Stop telling little girls they’re “tomboys”

A few weeks ago, I was talking with a friend about our favorite activities when we were kids. I told him that I was in kindergarten, I spent most of my time playing with mini cars. In elementary school, I had a few girlfriends with whom I was on very good terms, but I especially liked challenging the boys in climbing games. He would have done the best of his head upside down without falling or breaking his wrist – which caused his wrist to break. I also loved climbing trees, running, cycling, playing football and basketball with my parents, and walking on stilts.

Growing up, I became less daring, but I discovered another passion thanks to my brother: video games. I literally spent hours there, and although in my college days I had quite a few friends (mostly boys), I only looked forward to after class: to come home to play online on the computer or listen to music on the Internet. I paid a little more attention to the way I dress compared to other girls my age, but I felt really good.

What’s funny is that my boyfriend had practically the same taste as me when she was little, even though we both thought we were a bit unique in our own way. A little on the sidelines, even.

Sincerely concerned parents

Once back home, I searched out of curiosity The definition given toTomboy». The expression could have appeared on the sixteenthe Century, first designated an “arrogant woman, a whore”, then, as of 1590, an “unruly and mad girl who behaves like a flamboyant boy.” French version“tomboy”, did not appear until mid-XXe century. The adjective “failure” already means a lot in itself: the girl will lack something in order to be a suitable boy; Meanwhile, she lacked something to be a girl.

I came across sites where parents were concerned about “their daughter playing only with the boys”.

As author Earl Hanna rightly notes Osez le féminisme website!, if the expression “tomboy” was still common to refer to a girl with an attitude considered masculine, then a boy with “girlish habits” would not have the adjective “tomboy”. It will simply be called a “girl” – obviously being a girl is an insult in itself.

Then, I came across the most searched questions on Google that contain this phrase: “How do I know if I’m a tomboy?” ; How do you stop being a tomboy? And in English:Is it okay to be a tomboy?»; “How do I deal with my tomboyish daughter?»

I’ve searched the forums and this question gets asked several times: “My tomboy daughter, what should I do?” I came across the sites where Parents are worried because their baby Only play with the boys. And she is more interested in him “physical activities” by “feelings”. I also read the testimonyFather of his 12-year-old daughter getting dressed “Like a tomboy”, who was looking for advice because he didn’t know what to answer to the latter when I asked him if she could appeal to boys his age in this way.

I imagine the scene and the devastation that could have caused this girl to be so self-confident. Of course it can amuse boys. Aside from the fact that the most important thing is that she feels good about herself in the clothes she wears, if she feels beautiful, boys will likely find her beautiful too. (Remember in passing that boys are not only attracted to flirty girls who wear floral dresses.)

Gender expression has nothing to do with gender identity

As explained by a panel of pediatricians affiliated with the Canadian Pediatric Society, fathers play an essential role in their daughter’s quest for identity. This task begins at the age of two, when children understand the differences that can be between boys and girls and begin to get to know one or the other – knowing that this type “It does not necessarily correspond to the sex specified at birth”Doctors say.

“Some children’s gender identity remains stable throughout their lives, but others may alternate between being ‘boy’ or ‘girl’, or even assign themselves to other gender identities for different times (sometimes even within a day). This is normal and healthy”Can we read more on the site?

By the age of eight and up, while most children have a gender identity that matches the gender assigned at birth, pre-teens and adolescence can turn everything upside down again. Pediatricians insist: “Because some children’s gender identity may change, particularly in puberty, families are encouraged not to rule out any possibilities for their children.”

Finally, it is very important to distinguish between ‘gender identity’ and ‘gender expression’. The child can express his gender very clearly by saying, for example, “I am a girl”just as he can do it through his dress and haircut, his choice of toys and activities, his social relationships, his nicknames…

Sexual expression, on the other hand, does nothing to determine gender identity. A young girl may refuse to wear dresses and high-heeled shoes, cut her hair, engage in martial arts, and have more young friends than her friends, such as being called by the boy’s name and acquainted (deeply) with the female gender.

Lesbian stereotype

In the many testimonies I received, many women did not see the problem of adopting, at a younger age, certain so-called “masculine” symbols. For them, it wasn’t even a topic. It was the people around them (adults, classmates, and society in general) who called them “tomboys” and indicated that something was wrong with their attitude.

Dominic told me how it went for her: Adolescence was a nightmare. When you’re 15 and nobody talks to you because you don’t normally act like a “girl”, it’s hell to live with her. From a “tomboy”, you’ve gone to a “dam”. I tried once or twice to wear a feminine skirt and shoes, but I was so uncomfortable, I felt like everyone was laughing at me. So I quickly put on my jeans, a sweatshirt, and my sneakers.

Here’s another cruel stereotype: a girl who wears masculine clothes is necessarily a lesbian. However, in the same way that the way gender is expressed by definition has nothing to do with gender identity either. The only person who can tell his sexual orientation is himself. “About 15, I felt like an alien, 27-year-old Leslie told me. I had a huge question about identity and the fact that my “manliness” prevented me from discovering myself sexually. I wasn’t able to discover my sexuality until much later, once I freed myself from the shackles of femininity imposed on women.

Millions of ‘remodeled’ girls

Jack Halberstam, gender studies specialist (Gender Studies), talks about the difficult transition into adolescence for girls in her book female virility: “Teenage tomboy is a problem and tends to be subject to the harshest redirection effort. One could say that being a ‘tomboy’ is acceptable as long as the child remains into puberty; once puberty begins, all the weight gender compatibility falls on the girl. It is in this context that the “tomboy” instincts of millions of girls are being reshaped according to the rules compatible with femininity.

Like many girls, going to high school has been synonymous with big changes for me. I started dressing up and adopting very feminine attitudes, but for the wrong reasons: I did it because I felt that this was expected of me as a girl.

For Elizabeth, things got more complicated when she entered college: “The rejection I was the victim of in class ended up waking up in me, specifically, a rejection of the norm. I was called a “tomboy,” so I told myself I was going to be quite a boy. In fact, I stayed away and had no good memory of this period. Things started to get better since high school, where I met people who looked a bit like me and little by little I started to rediscover my femininity.

“At the age of fifty, my relationship with femininity is almost non-existent”


It also took me a while to finally (re)construct my own vision of femininity. Even today, at the age of 30, I know this business is not over yet. For other women, the wound may be deeper. “Today I am 50 years old and my relationship with femininity is almost non-existent. Dominic told me. I’m still not comfortable with my body and hide it as much as possible. I still hear, at times, unpleasant reflections in my corridor. But today, even if you hear them, they no longer affect me like I used to be a child or a teenager. Somewhere, it’s strength versus others, but deep down, it’s a pain. I get the impression that I lost my life as a girl and a woman.

Neither a “real girl” nor a “tomboy”

With the rise of the feminist movement, things tend to change. Although there is still work to be done, many books, comedies, series, films, and artists advocate an unfettered, more open vision of femininity, allowing young and old to find their way.

For Clemence, the revelation took place after his reading emotional charge by EmmaClit. “I realized that I am being taken advantage of for exactly that, for being a ‘tomboy.’ It really works: ‘She doesn’t create ‘feminine’ conflicts and works well with men? Let’s make her in charge of a research party, but don’t pay more for her because she’s a woman.” Then with my wife: “She doesn’t whine like other girls when we act like kids? Let’s carry on with this momentum.” I was expected to do so-called ‘female’ tasks while still being a ‘good friend.’ When I left my husband, he told me I was acting like a princess, and that I was ‘worse than a girl.’ He set me free!”

She spent thirty-seven years of her life believing she was a “tomboy”A very long and difficult but above all stupid experience.” “I understood that I am just a complex human being, like everyone else. Being a “real girl” or “tomboy” is an excuse to make someone fit into a mold. Me, that’s it, I’m out of it all, finally feeling free.

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