty will be that of Apsara. Wherever you may go, many will attend, serve and protect you, surrounding you on all sides."

  • Jesus

    A pilgrim from Argentina on Copacabana beach has a Jesus tattoo that reads in Spanish "How is it that they don't speak about you if your voice burns inside me" as he waits with others for Pope Francis' arrival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Saturday, July 27, 2013. Francis will preside over an evening vigil service on Copacabana beach that is expected to draw more than 1 million young people.

  • Buddha

    A man poses with his tattoos at the 19th International Tattoo Convention in the central German city of Frankfurt am Main on April 15, 2011. Tattoo artists from the whole world present the newest techniques, designs and colour creations over the weekend.

  • Jesus Christ

  • Cross

  • Hindu Goddess

    <a href="https://twitter.com/Zapman1961/status/383067721933410304" target="_blank">Zapman1961 / Twitter</a>

  • Buddha

    Jeremy Renfro shows off his 'Buddha' tattoo at the 'Inkin'' Lincoln Tattoo Jamboree' in Rosemont, Illinois, March 5, 2000.

  • Cross And Rosary

  • Jesus

    <a href="https://twitter.com/RealTattoos/status/385547421545398273" target="_blank">RealTattoos / Twitter</a>

  • Buddha

  • The Cross On The Hill

  • Star Of David

  • Buddha

  • Quran

    <a href="https://twitter.com/eNVii23/status/270266952902119425" target="_blank">eNVii23 / Twitter</a>

  • "I Am My Beloved"

    Victoria Beckham poses for photographers as she arrives at the news conference to introduce her husband, England soccer star David Beckham, as the newest member of the Los Angeles Galaxy at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., Friday July 13, 2007. The tattoo on her neck is a biblical verse that translates to "I am my beloved and my beloved is mine." Her husband has a matching tattoo on his left forearm.

  • Milarepa

  • St. Francis de Sales

    <a href="https://twitter.com/BuzzFeedBen/status/235164112533995520" target="_blank">BuzzFeedBen / dcbigjohn / Twitter</a>

  • 'God Is With You Always'

    Singer Nicki Minaj has a tattoo that <a href="http://www.maydaily.com/2011/01/29/god%E2%80%99s-with-nicki-minaj/" target="_blank">reportedly says in Chinese characters</a>, "God is with you always."

  • Mary

    <a href="https://twitter.com/ChrisDrake87/status/390606518887776256" target="_blank">ChrisDrake87 / Twitter</a>

  • Jesus

  • Cross

  • Rosary

    Actress Alyssa Milano displays a tattoo of a rosary during the film premiere of 'Dickie Roberts' at the Cinerama Dome on September 3, 2003 in Hollywood, California.

  • Jesus

  • Jesus

  • Jesus

    A tattoo of Jesus Christ decorates the forearm of Brazilian player Dani Alves who speaks during a news conference in Salvador, Brazil, Friday, June 21, 2013. Brazil will face Italy at the soccer Confederations Cup on Saturday.

  • Star Of David

  • Cross

  • Jesus

    <a href="https://twitter.com/MIB_SWAGGER/status/398136971702202368" target="_blank">MIB_SWAGGER / Twitter</a>

  • Jesus

  • Cross

    A photo shows US actress Eva Longoria's tattoo as she arrives on May 17, 2013 for the screening of the film 'The Past' presented in Competition at the 66th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes.

  • Quran

    <a href="https://twitter.com/KuhapuAsin/status/316054691408646144" target="_blank">KuhapuAsin / Twitter</a>

  • Jesus

    <a href="https://twitter.com/reevo3/status/272727684012990464" target="_blank">reevo3 / Twitter</a>

  • Jesus

    <a href="https://twitter.com/BleacherReport/status/280096528905936897" target="_blank">BleacherReport / Twitter</a>