Why does being called a ‘tomboy’ rub me the wrong way?

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I’ve never considered myself to be a tomboy, but I’ve also never considered myself to be super feminine, regardless of how much I want to see myself in this way. Often, I forget that how I view my true internal self is wildly different from how other people understand me. 

Sure, when I was a kid, I loved playing sports, getting dirty, hanging out with boys and bouncing off the walls in my abundance of energy. But I also liked wearing dresses and platform heels and acting out the lives of my Barbie dolls. Because I tended to enjoy more “boyish” things, however, such as cussing and being unnecessarily crass, people would tell me, “You’re such a tomboy!” I never liked being told who I was by other people, but this term in particular has never failed to make me scrunch up my face in discomfort.

That label was thrown at me a lot throughout my life, and this made me feel insecure about my gender identity. I always wondered, what about my Barbie dolls? My Hello Kitty obsession? My love for tea parties and painting my nails? Dressing up as a princess for every Halloween? Since other people labeled me as a tomboy, I felt pressured to accept it and reject the feminine part of me. 

As an adult, I’ve gained the capacity to read deeper between the lines. I realize that being called a tomboy so often unnerved me because it reminded me of the gender expectations that I was expected to fulfill. Echoes of my mom reminding me to be more ladylike live in my head rent-free. Why can’t I just be

For me, labels are used by other people to make sure I fit their standards, to put me into a box, to standardize my identity so they feel more comfortable in their own. Let us remember that people are complex, contradictory, ever-evolving beings. The urge to label other people’s identities based on their behaviors is a shallow endeavor because what we should really be focusing on is connecting with their souls. When I think about it this way, I don’t care about being a tomboy or being feminine, and I’m sure there are others out there who feel similarly. So let’s do away with the boxes and move on to Venn diagrams. I can be both feminine and masculine or something in between. It doesn’t matter to me, so why should it matter to you?

Contact Özge Terzioğlu at [email protected].