As a kid, I got called “tomboy” a lot, and while I mostly took it as a compliment, it also felt weird that I was proud to be defined as being more like a boy than the other girls. If running and jumping and following my curiosity made me a wannabe boy, who exactly would want to be a girl?
My girls, aged 8 and 9, have never heard the word “tomboy” in their real lives but have run into it in some books they read. It’s led to conversations about people’s expectations of girls and the push and pull of both being proud of atypical accomplishments while being shamed for liking and doing the things we do.
Last night I ran out with my girls to do some last minute replacement shopping. Our local Sears is liquidating, so it was a good time to look for shoes. The conversation verbatim:
Fred: “Do you think some of the kids will make fun of me if I buy Avengers sneakers?”
Me: “Absolutely. The important question is, do you care?”
Fred: “Well, my friends are getting used to the idea of a girl like me. But now they wonder why I carry a My Little Pony backpack.”
Me: “Just tell them that you like what you like, and they’ll be okay with it if they’re really your friends.”
The new tomboy? She proudly wears her Ultron sneakers with a flowered shirt and is fully sure that her interests don’t make her a tomboy at all, but a girl who knows what she likes.