Tomboy: Its Actually An Offensive Word If You Are Girl 

I recently read a post by my very good friend  Alan who blogs at OMG It’s A Girl called ‘Don’t call me tomboy’. It’s a truly brilliant post about his little girl. What I particularly like about the post is the history behind the word ‘tomboy’ and that it actually dated back to the 16th century, which as Alan said is where it belongs, completly right as well.

Another blogger that I admire and have the utmost respect for is Simon who blogs at Man vs Pink. Simon has always written extensively about the gender stereotyping that is so prevalent towards our children in today’s society everywhere. Simon’s bio on Twitter says don’t call his daughter ‘Tomboy or Princess’. A quote that I think should be said to anybody that think it’s ok to use these terms when describing a girl.

This all got me thinking about my five year twin girls because at our local supermarket on Easter Monday, I was stunned by a comment by somebody we knew who works in education.

The twins, as I have written on many occasions are like chalk and cheese. In fact sometimes I wondered if they are twins at all because they can be so different.

We were doing a little bit of shopping at our local supermarket on Easter Monday and as I said when we bumped into a teachers aide that the girls had when they were in nursery. We talked about have you had a nice Easter etc and then she started talking to the girls and said to R you really are a Tomboy. At which point I nearly chewed half of my tongue off trying to stop myself saying anything because the chances are I would have been rude. She then turned to M and said and you are a princess. I had never experienced this before and to say I was irritated would be an understatement. I was actually really annoyed. I sort of wandered away and I have to be honest I expected better from somebody who works education.

So, R likes to wear a baseball cap. Actually she has a selection of them, some of them plain and some with superheroes on. She wears jeans and t-shirts that are usually found in the boys sections of supermarkets, but that’s another story. So that makes her a tomboy? But while we are on subject of supermarkets here is a picture of school uniforms at Asda. Some people may think it’s ok. I don’t why all the girls polo shirts have pretty collars. Also the outdated trend of blue for boys and pink for girls never seems to disappear in your local Asda. My twin girls would not be seen in those in a month of Sunday’s.

Asda just don’t understand gender stereotyping

My other twin girl M was referred to as a princess which staggered me. She was dressed on this particular occasion almost the same as her sister. Well she certainly didn’t look like Cinderella to me on that day. Although there are days when she wanders around in a Moana dress all day.

Over the Easter break we found a new park not far from where we live. It has a zip-wire, spiders web climbing frame, as well as the usual slides and swings. Both the girls were loving the zip-wire and climbing everywhere. Which in our gender stereotyping world they would be considered boys activities. What nonsense! My girls love all of that and why not. Girls can climb too! It’s allowed and actually it’s very normal.

Omg! it’s girls climbing


My twin girls are now five years old and they are more than aware that they are girls and they know the difference between boys and girls. So calling my daughter a tomboy is incredibly disrespectful and offensive. Let’s break the word in half ‘Tom’ is a name generally used as male name and ‘boy’, why refer to a girl as a boy when it’s plain to see she is a girl? If we reverse this to a boy would a parent be happy if there son who likes  leggings, the colour pink and playing with dolls, Barbie girl? No, they would be livid I’m sure. It’s another example of society stereotyping our children. It is so ingrained in our society. I wonder at times if it will ever disappear. I genuinely hope it does, but I’m not holding my breath. The person who called R a tomboy wasn’t elderly which is normally the people that use this terminology. She was middle aged and it proves that this kind of behaviour is travelling down the generations.

Girls in baseball caps and hoodies is this normal YES !

My five year old twin girls are GIRLS. They know they are girls, but even so they love playing football, ballet, Barbie, climbing, in fact anything that is fun. They like having their hair platted or wearing their hair down with baseball caps. The reason is simple. They are children and after all fun is fun no matter what that is. Our children need to be stopped being put in categories by society. Otherwise we hold back this generation of the future of this world. All children, especially girls need to grow without any limitations on their expectations of what they want to achieve with their future. Having my twin girls labelled with ridiculous names that belong way back in the past will only hold back there aspirations for the future, and them being successful in their chosen careers.

Would love to know your thoughts.

40 thoughts on “Tomboy: Its Actually An Offensive Word If You Are Girl 

  1. I completely agree, our little girl gets called a ‘tomboy’ a lot mainly because she prefers to play with the boys at school on lunch breaks. If people stopped judging for a minute they would just see that she is an active and adventurous kid who loves being outside in nature, running around and climbing trees or playing sports and has nothing to do with what sex she plays. #ThatFridayLinky

  2. Well done showing self-control in that situation. Some people just don’t seem to think about the language they use and the implications of it, especially around young girls. Gender stereotyping is something that we need to leave behind, the sooner the better. #ThatFridayLinky

  3. This makes me so angry! The other day a friend said ‘oh your twins are really boy-ish boys, aren’t they?’. I really didn’t know what to say – they’re 12 months! What does that even mean? I suspect it’s derogatory, referring to how they are into everything or like to rough and tumble. Which I think are great traits!

    I think people need to back off with the whole gender thing. I mean, what does it even matter anyway?! If a person isn’t going to be involved with your child’s genitals, it shouldn’t make a difference to them what gender they are!

    #ThatFridayLinky

  4. I’ve never really thought about the word tomboy before but I suppose it is a bit negative. Kids should be kids regardless of whether they want to dress up as a fairy or play with batman. I try to encourage gender neutral toys for Poppy while she’s young too. At the moment her new favourite is a big toy fire engine I got down from the loft. Thanks for hosting #thatfridaylinky x

  5. I think the names ‘Tomboy’ and ‘Princess’ are both derogatory. Well done for keeping your cool and shame on the teachers aide.
    Gender stereotypes are so well ingrained it’s hard to lose them.
    Though-provoking post 🙂
    #thatfridaylinky

  6. I hate labels! I’ve had the same experience with my tot. Because she’s extremely boisterous and active, and like your daughter, wears jeans and tshirts etc…that makes her a ‘tomboy’. Not to mention, the comment of, “she’ll take after her Daddy being a BMXer [or mountain biker]…’ I dont like dressing her in pink or other stereotypical clothing and I’ve often been made to feel thats wrong – why is wrong to dress her in non-gender specific clothes??

  7. I’m really surprised that a teacher would even say that to them. Not good at all in this day and age. I think as long as you let your girls continue on their happy paths it will stand them in good stead. Such a shame everyone else can’t forget the stereotypes xx thanks for hosting x

  8. Oh I read Alan’s post and it’s a subject that I agree with and get quite ranty about! My two girls have not been blessed in the hair department and so at nearly four, Martha still has short hair and that makes her look quite boy-ish, if you like. She is forever being labelled a tomboy – just because she has short hair!! She likes: dinosaurs, dolls, climbing trees and watching Frozen. Her name is Martha and that is the only label she needs!

    #thatfridaylinky

  9. I think the way people say things and if they’ve negative connotations makes the difference. Words are beautiful and have power but should not be used used for a negative intention.

  10. I am shocked that a teacher/aide would label a child in that way. We do refer to our little girl as a princess and our boy as a prince. Not because they are girly or boys names, but it just happened. Long story short, my husband called me his queen, Reuben asked what it meant and it went on from that. I wouldn’t expect anyone else to be calling them those names. #ThatFridayLinky

  11. It’s an interesting debate – anything that risks holding our children back isn’t worth bringing into their lives. There are so many subtle gender stereotypes around still, but luckily things are improving! #ThatFridayLinky

  12. Gender stereotypying is holding our kids back in so many ways, and of course the knock-on is the impact it has on adults too. I remember a Reddit thread that went viral where men were sharing what they were jealous of what women could do, but they felt they couldn’t – from little things like taking bubble baths to huge issues like showing their emotions. What starts as pink and blue clothes as babies turns into deep rooted aspects of people’s personalities and identities which aren’t always for the best. As parents, we need to be the force that stops it before it causes damage, but when even teachers are blind to it, it’s a huge battle!
    #ThatFridayLinky

  13. I personally don’t mind tomboy (was called it) and probably still am, but in this context it is rude and inappropriate. My Dad is mortified that I allow my son to buy dolls and go to dance class. I can’t even be bothered to try and reason with him, it’s his generation and hopefully that language and expectation will be a thing of the past. We are getting there! #ThatFridayLinky

  14. In had a similar situtuation where someone suggested that my eldest wears too much pink. I was annoyed because 1. We own lots of different colored clothes. 2. Her favourite is actually purple and the majority is purple if anything. And 3. Who bloody cares! They can wear or be whoever they want. They are happy and healthy. People need to see past the clothes they are wearing. 👍

  15. I always like your posts Nige and you write about it so well. I’m the same with my two boys, they are completely the opposites of eachother. Leo is in touch with his emotions and loves crafts, he also loves superheroes and capes.. Mylo hates crafts but loves getting dirty and muddy. I hate it when people say “stop acting like a girl” it REALLY grates on me!! #thatfridaylinky

  16. Really interesting read and I can totally see where your coming from. Why our kids can not just be into what they are with out labels is beyond me #thatfridaylinky

  17. I TOTALLY agree with you – my little girl isn’t 2 yet and is being called a tomboy on a regular basis! It annoys me so much! Just because she likes to play in the mud, climb on things and prefers to wear boots to sandals! AAARGH I feel your frustration! xx

  18. I love this, and I completely agree. I find it’s the older generation who refer to them as tomboys more, I know when I am out with the girls I have older people comment all the time, “She looks like a right tomboy!” when Megan is scrambling in the mud and climbing trees. I’ve had the same with Eva,”What a little princess!”, and it’s not something I’ve ever really thought about, but you are so right. They are girls who just have different interests, great post Nige. #thatfridaylinky

  19. I am guilty of calling my daughter a Princess, not because I am gender stereotyping but because that is my little name for her, I see it nothing more than a nickname. A post to raise Nige, well written. Thanks for hosting #ThatFridayLinky

  20. The same thing happens with boys when they are expected to be tough and masculine all the time, and in some ways, that can be even worse on their emotional development. As a boy mom, it’s something that’s definitely on my mind. People do seem to be more enlightened about it these days, so that’s progress, albeit slow. #ThatFridayLinky

  21. Boys and girls both have expectations put on them. My sons and daughter all play with more boyish toys but when shopping Anya chooses pink packaging then doesn’t really play with them (maybe if she had a sister?) My eldest boy would never play with dolls but plays with the Marvel 12 inch characters (same size as Barbie) #thatfridaylinky

  22. I hate gender stereotypes. Why can’t we be who we want to be? Like what we want to like? Without someone feeling the need to stereoptype us or stick a label on us? Grinds my gears!
    Great post as always Nige!
    #thatfridaylinky

  23. I cant believe someone in education would say that. My little girl loves superheroes (she’s only 18 months) and i dont see why people would think this is wrong etc or label her in anyway. My son had a baby doll and little pram a few years back because he wanted one. We didn’t suddenly start calling him a girl. Children should be able to dress or have any kind of toys they want.

  24. I hate that people feel they can put labels your children, they are who they are. My little girl loves being a princess 1 minute and is climbing a tree the next. It’s about being a child, having fun and being happy. #thatfridaylinky

  25. i had a similar incident last week when I dropped Rory off at nursery. Months ago a friend left a pink sippy cup at our house and never collected it. Naturally we’ve started using it and the day before I’d sent Rory to nursery with it in his bag. The teacher made a point of calling us out on the pink cup. Apparently it caused serious confusion as to who this cup belonged to. Presumably little boys are not allowed to drink out of pink cups? #ThatFridayLinky

  26. I agree, wholeheartedly. I have two daughters as well. It angers me when someone tries to imply a gender label or tells them that they cannot do something because they are a girl. I know that feeling of chewing my tongue instead of exploding – I owned an in-home childcare for a few years. One day, the children, boys and girls, were playing with princess dresses and makeup. A young father came to the door to pick-up his daughter. One of the young boys, dressed as Cinderella and wearing red lip gloss popped over to the door to say hello to the young father as he waited for his daughter to gather her things. The father’s expression changed dramatically and he REPRIMANDED the child and told him to take off the dress and makeup immediately!

  27. I understand what you’re saying and I think it can be a confusing topic because personally I never minded being called a tomboy and actually liked it. Growing up on a farm meant I just wanted to be one of the boys and drive tractors all day. We call my daughter princess and most of our family do, however if it came from a stranger or somebody that doesn’t really know her then I that would really bug me! Great post 🙂 #ThatFridayLinky

  28. Agree with you on this completely. I can understand why that would rack you off! Well done for keeping your mouth shut The gender stereotyping thing really gets me irritated. My little boy loves The Trolls, now last time I watched it, there were two main characters – Poppy and Branch, but why is everything you can buy covered in pink and all centred around Poppy?! Trolls are colourful – why does everything have to be marketed in pink – simple – because it’s aimed at girls. Which annoys me, because boys like Trolls too. Rant over! 😀 Great post! #thatfridaylinky

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