Since I launched the blog in May of 2010, almost two years ago exactly, I've been blown away with how positive and genuinely enthusiastic people have been about this topic. The blogosphere can be a pretty nasty place with anonymous commenters, but the followers and readers of this blog have been and are tremendously supportive, positive, friendly and smart. I'm so thankful for that. To that end, I want to bring up an interesting and rather complex criticism that I've faced recently as I work to publicize the book.
Why use the word tomboy? Here's a sampling of comments I've received on the blog, in emails, and on other websites:
When are strong, independent, fashionable women going to be defined by a term that doesn't include "boy"?
There is nothing ‘boy-like’ if you grew up playing in the dirt, throwing a ball or playing hockey! That IS what being a girl is!
First, the aesthetic I've curated here is based from the idea of women borrowing from or being inspired by menswear. Then, I find it goes much deeper. That correlation between the spirit and this singular style is what Tomboy Style is based on.
In other words, there are strong, independent, fashionable women that dress in a traditionally feminine way as well. Those women wouldn't be accurately applauded under the word tomboy. In fact there are some amazing amazing women that are all of those things that have never landed on this blog because their style doesn't edge toward or encompass the tomboy aesthetic.
So yes, I agree, in an ideal world a girl playing in the dirt and throwing a ball should just be a designation of what kind of kid you are, not what kind of boyish-girl you are. But gender lines do exist. Yes, we are blurring these lines more and more and accepting a less rigid approach every decade, but these lines are still deep—in advertising, in fashion, in almost everything. I was born in 1983, well after the Women's Liberation Movement, and I (maybe naively, maybe blindly) have never remembered feeling that my gender would hold me back or that there were things I couldn't achieve that my male peers could. I'm so lucky to have landed where I did in the arc of feminism (although there are still clearly inequalities) and so grateful to all the women that I celebrate on this blog and in the book who pushed those boundaries and dared to live and dress differently, precicely so I could have the luxury of feeling the way I do now.
Tomboy Style is about celebrating the women that came before us and urging women to continue to be who they are. Sometimes it's as surface as a simple fashion choice, but often it's about the woman's spirit. The word may be imperfect, like countless words in the English language, but I'm not sure there's a better one out there that so neatly describes what's on this website and in the book. And even if there was, I'd probably still use the word tomboy, because I think maybe we're redefining it as a new kind of feminity here and now—and that's really empowering.
Those are my two cents, but I'd really like to hear your thoughts and opinions as well.
And if you're interested in the Etymology:
The noun “tomboy” (formed by joining the male name Tom
and the word “boy”) was coined sometime before 1553, and meant a boy who
was rude or boisterous. The Oxford Dictionary of Etymology says it was
related to the terms “tom-fool” (a buffoon) and later “tomfoolery.” And
according to the Ayto Dictionary of Word Origins, since “Thomas” was the
archetypal male name, the word “tom” was often used in the 16th century
to indicate maleness (hence “tomcat”) and male aggression.
In 1579 the word “tomboy” was applied to a bold or immodest woman. By
1592 it was applied to a girl who acted like a spirited or boisterous
boy, and that’s been its meaning ever since.