Sunday, February 19, 2012

Tomboys in Media

The term “tomboy” has meaning for all of us-maybe we were one, or perhaps we just knew one. In Kristen Hatch’s discussion of tomboys she discusses how the persona is embraced because it is not threatening to traditional gender norms. She states “the tomboy functions as a means of regulating aberrant sexuality precisely because her transformation is taken to be guaranteed” (76). Perhaps the most interesting point from Hatch’s article is the idea that in media, the transformation from tomboy to women is not solely a change in one’s physical appearance. She writes “while appearance is no guarantee of femininity, what does signal the tomboy’s successful transformation into a feminine woman is her willingness to submit to male authority” (78).  

 I for one was definitely a tomboy. I played with horses not Barbie’s ; I wore shirts with wolves on them and Adidas not pink dresses. Being a tomboy was always something that suited me but only for a little while. Once it started becoming unacceptable for me to play out my tomboy persona (around middle school age) I quickly adopted norms that were typical of femininity. One of my favorite movies (I’m almost embarrassed to admit) is the 2006 gem She’s the Man starring Amanda Bynes and Channing Tatum. In this classic Shakespearean tale, Viola (Bynes) disguises herself as her brother so she can play on the boys soccer team. While Byne’s is our stereotypical tomboy she represents how the persona of the tomboy has changed since the 1950’s. Viola’s interest in her teammate Duke (Tatum) symbolizes a heterosexual relationship. Additionally, after Viola’s soccer team is cut her unwillingness to be benched illustrates how she will not accept her position within the gender hierarchy.

As an interesting aside, I stumbled upon this article which suggests that tomboys aren’t made but born. Researchers studied testosterone levels in pregnant women and how this correlates with masculine-typical behavior later on in life. From their records, they concluded that mothers with high testosterone levels during pregnancy were more likely to have girls who will be tomboys. What do you think of this nature vs. nurture debate and how it relates to tomboys?

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