‘Tomboy’ is a term I haven’t heard a lot recently. Saturday’s Guardian had an article about tomboys that left me puzzled. Its author, a tomboy herself, began with the thought that tomboys had been something good in her childhood, with lots of the the stars of fiction for girls being tomboys. Yet today they seem much rarer these days, both in real life and in fiction. She postulated that the strength of current pink princess pressure was stamping them out, and she decided to go in search of today’s tomboys, wondering if they had a tougher time. Thus far, I was nodding along. Then it started to emerge that her understanding of ‘tomboy’ was different from mine. The tomboys she was interested in were ones who insisted that they were really boys and not girls, or who rejected both gender identities. My understanding of ‘tomboy’ was much weaker than this. I thought a tomboy was simply a girl who wanted to do stereotypical ‘boy’ things– which would include her tomboys, but also lots of other girls (including the fictional tomboys mentioned earlier).
The author was surprised to find how uncomfortable parents of today are about the tomboy girls, and how unwilling to be interviewed for a newspaper. But I found myself wondering if some of that is due to a change in thinking about these issues that the author completely ignored. If I had a girl who insisted she was really a boy, I would be wondering if this meant that she would wind up wanting to transition– worrying about major surgeries, hormone treatments, etc. And I’d be very hesitant to let a newspaper do a story on my child while that child was still trying to figure out their gender identity.
So what if anything has changed? Have we progressed by now having greater awareness of trans issues? Have we actually moved toward a more rigid duality? Was ‘tomboy’ an accepted additional gender 30 years ago in a way that it isn’t today?
The article totally ignored trans issues, though it was very careful to discuss sexuality issues, insisting that there’s no definite connection between being a tomboy and being a lesbian.
So… lots to mull over here. What do you think?