But for a Boy to Look Like a Girl is Degrading

When I was young, I asked my mother a question. “If a tomboy is a girl who acts like a boy, what’s the word for a boy who acts like a girl?” She thought about it for a moment, and then replied, “A fairy. But that’s not a good thing to be. You shouldn’t call someone that.”

“But why?” I wanted to know. “Why is it a bad thing?”

So, in all my childlike wisdom, I decided that, since my brother’s name is Thomas, the male equivalent of a tomboy would naturally be a melissagirl. And that wouldn’t be a bad thing at all.

So why, then, is tomboy a natural, accepted, even encouraged thing for a girl to be, and melissagirl isn’t even in our lexicon? Feminism has come far enough that it’s fine and wonderful for women to dress in men’s clothes, to wear pants and play sports, to shun makeup and fancy dresses. Which is a good thing! A girl should be able to express herself any way she chooses. But it’s still not acceptable for a man to dress in women’s clothes, or wear makeup, or play with dolls and stuffed toys. His sexuality is questioned, and he gets called derogatory names, merely for expressing himself the way he chooses. Why? Because in our society, it’s okay to want to be a man. It’s not okay to want to be a woman.

The same thing is true even for women. It’s not okay to take interest in stereotypically feminine things, because femininity is inherently inferior to masculinity.

In most shows aimed at tween or teenage girls, the main character is at least a little bit of a tomboy. Usually down-to-earth, doesn’t obsess over makeup and clothes, maybe she’s into sports. If anything, she’s a little bit boy-crazy. On the other side, her “rival” is the stereotypical girl, vapid and shallow, always out to make herself look good and the main character look pathetic. She’ll sometimes have sidekicks, brainless airheads who only know how to be pretty. The message is clear: girls, you don’t want to be like this.

I’m glad that in this day and age, it’s acceptable for girls to like sports, and mud, and frogs, and typically “boyish” things. A girl should be allowed to like whatever she wants. But why then are more traditionally feminine interests portrayed so negatively? If a girl likes to wear dresses and look pretty, to wear makeup and accessorize, she’s categorized as either a brainless girl who will coast through life on her looks, or an evil, conniving villain who wants to tear everyone else down. Why can’t a girl just be a girl, in any way she happens to enjoy?

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About Melissa S.

I'm a 23-year-old, currently unemployed college graduate. I have a degree in French and German, and I'd love to work in publishing. I love writing and reading, makeup, clothes, surfing the internet, and playing video games. I'm also queer and a feminist. I started getting interested in feminism in college, but contrary to popular belief, I've never taken a women's studies course. You don't have to. Most of what I've learned, I've learned from the internet, where there's a wealth of sources, personal and scholarly, that can get you started on the right path. From there, you have to make your own decisions.

2 responses »

  1. Okay so melissagirl is pretty much the most adorable kid-logic thing I’ve ever heard. (Mine didn’t even make sense, somehow I thought that boys grew up to be women and girls grew up to be men and puberty was when you switched. No idea how I got that notion or how the physics would even work, but I digress.)

    I realized only now that this blog is brand spanking new, which makes me delighted and sad. I was like “Omigosh, I get to see this blog when it’s just a wee baby!” and then I was all “Oh, but I’ll have read through all of the archives in the next hour :(” and then I was like “whatever, I’m gonna hipster the crap out of this blog and know it before it gets huge” because I think this is gonna be big. I think you are capable of expressing things that I’ve been thinking for a long time in a way that I haven’t been able to articulate them, and I think you’re going to be one of my favorite bloggers.

    I’m glad I’m here to see you get your start.

    Reply

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