Girly Girls vs Tomboys

Girls in my school who happily and consciously enjoy fashion, make-up, and the like, and who prefer to stick with girls, are termed girly girls. I haven’t heard anyone use a term for those who love sports like football, who tend to play Warhammer, and have many friends who happen to be boys, but perhaps if pushed to provide one I could imagine it being “tomboys.” Now I have always loved the idea of tomboys — wild, brave, and aggressive girls. All that I was not. Perhaps the one I most admired was Louisa May Alcott’s Jo. Or the various characters Haley Mills seemed to always play in the movies I enjoyed growing up. Certainly these girls were everything shy-timid-me wasn’t. All of which came to mind when reading ” Why ‘tomboy’ remains a loaded word.”


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4 responses to “Girly Girls vs Tomboys

  1. Interesting article. I too, of course, would have LOVED to be a tomboy as a child–I was an aspirational tomboy!–only temperamentally was happier making a cake or reading a book than climbing over a fence! And in fact just this week I was internally bemoaning the fact that on the adventurous-to-timid spectrum really I am far more timid…


  2. Aspirational tomboy — perfect! That was what I was too. I’m surprised to see, in the article, that it is a considered a negative term because I’ve always seen it in a positive light.

    But I’d say you can be a bookish tomboy — Jo March again.


  3. hope

    I think Schechter is mistaken, and the positive connotations of the word are far greater than any intimations of gender policing. I don’t think it means so much a girl acting like a boy as it means a girl acting in a way that “used to be” reserved for boys, but is now seen as laudable. I think that “used to be” is inherent in today’s use of the word, and that Schecter is mistakenly forcing on old meaning of the word onto the term. It might be a generatlional shift in meaning. Certainly when I was growing up in the seventies it was meant to convey approval.

    “Somehow I don’t think that word means what you think it means.”
    — Inigo Montoya


  4. jen

    It seems that this gender stereo-typing focuses on society’s impression of girly-girls and tomboys. There is a wonderful song by Dar Williams, “When I was a boy” that so aptly talks about the transistion from bold child to timid girl. For those that don’t know it, the narrator talks about things like riding her bike and being told to put on her shirt (and saying no because right now “I’m not breaking any laws”). She talks about being older and at a party “needing a nice man to walk you home” so she would be safe. What makes the song so poignant is that the “nice man” confesses what he now misses about “when I was a girl.”

    You can find the full lyrics on the web. Or better yet, buy the song. It is worth it. It makes me tear up about these gender roles. But just remember, we all get pushed into these boxes.


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