Saturday, October 6, 2012
Confessions of a Tomboy
Where does the feeling of "Tomboy" reside in the brain? According to researchers, gender identity may be associated with the right amygdala in the limbic system and surrounding right temporal lobe.
According to Céline Sciamma, becoming a Tomboy can occur when adolescents try to "fit in".
For myself, being a little "Tomboyish" was about having the popular Dorothy Hamill haircut and exploring other interests beyond those of my girl friends (dolls, flowers, and playing dress up)... like the thrill one gets when playing video games, the exhilaration that comes from riding as fast as you can on a bicycle or galloping horse, or hanging upside down on the Monkey bars and climbing trees to get a better look around your world.
Many of these behaviors instilled within me a deeper sense independence and desire for freedom. Not simply from social constraints, but from self-imposed ones, too. Pants, out of practicality, were preferred over dresses, respect became preferred over appreciation, and a sense of accomplishment became preferred over the gratitude one feels when, as a girl, you get to "go first".
Boys became peers and girls simply friends with whom I had little in common other than our shared gender and love of shoes that sparkle!
In school, I became an athlete (baseball team, tennis team, cross country, swim team, etc.) and began associating myself away from my childhood "Tomboy" image toward "the athlete" and team captain.
Once young adolescence gave rise to early womanhood, my athletic physique naturally drew attention, which my mother redirected toward modeling - an experience I reviled - so I re-redirected my attention toward becoming a scholar and a young entrepreneur, a preferred role I enthusiastically embraced.
While there was never any confusion in my own sense of gender identity, confusion did arise when my independence and early success left me without a peer group with which I could identify.
International travels and my embrace of new cultures left me without a strong sense of cultural identity. This led me to exploring new ways to identify with other people (joking, asking questions, sharing experiences).
My Tomboy experiences did not lead me to lesbianism - a common myth of why girls are Tomboys - or radical feminism, but rather an unbridled curiosity, which led to a non-conformist, global lifestyle.
When my children were born, this non-conformist attitude gave rise once again to that young Tomboyish thrill of adventure. The feeling I once felt when I climbed all the way to the top of the highest trees in our neighborhood just to get a better look around has stayed with me. It's the same thrill I get now when our family travels to exotic or interesting locations around the world.
If you are the parent of a Tomboy, try not to let yourself or others blind you with stereotypes. Your daughter's fierce sense of independence might instead be an indicator that you are raising a future global citizen who has the capacity to see beyond the trees in your neighborhood (this designation fits for boys, too, but for the purpose of this post, we're talking about a spirit inherent in Tomboyism).
If you are a Tomboy, you might just be the kind of person who will constantly reach out toward a world that promises new experiences, a person who, despite being a little nervous or trepidatious when exploring foreign lands, finds yourself so consumed by curiosity and a natural sense of wonder that you go for it. You might not be a Tomboy at all, but rather a budding global citizen.
When independence, acknowledgement, appreciation, and wonder all come together, what emerges is a more balanced sense of identity. This inspires others to seek their own identity rather than allowing personhood to be predefined.
Tomboys are not held back by traditional beliefs about what we "should be" because we're too busy becoming what we are... someone who's totally "okay" with herself.
This post was written to inspire young women who think they might be "Tomboys" and parents who think they're raising "Tomboys" into a mode of non-judgment about the common stereotypes associated with being a "Tomboy". The important thing here is defining one's own sense of personhood...