Why I’m not half boy

I’m a tomboy.

I’m a butch tomboy.

I’m a butch tomboy dyke.

No, actually, I’m not.

I’m a female.

I’m a female who enjoys active sports and adventure.

I’m a female who has often worn my hair short and doesn’t usually wear makeup.

This does not automatically make me a tomboy a butch or a dyke. No matter how often I’ve been called these names or similar terms.

I recently saw a meme on social media which made me mad. It was a picture of a girl on a skateboard. The caption read “Every cool girl is half boy”.

What the hell is that meant to mean? Only boys ride skateboards? Being ‘just’ a girl is never cool enough? Does that make a ‘cool’ boy ‘half girl’?

This meme goes hand-in-hand with my hatred of the term ‘tomboy’. The implication is that you’re not a girl if you like a bit of action and adventure.

I’ve frequently been called a tomboy, probably since I was age three and preferred dressing up as a pirate rather than a princess. When I was a teenager with short hair and short pants, I was often mistaken for a boy. Once I’d grown up and a set of breasts clarified any gender questions, people often assumed I was a lesbian. I don’t have a problem with that label – love is love wherever you are lucky enough to find it. But it’s my hormones that dictate my sexuality not my choice of hobbies.

I understand the confusion. I don’t agree with it, but I understand it.

I had short hair for a long time (it’s easy-care). I didn’t have a serious boyfriend through my twenties (I travelled the world instead). I’m almost always wearing shorts (it’s practical in Queensland). I don’t often wear make-up (seems like a waste of time to do it every day). I have an unmelodic low-pitched voice (it’s genetic, on my father’s side). I started surfing when I was a teenager and haven’t stopped (it’s so much fun). I did martial arts as a teenager and took it up again recently (I enjoy the challenge). Clearly, I must be a lesbian or half boy or some combination of the two. Does that make me cool these days? I don’t really care anymore. I have spent a lifetime shrugging off these sorts of barbs and they no longer stick.

But don’t you dare infect my daughter with this misogynistic sexism.

My pre-teen daughter is a different type of person to me. Ever since she was old enough to voice her opinion, she has favoured dresses and the colour pink. She went for about six years refusing to wear shorts. She paints her nails and begs me to buy her make-up. She’s done ballet classes for years. By her own unconscious choices, she’s slotted into society’s stereotypes.

But she has me for a mother. So she rides bikes, scooters and rollerblades. She can kick and punch hard enough to hurt a person. She thinks nothing of getting dumped by a wave while she learns to surf. She does these things because I’ve encouraged her to have a go at them and she’s enjoyed them. It doesn’t make her half-boy. It doesn’t make her cool. It doesn’t make her any less – or any more – than her own individual self.

She’s a kid, trying out different things and seeing what she enjoys. She’s never been called a tomboy. I think it would confuse and upset her if someone did. She’s happy being a girl. She shouldn’t be made to feel anything other than that, regardless of her choices.

Fun is gender neutral. Don’t make it anything else.

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A kid having fun. Simple.

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20 thoughts on “Why I’m not half boy

  1. All my girls are ‘girly’ girls, but will get in and give things a go. I think it’s the best of both worlds. I love the fact that I can put on heels and makeup when I want to and also throw myself down a sand dune for fun. Being a girl is awesome. (As is being a boy, I’m sure.)

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  2. As someone who grew up with the ‘tomboy’ label I totally get where you’re coming from. It never bugged me back then but as I got older and *ahem* wiser, I realised how sexist it was. Just because I didn’t conform to gender stereotypes, I was a tomboy. I love the recent ‘Like a girl’ ads where girls can do kick-arse things like, well, girls! It’s great that your daughter has a mum like you to help her fight stereotypes by society.

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  3. Great blog! I agree with everything you say. I was called a tomboy when I was young because I ‘hung out with the boys’ and wasn’t particularly ‘girly’. I’m teaching my sons and daughter that anything goes with regards to gender choices, but already I’m hearing the stereotypes ‘That toy is only for girls’ and ‘I don’t want to read that book. It’s about a girl.’ from my boys, while their sister will play with any toys and read books about either gender. I just want them to be who they are, play with whatever they want, read whatever they want and not care about all this gender conformity nonsense.

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  4. Your blog is bang on and thought provoking. As women and girls we do have more flexibility in what we do and wear. After all, we don’t really expect to see guys dressed up in dresses, heels, and make-up. Something I’ve never thought about before, Why ‘tom’boy? Why not graceboy or daleboy or chrisboy? (The spellcheck doesn’t like those names — had an awful time getting past it.) Tomboy is rather like a double negative — they’re both masculine. It’s redundant. Time for it to go.

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    • I just googled the etymology of ‘tomboy’ as a result of your comments 🙂 It dates back to the 1500s. ‘Tom’ was considered the archetypal boy’s name e.g.. ‘tomcat’ and ‘tomfoolery’. It was earlier used to refer to a prostitute, but since 1592 has come to mean a boisterous girl. Yep. After 400 years – definitely time to go. Thanks for your comments.

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