Girls will be boys

According to the Keywords for Children’s Literature, the term “tomboy” is defined as “a girl who behaves like a spirited or boisterous boy; a wild romping girl” (220). “Tomboys” tend to be belittled in society because they go beyond the social norms. Girls are thought to be confined to domestic duties, wear skirts, and stay clean. However, there are some girls that do like to play sports, climb trees, and wear jeans more than skirts. Does that make them less than a girl? In Little Women, the idea of “tomboy” is represented as doing engaging in idealized boy behavior while Girls will be boys, “tomboy” is represented as a way of dressing and appearance.
In the Keyword essay, it is mentioned that “the rowdy tomboy would make a better wife and mother than her prissy housebound sister” (221). This is due to her becoming strong, competent, and independent which are needed traits for a mother. This issue is addressed in Little Women. We find Jo is often portrayed as a tomboy and belittled by her sister Meg. Meg scolds Jo when she says “You’re old enough to leave off boyish tricks and behave better, Josephine. It didn’t matter so much when you were a little girl; but now you are so tall, and turn up your hair, you should remember that you are a young lady” (223). It so happened that Jo ended up as a mother to biological and adopted children. How do we determine what is girly enough to be considered as not a “tomboy”? Is there a defined line in defining someone as a “tomboy”?


I came across an article that approached tomboy from the girl’s point of view who is often called a tomboy. In the article titled “Girls will be boys” by Tara Moss, the idea of being a tomboy is addressed from the standpoint of androgynous style of dressing. Androgynous dressing is similar to cross dressing but more towards gender neutral clothing. We see lots of advertising for DRAG Queens but we don’t see so much as DRAG Kings. The author, Tara Moss, transforms herself into her alter ego Victor Lamour. She wanted to explore “how much it would take to look not just masculine, but like a man”. When she was a child, she just preferred guys clothing because it was more fitting fr the occasion. She didn’t like wearing dresses in cold weather and felt more comfortable in jeans and such. According to the article, women dressing in a woman’s masculine-styled suit is accepted into the mainstream as with Saint Laurent’s launch of “Le Smoking” in 1966. But this style is only accepted if outfit is paired with makeup and heels. Moss dressed as her alter ego to see what kind of feedback she would get if she transformed into a full man. Someone commented on her picture saying “she should be proud to be a woman”. Do you think that we will get to live in a label free environment?


3 thoughts on “Girls will be boys”

  1. I like the points you made about what it means to be a tomboy and how Jo March fits into that category. You asked an interesting question on whether a girl is less of a girl if she likes to “play sports, climb trees, and wear jeans.” I don’t think these activities should be limited to boys but rather should be pursued by whomever wishes to partake in them. Although our society has come a long way since the time Little Women was set in which behaviors are acceptable for girls, I still think we ought to work to end gendered activities and encourage kids to dress and participate in what they want versus what is stereotypically common.

  2. Ebony, I like how you mentioned androgynous fashion in reference to our keyword tomboy. It’s fascinating to me that we see people in the media like Ellen Degeneres or Hillary Clinton wearing pants to events rather than dresses, but it’s more fascinating that people react in a somewhat shocked manner. I feel like fashion creates a cookie cutter of what a woman should be, but to these women, they aren’t trying to establish a “tomboy edge” (as they could be labeled for doing so) but instead just doing it for comfort. I have friends, even, who don’t understand how I don’t like wearing dresses or skirts to school everyday- it’s not comfortable! I think wearing pants in public can be the equivalent of rolling up your sleeves before doing something, and that dresses hold back the effort of women because of all the limitations it has. For example, in a motherly argument, if your child was stuck in a playground and you had to go get him, yes tomboys would make great mothers because they are comfortable and ready to spring into action. On the other hand, it may be harder for women in dresses, who may or may not be “prissy” too, because their dresses could be ruined merely just by climbing in. Women and their rights have made it so far in the world, so why should it be a shock that we wear pants too? Dressing in something that is comfortable only facilitates and doesn’t hold anyone back. If you are a woman. You are a woman. If you are a mother. You are a mother.

  3. Hi Ebony! I think you bring up a really interesting points. I feel like with today’s mindset we are all about breaking down current gender norms and taking away labels, which I think is a really good thing. However, it’s interesting to think about why these labels were created in the first place. I think we as humans like to classify things in neat little boxes that help us understand the world better and make judgments to evolutionary help us survive. Do you think a society could function successfully if all labels were taken away? I don’t know the answer myself… I also like the question you posed of what makes a girl a tomboy? When I think back to the books we have read so far, I think of Kaya’s story because she did often take the lead and was independent and things that may seem “tomboyish”, however, I wonder if that was just some of her Indian culture? Great post!!

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