Growing up, I was called a tomboy. I don’t know where this label came from, but we all know what it means – a girl who climbs trees, plays sports, gets dirty, wears pants, wrestles, and just generally likes “boy stuff.” Raising my now-grown daughter, I never heard the term and thought it had been discarded. But a reader told me the other day that his little girl is being called a tomboy because she loves to play with cars. I have to admit I was shocked.
I grew up in three different families – my two biological parents, my biological father and stepmother, and my biological mother and stepfather. Each had their own distinct set of values. But it was during my earliest years, with my dad and stepmom (who was a teacher) that I was allowed to be my truest self and play the way I wanted to play. I loved to be outdoors. Trees were my favorite. I loved to be so high up and to see so far away. I would do anything involving a tree. I would play fort. I would bring my sandwich up to a nice big branch and read a book for an hour. I tied ropes to trees and pretended to be Madonna. I desperately wanted to fly. Thank god I never tried it. It wasn’t just trees, though. I climbed everything. I climbed up on rooftops and scaled mountainsides. I couldn’t get enough. I liked speed, too. I would ride my bike everywhere. And as fast as I could. I could run like the wind. I loved softball and soccer. Girls didn’t play sports much back then. But I did. I liked to play house. But my brother wouldn’t play with me. So I played with frogs and snakes instead. I was an excellent student, even though I didn’t really know it. I always wanted to be outside. And that’s what you called, “a tomboy.”
My third family didn’t approve of “un-feminine” activities, as they put it. They were extremely religious and believed this way the proper way for a girl to be raised. I was required to wear dresses and take ballet. I didn’t mind too much, though I missed sports. I really wanted to join the swim team but I was told I would get “big shoulders.” They did allow cycling and taught me a great work ethic. But I didn’t like being boxed in and knew I would never do that to my kids.
I just knew, when I had my kids, that no activity, toy or experience would be tied to gender. I didn’t believe in that for myself and I didn’t like having that imposed upon me growing up. But when my approach was questioned in an article I recently wrote, I started to think about it more. I wrote on the issue of gender identity and opened a huge can of worms. Apparently these ideas are being hotly debated and I never even knew. Guess I’ve been living under a rock.
I saw a discussion on Facebook where a mother was concerned about her toddler’s “cross-dressing” because he had his hair pulled back and flowers on his shirt. What I don’t get is, why is this cross-dressing? Plenty of men wear their hair up. I know a man who is a body builder, tattooed and works at a jail who pulls his hair back in a ponytail. And there are thousands of articles of clothing available for men that have flower prints. Hawaiian shirts and bathing suits often have flowers on them, as do ties. I don’t understand why people still think this way. Why are we still saying that “flowers are for girls” and “cars are for boys”?
I get that people are highly sensitized to the issues surrounding gender. But I think it boils down to our own issues. We are the ones that are assigning these arbitrary gender categories. As far as I’m concerned, every color, print, animal, activity and hairstyle is for everybody and gender has nothing to do with it. I hope I live to see the day when we all stop caring so much about what we wear and how we look and care a whole lot more about who we are. And when you look up the words “tomboy” or “cross-dressing” in the dictionary the first words you read will be: obsolete.
Your thoughts, comments and suggestions are always welcome!
- A Tomboy Speaks (bitchtopia.com)
- Tomboy. (riseandshinepaps.wordpress.com)
- When You Give a Boy a Barbie
- Boys and Violence: It’s Not the Problem…It’s the Solution