What is a Tomboy, Gramma?

Debbie Hatch | Family & F.I.T.

I’ve never considered myself a “feminist” and, to be honest, I still don’t although the title seems more and more appropriate as time goes on. I hate labels and I really dislike lumping people into generic categories. I don’t believe any of us are just single -dimensional.

But there’s been a lot of “in my face” stuff recently.

We’ll attribute my comments to being on yet another plane, hearing yet another woman say, “I need to wait for a strong man to come put my suitcase into the overhead bin.” You’ve heard that rant before so I’ll spare you the diatribe here.

My 8-year old grandson asked me the other day, “What is a Tomboy?”

He had heard the term at school. Intrigued by the question, I asked him what HE thought it was. He originally said, “A girl who wear’s boys’ clothes, does boy things and wants to be a boy.” I asked for clarification. Boy’s clothes are, evidently, jeans, plain tee shirts and tuxedos. What? I know a lot of guys that run around in tuxedos every day. Don’t you? I have no idea where that came from!!! He defined girl’s clothes as dresses. Boy things are fishing and hunting. Girls just like flowers. There are even boy and girl tattoos!! Girls can get butterflies, steering wheels (…this was actually a nod to his cousin who has a ship’s wheel tattoo) and hearts. Boys get everything else.

Okay, I think we can all agree that Hayden’s list is a little silly, and as imaginative as many other things he talks about. He’s not been taught any of this. He’s heard things and he’s just trying to figure out the world he lives in.

But think about it.


How would you define a “Tomboy”?

Think about that question for just 30 seconds before you continue reading.






Did you think about it?

One of my friends said, “it’s a girl who is more interested in sports than dolls.” And, I do agree. Somewhere within our society we created these things for girls and different things for boys. Girls are supposed to be calm and docile. Boys are rambunctious and adventurous.


The fact is that I’ve been referred to as a Tomboy my entire life. I went hunting and fishing. I worked on cars. I ran fast and got muddy. I rode dirt bikes and snowmobiles. I carried in more firewood than anyone else because I was proud of being strong. I rarely wore dresses. I shot handguns in steel target competitions back when my husband and I were dating (of course he married me…..). He can confirm the number of times I was asked if I was carrying my boyfriend’s gun. That stopped after a few competitions but I always felt like I had to prove, not only that I had a right to be there, but also that women had a right to participate. There was that salesman at Dick’s Sporting Goods on Mother’s Day who asked how my husband’s back was when he was picking up a squat rack for me; and the one at Wal-mart who said, “those 25 pounds weights are heavy. Is someone going to come in and help you carry them out?’ No lie. Yup, that really did happen.


It’s been happening for a long time. When my son was 4, he got off the Headstart bus one afternoon and said, “My friend Tommy says you can’t ride that motorcycle, mom, because you are a girl.” Joe had never before thought it weird that I had a motorcycle. In fact he loved riding with me. It was just something I did…..until that day, when another 4 year old little boy planted the seed that there are certain things girls shouldn’t/can’t do.

Of course I proceeded to tell both boys that girls can do whatever they want! So can boys. We can all hunt or fish. We can all cook, or sew, lift and run, play with dolls or tractors. We can race motorcycles and make things with our hands. We can all get muddy – or not. Some of us are better at certain things than others. But it’s not because we’re boys or girls.


Here are a couple of other examples I’ve heard recently, from adults, not young children.


Two men talking in the sporting goods section after they had stopped by the gun counter where a female sales associate was working. “Wow. I have to say that I’m impressed she actually knows about firearms.” I bet you $1 million that statement would not have been made if the salesperson been a male.

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Watching dirt bike racing in May when Vicki Golden made history by becoming the first female to qualify for the “Fast  40”, the riders that transition to the night program from times qualifying. I asked who she was and the response I received was, “some girl who’s trying to get into Super Cross.” Trying to get in? It seems she’s right there…..IN….racing. http://www.cycleworld.com/2015/05/03/amasx-vicki-golden-makes-supercross-history-video/




I could go on and on but I won’t. Rather, I’ll leave you with these links if you’re interested (and have the time) to look at some other examples.

Only males can be taken seriously in math and science.  http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2015/06/11/3668712/female-scientists-responded-brutally-sexist-comments-nobel-laureate/

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We use, “Like a girl” as an insult. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjJQBjWYDTs


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Girls don’t just do “Powder Puff” racing, you know.



In the meantime, here’s what I personally told Hayden. “Tomboy” is a word we used to use a long time ago, but it’s not a word we should use any more because there is no such thing.

No boy things. No girl things. Just human things.”

One of my friend’s put it this way: “A girl who does not fit inside societies mold”. I love that!! We need to change this ridiculous mold.

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