As a child, I was a strong, bandaged-knees, doll-loving girl. I climbed trees, played spy games in a tree-house, I drove tractors and built forts. I also played with barbies and like to dress up. I didn’t act according to binary or stereotypical gender roles. I was just being me. The way I acted, the things I enjoyed, didn’t determine my gender or my sexual orientation.
I never liked being called a “tomboy”. Even at a young age, it didn’t seem right. Girls should be allowed to do whatever they damn well want without being branded a type.
A tomboy is now described has meaning a girl who exhibits characteristics or behaviours considered typical of a boy (in other words gender role as per society decree). I’m not behaving like a boy. I’m behaving like a girl who likes to get dirty, to have an adventure, to use power tools and wear summer dresses and go to spas. It doesn’t have to be one or the other.
I didn’t know it then, but now that I’ve learned more about the history of the term, I feel even more strongly about not using it. The term “tomboy” was first used in England during the 1500’s. It meant rude, boisterous boy. It was a term used to chastise boys that didn’t adhere to etiquette or didn’t listen to their parents. The word itself is a merge of tomfoolery and boy. Not very long afterwards, the term was used for girls and women who didn’t behave according to the rules of society. It was meant as a severe societal disapproval.
I personally find that calling a girl a “tomboy” only reinforces gender binaries and stereotypes by underlining that she isn’t behaving like a girl should.