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What is a Tomboy?

Michael Pollick
Updated Mar 06, 2024
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In a number of societies around the world, there are established social rules on what constitutes acceptable masculine and feminine behavior, especially during childhood and preadolescence. Most boys learn to play aggressive games which allow them to show off their physical prowess. Most girls are encouraged to play with fashion dolls or other "girly girl" toys. When a girl chooses to reject the traditional feminine role and act more masculine, she is often referred to as a tomboy.

A tomboy is a young girl who may prefer to climb a tree or wrestle instead of playing with dolls or wearing dresses. She may behave in a more aggressive or self-assertive manner than her female friends or classmates. While her demeanor may be more boyish, however, a tomboy may still be aware of the societal norms she is appearing to reject. A tomboy often chooses to adopt a more masculine lifestyle as a form of preadolescent rebellion against the strict gender roles of her society.

There are some who believe tomboys are largely the products of a male-dominated family. A girl trying to fit in with her male siblings and dominant father may find it easier to adopt a more masculine lifestyle rather than risk ridicule for pursuing traditional feminine interests. A tomboy may also find it easier to fit in with male classmates, since female classmates can be more critical or jealous of other girls. A tomboy may have little to no romantic interest in boys during this time, but generally prefers their companionship over traditional "girly girls" who do not like to play more physical games.

There is always a concern over the current or future sexual orientation of a tomboy, in the same sense that an effeminate preadolescent male may choose to pursue a homosexual lifestyle later in life. Some tomboys may actually have lesbian leanings or consider themselves asexual, but many masculine-acting girls eventually develop heterosexual interests as they enter puberty. Many preadolescents remain in a state of sexual flux, meaning they may explore both feminine and masculine gender roles without permanently defining their own sexual identity. A young tomboy may become exceptionally feminine as she develops physically and emotionally during puberty.

Many parents may become concerned over a daughter's tomboyish behavior, but a number of child psychologists believe it should be considered more of a phase than anything else. Some children resist adapting traditional gender and sexual roles until they become mature enough to handle the responsibilities which accompany them. A tomboy may simply be enjoying the last vestiges of her childhood before taking on the more challenging role of an adolescent.

PublicPeople is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Pollick
By Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to PublicPeople, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range of topics. His curiosity drives him to study subjects in-depth, resulting in informative and engaging articles. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael honed his skills as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

Discussion Comments

By anon338330 — On Jun 12, 2013

You shouldn't be afraid to tell her that you like her. I mean, I have friends who are bisexual and I keep them as friends and so do others in our little group.

I'm telling you this because I'm sort of a tomboy too. Seriously though, you shouldn't be afraid to tell your friend. If they stick by you, then they are a real friend. If they don't, just get over it and find someone else you like.

Don't worry about people making fun of you. All of us are one in a million. Don't be afraid to show your true colors to the world even if they reject it.

By anon261336 — On Apr 15, 2012

I am indo-chinese. You could say that I've been a tomboy since my childhood because we had no boys. Recently we had a baby boy and my parents want me to be like a girl but now I don't want to be a girly type because when I reached my puberty I began to feel uncomfortable. Not only that, but now I'm beginning to like my childhood friend whom I first met at the age of eight.

I want to tell her, but I'm afraid to lose her so I have hidden it, and not many know about it.

I want to change, but I can't. I really like her, but I'm just a teenage girl, yet I think of myself as a boy when she is near me. My heart races when she is near me. I want to let it go but I can't. That's my problem with being a tomboy now. I'm afraid I'm gay.

Michael Pollick

Michael Pollick

As a frequent contributor to PublicPeople, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide...
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