Tomboy v. Girlie Girl

Be Your Own Girl

Were you a tomboy or a girlie girl?  Did you think of yourself that way, or was it what you heard be said about you?

I will let you guess which I heard as a girl.

I liked to read, climb trees, play with Barbies, ride my bike, cook miniature cakes in my Easy Bake Oven, roller skate, and daydream.  I loved red shoes, colorful tights, shorts, and t-shirts, all worn together.  I always loved long hair, but wore it braided for years to avoid sitting still while my mother yanked out the tangles.

Girlie Girl or Tomboy?I wasn’t interested in sports or dance classes.  I didn’t play with make-up or play army.  I was neither boy-crazy nor one of the boys.  I liked dresses, but only if they were comfortable.

Can you guess?

According to my mom, I was a tomboy and did not like girlie things.  That is what I heard my entire childhood.  She said it to me, and she said it about me.

I don’t think she meant it as an insult; it was a statement of fact to her, like saying, “My daughter is a redhead.”  Well, maybe it was more like sighing, “She burns so easily.”

It felt like a negative, and I accepted that others would always think of me as not quite feminine enough.

Fortunately, “alwaBe Your Own Girl.  Love what you love.ys” only lasted until I was twenty, and my husband found me quite appealingly feminine.

For many years, I didn’t think about the issue at all.  Happily married, and a mom to boys, it fell off my radar.

Then I became the mom to a daughter, and an aunt to nieces.  My ears again tuned into the stereotypes of femininity.  Or the rejection thereof.

And I just want to say, “Stop it!”

  • Girls can wear dresses every day and still ride bikes and play in dirt and run fast and be strong.
  • Girls can play with dolls for years and still not want to babysit your kids.
  • Girls can love Disney princesses and Lord of the Rings equally well.
  • Girls can love or hate make-up and love or hate science class.
  • Girls can love sports and/or write sappy love poems.
  • Girls can be ridiculously dramatic or quiet and reserved.
  • Girls can wear baseball hats or tiaras while practicing their dance moves or catching frogs.
  • Girls can love what they love and not have to prove anything.

There is no such thing as a typical girl.  Children do not need to be burdened with labels, whether it is meant as a compliment or not.

Tomboy v. Girlie GirlThey also do not need to be pressured to “overcome” stereotypes.  Some girls just don’t want to play with trucks or Legos.  No matter how much their parents want to avoid gender stereotypes, there are girls who want Barbies and frilly dresses.

Society will not collapse, nor will a daughter be doomed, because she will only wear pink.  Or refuses to wear pink.

I want the girls I love to each to be their own girl, willing to explore and learn and discover their own interests, develop their own style, without worrying about what others think.  Without thinking about what will be said about them.

I don’t think that can happen with the world commenting on everything they do or do not.  How can a girl discover who she is when she’s constantly being appraised by others?  Waiting for the “like” button to be pressed, so she knows that she is okay.

I want people to say of my girl, “She’s her own person,” and I want it to be true.

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Educate girls; change the world.

Yesterday we, along with a small group of girls from my daughter’s Sunday School class, went to see Girl Rising.

The film is rated PG-13, but I would have felt comfortable with my children seeing it as young as ten.  However, there were families that did not let their middle school daughters come with us, thinking the content would be too upsetting.

Frankly, the content is supposed to be upsetting.  Nobody should be delighted by the obstacles in a girl’s quest for education.  Nobody should find poverty amusing.

I was surprised at how softly the most sinister issues were handled.  Although the facts concerning child marriage, rape, and slavery were honestly stated, they were not graphically depicted.   I think a much younger or naive child might even miss the references within some of the stories.

The girls, writing about their lives with assistance from writers of their individual lands, emphasized the transformative power of education or their own strength.  These young people did not want to be (or be treated as) victims.  They want opportunities to learn and grow.

I’m not sure what the girls in our little group took away from the film.  Most of them seemed moved by it, but they didn’t relate to the girls in the movie.  These aren’t things they think about, living in middle class America.

A couple of the adults with us commented that they hoped, if nothing else, the girls would appreciate what they have.  I doubt that.  Those types of feelings don’t last long, and my goal in suggesting the film was not to induce guilt in a bunch of teens.

I hope they don’t forget what they heard.  I hope they heard stories of resiliency, stories of people reaching out to help others, stories that said, “You, girl, are important to society.  You have a brain and a voice.  Use them.”

If that thought guides them to become a leader, an activist for those without a voice, fantastic.  If it encourages them to be a better student or citizen or friend, that’s great, too.

Girl Rising is only showing in theaters for a week.  If it’s playing near you, try to see it with a girl you love.