I am a tomboy.

I’m not one of those masculine, “tough” tomboys. I don’t enjoy many “masculine” activities (such as watching football), and I didn’t like to play with car toys when I was a kid. But I am what you call a tomboy. I used to think it makes me “different” and “speshul”, but it doesn’t: there’s nothing more special about tomboys than there is to girly girls.

However, analyzing the way people perceive tomboys (and the tomboy label itself) can reveal a lot about culture and society. There isn’t one way to be a tomboy (and to be seen as such): some think sexual orientation and, above all, “masculinity”, or interests (and fashion style) are what make a tomboy.

The first thing that is interesting to note is that being a tomboy is more, or less, a neutral thing. However, it also brings some advantages, and only one disadvantage.

The disadvantage is the fact men (and also, women) will often not perceive tomboy as “truly female”. This can bring difficulties in dating and love/sex life for tomboys. Tomboys are often seen as less attractive than “girly” women, and men tend to be less interested in them. Because being “pretty” and getting a man are often seen as woman’s top priorities, it makes it seem women perceived as tomboys have an important disadvantage.

However, I believe the label brings many advantages. Because tomboys are often seen as not “truly feminine”, it can help them in other areas of life, such as work. Sadly, many people (mostly, but not exclusively, male people) don’t treat women as true equals. Women often find it difficult for people (especially males) to accept their ideas, or to prove themselves in professional setting (especially if the profession requires intelligence, education and authority). It’s not because they can’t do it; it’s because they are not taken seriously. So not being seen as “really feminine” helps people see you as a “regular human” and are more open to listen to your ideas.

Also, many women find tiring to be approached and harassed by random (male) people, or to be objectified. A woman as a human being becomes unimportant and a target of harassment. Just because she is perceived as an attractive female. Tomboys don’t have this problem: they can go on with they day without being harassed or reminded their intelligence, ideas and PhD don’t matter at all and that all they are are a piece of meat. Feminine women often don’t have that luxury.

So all in all, being a tomboy is not bad; it’s not “special” and it sure isn’t different than being a “girly” female. It does make people perceive you and treat you differently.


Here are some common stereotypes about tomboys:

Tomboys are not feminine
It’s the one that make a tomboy, but it isn’t really true. Many tomboys are feminine; they just don’t think you have to dress or act a certain way, or to have some specific interests to be seen as feminine.

Tomboys wants to be men
This can’t be further from the truth. While there are women who’d prefer to be men, “tomboys” in conventional sense of the word are happy to be female. They simply don’t see their interests or way they act (or dress) as something that only boys can do.

Tomboys are ugly and unattractive
Being ugly has nothing to do with it. While it’s true many tomboys don’t like makeup and wear casual clothes, it’s hardly what make someone unattractive. It IS true, however, some men don’t go after tomboys, but there are many who do, and that’s one of the reasons being a tomboy is not such a disadvantage even in dating.

Tomboys like (sports, fights, etc.) and hate (fashion, shopping, makeup)
While it might be true some tomboys enjoy activities that are perceived as masculine, this can hardly be a rule. Many girly women, for example, enjoy sports; and many tomboys like shopping. People are different so what a particular person might or might not like is purely individual.

However, it is true some traits tend to give you a tomboy label pretty quickly (such as, a little girl who doesn’t like to play with dolls), but it has nothing to do with tomboys as persons: it’s the way society assign gender roles.

Tomboys are “tough”
Once again, it’s individual. There are many tomboys who are very emotional, romantic and display other “feminine” traits. Seriously, the fact someone hates fashion and prefers to watch a boxing match instead of “Sex and the City” doesn’t say anything about her as a person.

See also:

Women: How not to be seen as fully human

13 thoughts on “Tomboys

  1. Kirsty

    I used to be a real tomboy when I was little, I always used to climb trees and play football with the boys…
    Now I’m older, I’m not like that so much, but I just don’t refuse to do things for fear of smudging my make-up xD
    I’m quite worried about my future career. Being small and a woman is quite daunting when you want to be a doctor, I’m terrified people won’t take me seriously!

    P.S. piece as in “piece of meat”, peace as in “world peace” ^^

  2. Mira

    I’m quite worried about my future career. Being small and a woman is quite daunting when you want to be a doctor.

    This is sad to hear. I guess it’s one of those situations where you must work harder and be better than the others in order to be seen equally competent. That’s bad.

    In my country, medicine is not seen as a “male” profession. There are many female doctors and it’s not seen as a big deal.

    PS- Hahahahaa, lol, I can’t believe I wrote it. I usually don’t make that kind of mistakes. Thanks.

  3. Serpentus

    “So not being seen as ‘really feminine’ helps people see you as a ‘regular human’ and are more open to listen to your ideas.”

    I think it helps to first define what it means to be feminine. The word “feminine” can have different meanings in different cultures. For example, when I think of feminine, I usually think of a clean, well-mannered lady who looks after herself.

    NOT someone who:
    wears pajamas to class
    leaves their hair in a mess
    does not look after themselves
    eats like a slob
    incessantly uses foul language
    walks like men
    slouches in chairs

    What a woman’s interests or hobbies are are less important to whether she is feminine or not. Rather, it’s her mannerisms and behavior that make her feminine.

    If you are a pretty woman, you will get attention from men, whether you like it or not. So, use your looks to your advantage.

    Also, women like “masculine” men. No woman wants a weak, low-confident, fearful man for a partner.

  4. Serpentus

    “Being small and a woman is quite daunting when you want to be a doctor, I’m terrified people won’t take me seriously!”

    How tall are you?

  5. Mira


    wears pajamas to class

    lol wut???? There are people who do it?

    You’re right, I forgot to mention mannerism, but I was thinking about it the whole time (the behaviour).

    There are some of the things you listed that definitely apply to me:

    – eating like a slob
    incessantly uses foul
    – language
    – this is me!
    – walking like men (I don’t really, since my figure is very feminine, but in a way, yes. I don’t have girly walk).
    – slouches in chairs

    I don’t really know what you mean by “taking care of herself”. I assume you man on hygiene and cosmetics? I do take care of hygiene, but no cosmetics; however, I don’t like when people call it “taking care of yourself”. It’s just taking care of your physical appearance, and a person is more than that. (I still have this idea for a commercial for promoting libraries: “Take care of yourself, go to a library”.) But I digress.

    Also, women like “masculine” men.

    This is generally true; however, it’s observed that more and more girls prefer androgynous men.

  6. Serpentus

    “‘wears pajamas to class’

    lol wut???? There are people who do it?”

    Yes. Some American women wear pajamas to their university classes.

  7. Alee

    I like tomboys. I just don’t like women who have to remind everyone every five seconds that they are a tomboy and so “different”. *eye roll*

  8. Mira

    I admit, I used to think I am different and “speshul” when I was 13 or 14. Which is rubbish, of course. But then again, when people tease you because of something, and they make you feel like you are not one of them… you start identifying with it.

    However, as much as I am not a girly girl, I can have great relationship with them, sometimes better than with the other tomboys (feeling spshul is not one of the things I like; it’s snobbish).

  9. Mariana

    Oh my god, it’s been ages since I commented on your blog. My bad, I’ve been working a lot.

    I was thinking about tomboys on the other day. My life was a whole lot easier when I was a tomboy or an anti-lady, as a friend of mine used to say. All I needed was a pair of loose jeans, some t-shirts and all star sneakers. Now, that for some reason (read this as work) I need to dress more lady like, shoping for clothes became an almost excruciating activity. At least, when I’m not working, that’s pretty much what I wear, old jeans and t-shirts. But enough about me…

    Tomboys are fashionable now, and I mean Vogue fashinable. This month’s Vogue (BR edition) shows lots of picture of “Adults tomboys”, like tomboy clothes for the office (Perhaps I should take a look at that again).
    And I have seen around the interned (read that as 4chan) lots of pictures of objetified tomboys. No, we’re not free from that.

    And by the way, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!

  10. Mira Post author

    shoping for clothes became an almost excruciating activity.

    This! It’s one of the things I hate the most. I have no idea why some people enjoy shopping. It’s so tiring and takes a lot of energy.

    Tomboys are fashionable now, and I mean Vogue fashinable.

    I remember when it happened to grunge, back in the early 90s.

    But it’s ok. Real tomboys don’t do it to be “different” anyway, right?

    And I have seen around the interned (read that as 4chan) lots of pictures of objetified tomboys. No, we’re not free from that.

    Interesting. We’re free from that where I live. There’s only one (or two) way(s) a girl can look to be seen as attractive and feminine, and worth attention. So if you don’t look like that, you will be left alone.

  11. Iva

    BEST. ARTICLE. EVER. I salute you.

    To Serpentus: In the country Mira and I are from, all the trends are somewhat late. Currently, the trend actually suggests that a woman that, as you said, incessantly uses foul language is an awesome feminist of some sorts. I read blogs written by women old enough to be our parents and they encourage young girls to use words such as cunt and cock, normally, all the time, because that apparently is a sign of equality? Me? I just wouldn’t want to sit at the same table as they do, otherwise I’ll think I’m eating…well, the organs they’re talking about. And that wouldn’t be nice.

    Moreover, boys read that stuff too and they want some sort of cowgirls, all dyed blonde, all swearing, smoking cigarettes and thinking it’s an important part of a person’s image, using foul language, getting drunk and doing that just for the sake of getting drunk, wearing thick make-up and calling themselves real women, feminists, what-the-eff-ever.

    Personally, I think Mira should and MUST translate her blog to Serbian as this immature society BEGS for something different. And this is different.

    Mira, I’ll sort everything out. JUST.DO.IT. I insist.

  12. Mira

    Iva is right. Serpentus, there are certain cultural differences at play here.

    First of all, using swear words is not that much of a deal in my culture; almost everybody does it. Male, female, old or young. There’s even a “joke”: how to know you’re a Serb? If your grandmother swears more than you do.

    Also, smoking is still “in”, and it’s seen as sexy. Same goes for drinking (especially if you’re a guy, but it’s tolerated for girls, too).

    In short, using swear words, drinking and smoking will not make a girl appear unfeminine.

    On the other hand, not using makeup will.

    It’s just how things go around here.


    Volela bih da gostujem ili da prevedem nesto od ovoga. Ali ako i budem pravila blog na srpskom, ne zelim da bude na ovom domenu. Gotovo niko “domaci” ne zna za ovaj blog i zelim da tako i ostane. (Poslednje sto zelim jesu Facebook frikovi koje znam iz sredje da dolaze na moj blog).

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