Gender normative terms and attitudes are harmful. Not just because they promote an extremely narrow and limited world-view, but also because they encourage an idealistic society run on prejudiced principles. A tomboy exhibits unfeminine or “manly” characteristics and habits. She apparently does not act the way a girl typically should. It’s absurd that anyone gets to decide how a girl or boy should act. ‘Tomboy’, like other gender normative stereotypes is nothing but that, a ridiculous stereotype. It needs to be put to rest permanently, and soon.
Tomboy is a problematic term because first and foremost, it distinguishes clothing, games, ideas and behaviors into gendered categories. It’s quite facetious and dispensable. Gender is nothing but a socially constructed institution designed to justify systematic oppression. Sex is a biological construct, and even that is not absolute; as recent research and findings have proven.
If ‘rudeness’, ‘rough’, and ‘noisy’ behavior is supposedly linked to being a tomboy then it is grossly unfair that it is justified for a boy to be rude and noisy, but not a girl. Either discipline the kid regardless of gender or let them sprint the way they wish to. Another illogical reasoning behind calling young girls tomboys lies in them consuming a ‘wholesome’ diet. How unlikely that a growing girl eats as much as her male counterpart. Let the girl eat. And let the boy eat. There’s no reason to call her unfeminine if she eats a lot. Whether she wishes to be ‘feminine’ or not, is actually entirely her choice, so to label her at such a young age is toxic.
The tomboy thesis doesn’t end the hilarity here. Some have even argued that some tomboys are more likely to turn into lesbians due to their genetic make up… Considering the fact that sexual orientation in itself is biological, it’s weird to think that how a girl acts in her formative stages would determine her romantic and sexual interests later on in life. Proof that such ideologies produce harmful stereotypes is in the construction of the image of the “butch dyke” in popular media due to the link between tomboys and lesbianism. There is absolutely nothing wrong with identifying as a lesbian but there is something seriously wrong with connoting a sexual orientation to clothing, activities, games, childhood, interests, etc. Nobody ‘becomes’ gay. Implying that is ignorant and uneducated at the least. You don’t have to ‘look’ gay to be gay. You are you, no matter what.
Accepting the tomboy ideology as anything more than a ridiculous stereotype reflects the internalized misogyny we’re all victims of. A girl who threatens boys and their apparent ‘manhood’ is a tomboy and has to be associated with something masculine, because how can she be a girl and be strong at the same time. Young girls say they are tomboys or their friends are if they do ‘boy things’. What are boy things? And who gets to decide these ‘boy things’? Nobody should. There is nothing absolute and exclusive to a gender just because centuries of internalized misogyny have convinced us to accept them as such. A boy is not a ‘sissy’ if he likes makeup, his manhood is not threatened if he likes taking care of his skin or grooming himself. Similarly, a girl is not a ‘tomboy’ if she likes sports more than makeup or shopping. Female celebrities who may choose not to wear a skirt or dress once in a while or ever will also hurriedly be labeled as a tomboy. Clothing and gender are unquestionably unrelated. There shouldn’t be a norm when it comes to gender identities.
It is extremely problematic to use tomboy as a legitimate adjective because it implies the messed up understanding that there is a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to be a girl (or a boy). Forcing such a gender normative ideology is dangerous not only to the identity of the person in question but to the fabric of society as a whole.