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Trendy Tomboys

March 3rd, 2008     by Elle E.     Comments

So I was seething after Zoe’s post alerted me to a horrific, anti-woman piece written by a woman, but some other newspaper activity has calmed me a little.

An article in the Toronto Star reports that a New York Times Magazine piece described Ellen Page as “a tomboy - her on-screen persona is sharp, clear-eyed, determined and self-consciously original.”

The following week, a professor at Sarah Lawrence College sent in this response:

“It is unfortunate that we have no other word available to describe this strong, independent young woman than to refer to her as a tomboy. This continues to convey to girls that growing up clear-eyed and courageous is being like a boy.”

Fancy that!

I think we all are composed of a wild mosaic. We have pieces that are understood to be masculine, feminine and every shade of mauve in between. Some of these labels will come from the outside and others from within. That’s confusing enough, but when we put a value judgement on the trait, it gets really dangerous.

I know women who will apologize for “being a girl” when they get emotional or sensitive. (And don’t even get me started on what that op-ed author claims.) When I’m proud of an accomplishment I might say “I’m the man!” or “That took balls!” Yes, ovaries are mighty powerful balls, but that won’t be the interpretation of those around me.

The Star article notes that it’s a point of pride for femme-y celebrities like Charlize Theron and Keira Knightley to claim they are really “tomboys” at heart. There seems to be a certain amount of street cred that comes with likening oneself to a guy. It has a grounding force to it.

I’m totally guilty of this. Before I knew my Judith Butler and my Judith Thompson, I liked to brag that I had “more of a guy’s sense of humour.” This was my (misguided) badge of honour. I could (and can!) out-quote the biggest male Simpsons’ fan. I liked to play 007 back when N64 was all the rage. I’m not afraid of bugs. These are genuine qualities I possess, but I still wanted to call them masculine. On top of that, it seemed “cooler” if I had that boy-ish side to me.

Can anyone relate?

Tags: in my opinion..., media savvy


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