Where Have All The Tomboys Gone?

This morning we received a tip about a piece published Saturday in the Guardian on the death of the tomboy. Writer Stephanie Theobald, a former tomboy herself, wonders what has happened to all the boyish little girls.

Theobald uses anecdotal evidence to support her argument that in today’s pink princess Barbie doll culture, the tomboy is on the decline. She has a difficult time finding a tomboy to interview for her article, and takes this as a sign that tomboys have generally gone out of fashion. However, while her methods are rather unscientific, Theobald does make a good point about the marketing of sexy to young girls:

Alarmingly, when it comes to the box office, it seems that semi-sexualising girls is still the only way ahead. Take Disney's revamped Famous Five cartoon, Famous 5: On the Case. Jo, the daughter of George, seems forced to wear figure-hugging girl versions of boy clothes (no tomboy worth her salt would ever wear figure-hugging clothes). And what of poor Dora the Explorer? Nickelodeon recently redesigned the Dora doll to make her more "feminine" (read "profitable"). Instead of being equipped with tools, map and backpack, her new accessories include halter-tops, tiaras and glittery hairbrushes.

Theobald hits on a disturbing trend that we’ve discussed before. Girls are marketed pink everything, sparkly everything, princess everything. In a world where being pretty is the best compliment a young girl can receive, it is hard to be a tomboy. In many ways, Theobald is right; tomboys have been “medicalised,” as has gender-bending in general. Children are now (and have always been) encouraged to conform to strict gender roles usually based on their biological sex. But that doesn’t mean that they always do.

Growing up, both my sister and I were tomboys, which is probably due in part to the fact that we have two very boyish brothers and parents who bought us mostly gender-neutral toys (we had tons of Legos). Working with kids, I see a lot of 21st century tomboys. They’re out there, even if they are not as celebrated by the media as they once were. Tomboys (and “sissies”) are everywhere, and their continued presence can hopefully help redefine what traits are actually “boyish” “girlish” or just human.

Hurrah for Tomboys! [Guardian]