Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Fuck; Im Not a tomboy?

I’m sitting here with bright red nails, in a house that has a sewing machine, craft cupboard, and inordinate amount of women’s hats.
I’m quite a ‘feminine’ woman most of the time.
I also have hiking boots, a white water helmet and a bunch of rad-ass science nerd bits and pieces.
As an aside, I also have a kick ass bone collection, but that’s just seen as a bit odd, rather than traditionally gendered one way or the other.

Most of my childhood was spent thinking I was a tomboy.
I must have been; I never wore pink. I didn’t wear dresses.
I didn’t play with dolls, I liked to build things and climb trees.
So I must have been a tomboy.

When I was about 11 I said to a friend “well, you know; I’m such a Tom-boy.”
“No you aren’t! You like girl stuff.”
The thing was, at her place I painted my nails, and tried lipstick, and played dress –ups in actual dresses. I LOVED her Barbie collection and stayed pretty clean, because they didn’t have a yard.

Was I pretending to be a girly-girl to fit in?

As a confident kid, I wasn’t the type to pretend to be something I wasn’t.
The simple fact was that there were no pink, or dresses, or dolls, or girly crap at my house.
The option simply wasn’t there.
My wonderful mother decided when her baby was a little girl that I would decide who I was, and how gendered I was, in whatever direction I would choose, when I was ready. However she didn’t really provide balance, since I guess she figured the world provided it for her.

Mums third child was another girl, and by then she had relaxed the rules a bit.
While I had a pirate party and a lords and ladies party, and loved them both I would have KILLED for a fairy party.
On the eve of my little sister’s 4th birthday mum sat up until the wee hours sewing a gorgeous little fairy costume for her fairy party.
In the morning there was much excitement over the cute tutu based dress with a glitter heart on the front.
My sister took one look at the dress and burst into tears.
Hell NO - she was not going to wear that thing!!!
Once Mum realised that my sister wasn’t going to wear the dress, I think she was close to joining her on the floor in floods.
All that work for nothing!
The party went without a hitch with the birthday girl dressed in her usual shorts and t shirt. I was a bit too old for a fairy party but sucked up as much pink, and glitter, and fairy-ness as my 10 year old self could do.
After the party I snuck into my sister’s room and tried desperately to squeeze into the dress.
At 6 years age difference there was not a chance, but I think we figured out who the tom-boy is!!!

So I spent a large portion of my developmental life identifying as something I wasn’t simply because my mother set me up that way...

Do Mothers realise how much power they have?
I assumed that Mum didn’t, but at Christmas this year she told a story...

Apparently when she was a child she and her brother were told that they didn’t like cake.
Not that they weren’t allowed it – of course if they wanted it they could have it – but they didn’t like it.
So there would be some sandwiches and cakes at church tea and Mum would be told what the sandwiches were, and reminded (so she didn’t have to suffer) that the other option was cake – But she didn’t like cake. It took until she was about 11 until she realised that she did in-fact like cake, as did her brother.
What the fuck?

How many quality years of gorging on cake did she miss out on? I should report the woman to cyfs.

So in conclusion, Mum knew damn well what she was doing. All you other Mums out there - enjoy pulling the wool over your kids eyes for now, because around about age 11 they are going to start realising what they really do and don’t like, and choosing for themselves.

Also... a BIG round of applause to my lovely mother who allowed all three of us kids to decide who we were in our own time. We tried all sorts and eventually settled into our own skins.
Thanks to her we are all supremely comfortable with who we are since it was a self controlled process.
Our lives were ours to build and she was ‘just’ there to support the process.
Thanks Mum.


  1. PS - Mum kept the fairy dress as a reminder to herself that all the manipulation in the world wont help - kids are who they are!!

  2. I think the idea that girls/women are "tom-boys" or "girly-girls" is ridiculous. Being feminine or masculine is less black and white than - do I like pink? Do I like blue?

    I had a fairy party at 14 which is pretty old for a fairy party. But I didn't care. I also had really short hair for a while. I'm most comfortable in black jeans and a band tee-shirt but I love to dress up. I don't wear heels but I own heels. I have long hair but I just let it grow out that way - it wasn't a conscious decision.

    It's all far too complex for labels. People are who they are. You can shun fairies and be a girlygirl just as you can wear a pink princess dress and be a tomboy.

    There's no need to 'other' children based on what clothes they like to wear or what toys they want to play with based on any given day.

  3. urgh, so true.
    And people so often confuse Identity, gender identity and sexuality.
    If a boy likes pink not only is he "girly" but he must be gay.
    If a man is gay then he *must* be feminine surely?
    Stupid, so stupid.


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