Don’t Call Her a Tomboy

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She had on camouflage cargo shorts and a lavender shirt and probably sandals with Velcro straps across her tiny toes. We were looking at Disney princess nightgowns and then made our way to Cars. Lightning McQueen was her favorite. Our house was full of him: the blue Dinoco, the classic shiny one with white-wall tires, the muddy one, and on and on it went. As we were leaving a clerk stopped us to say that her grandson was in love with Lightning too. And then she asked, “How old is your son?”

“My daughter,” I said, “is almost four.”

It was an honest mistake and nothing to write home about except in pre-school my daughter’s teacher made it a point to tell me that she was so happy to see a girl play with dolls and want to build things. “I was a tomboy too,” she said.

It was at this point that I kind-of lost it.

When I was growing up, I honestly do not remember walking into a toy store and being bombarded with an explosion of pink on one side and a cascade of muscles and six-pack abs on the other. Walk into any big-box store now and you can divide the toys for “boys” and “girls” by the aisle down the middle. Never – the divide suggests – are these two worlds supposed to meet.

Let’s say you’re in a hurry and pull up to the drive-thru. Yes, toys still come with the meal but do you want a “girl” toy or a “boy” toy? I have always made it a point to say we want Hello Kitty or Transformers; completely disregarding the question.

Or how about potty training? Superheroes, Spongebob, Cars and Diego are for the “boys” and Princesses, flowers, and Pooh Bear are for the “girls.” Regardless of what the section suggested, we went with her favorite character.

For Halloween she was Jessie and then she was Harry Potter.

I’m not a gender warrior; I’m a mother that’s raising a well-rounded daughter. That’s why I lost it at pre-school. Boys, probably and eventually, will become fathers, so why not play with a baby doll? Girls, when they build things, may become architects. When someone – however good the intention – takes notice and labels a girl a “tomboy,” they limit her potential. Labels are things we stick inside our clothing, not something we should put on our children.

I made my thoughts very clear at pre-school: do not call my daughter a tomboy.

And they never did again.

It’s not my girl that has the problem. She’s more than happy to bring her stuffed animals to school and then skateboard home. Maybe, if I let her, through the aisles of the toy store too.

Image via Liz Henry

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Don’t Call Her a Tomboy

Liz Henry is the irreverent voice behind the award-winning blog The Six Year Itch. She lives with her daughter and her partner, Slasher, in Philadelphia. That's not his real name and that's not her real hair color. Her soft middle is totally real. Liz graduated summa cum lazy with a degree in English literature, which means she knows how to write properly, but rarely does. She loves Harry Potter and Luna is her favorite. ... More

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4 comments

  1. Margarita says:

    It’s funny, I’ve been working on my daughter’s wish list (she’s having her first kid birthday party and I wanted to make sure there were items in the lower price ranges) and felt that it was too girly, but she’s already got plenty of cars, blocks, and lincoln logs and is already getting tools from one of her aunts. Instead her list is full of things like Polly pockets and cooking stuff and dollhouse stuff along with lots of art supplies. It’s not that I have anything against girly girls, I just don’t want to limit her. I take pride in the fact that she loves wearing frilly dresses and then climbing into a sandbox or jumping in puddles. One day she wants to be a princess, the next she wants to be a firefighter, and the next she wants to be a doctor. I just want her to be what she wants to be.

  2. Grace says:

    my childrens toys are for all my children/boy and girl…

  3. Kim says:

    I had this same problem when I was growing up, I loved to play with dolls and jump rope with the other girls at PE and recess, but you could also find me playing tag, football, and pretending to be a member of xmen with the boys. I even remember beating the crap out of a boy for cutting my favorite dolls hair.
    Does that make me a tomboy? Maybe, but i live in Alabama, so its kinda a norm around here. But does that mean that my son is girly because he likes watching Dora? And he loves Winnie the Pooh, and his favorite color is purple, granted, I’d also like to see someone try to take his Maters (all 13 of them) away from him.

  4. Laura says:

    Thank you for your article!!! I hope more people look at things this way. My daughter will be who she wants! If she wants to wear car slippers or wear a buzz light year shirt. Who cares? Celebrate these little beings and let them know that they matter. Influence them with positiveness and it can only reciprocate with others. Heck, if my little bean is a boy I wouldn’t care if he played with dolls. It would only show that he wants to learn how to care for others. Individuality cannot be something that is measured. Children should fit in one mold… THEIR own. I have to go… my daughter is playing doctor and is trying to make me better. I think I need a second opinion because she says I need a shot. LOL. Darn cold. P.S. I’m 11 weeks preggo. 🙂

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