By this logic, I like to think of pregnant celebrities blasting their neat bellies with 70s disco and Kylie’s greatest hits ‘just to be on the safe side’. Because we all know gay men are experts on style.
But George spends a lot of time urging people to call her George, Jo expends energy whining over her disappointment in her sex. Time that could have been spent applying eyeliner. Or whittling something useful with an ever present Swiss Army Knife.
And hey, let me tell you this: no mystery gets solved on an empty stomach. So were it not for Anne’s girlish desire to provide nutrition for the Famous Five who knows how many queer characters could be wanging around the home counties.
Too often it is the tomboy we rush to defend. To confess to your friends you were ‘girly’ in primary school is to invite sneers. The notion, the very hint you played the odd game of Mummies and Daddies, or dressed a Barbie, or privately ached for one of these when at primary school is very unfashionable. The excuse you were a child, that the game of Mummies and Daddies involved an awful lot of nudity and that Barbie games used to end in fits of laughter is not enough.
In all honesty, I am not convinced our definition of a tomboy is fixed. As a child (and as an adult) my knees bore many a scab (just as the scab was healing I would clumsily fall over and rescab it). All my friends were boys, and not just any boys. Boys with behavioural issues, to yell Lion-O’s catchphrase ‘HO!’ with. When I was caught vandalising the toilets with one of these boys I was expelled from nursery. My sister and I would ride our bikes for hours, build dens in the dirt. For my 6th or 7th birthday we got a pet rabbit each, after my habit of keeping beetles as pets in the red plastic saucepan from my play kitchen creeped everyone out. Was I a tomboy? Or does my play kitchen disqualify me?
Sometimes being a tomboy seems to just mean preferring male company (or boy company – keeping in mind I’m discussing children here). Sometimes it is simply a case of context; Jo March now would be described as a literary type with a temper. Sometimes tomboy is used because a young girl is displaying what many believe are lesbian qualities. This is along the same lines of all gay men being of an artistic disposition and nonsense.
Without stirring the wrath of Pink Stinks, or dismissing tomboys I would like to defend some things dismissed as girly. By forbidding your daughter (or yourself) from enjoying such things you are giving the message that the masculine is both default and preferable. Not even that, you are making toys and activities masculine OR feminine. A little harsh for those who have not yet reached puberty. So how about a girly rethink -
Ballet. Let me tell you this: ballet is hard. Ballet means blood, sweat, tears and more blood. It means dancing on broken toes, training muscles to be incredibly strong and at no point(e) (HA! HA! ballet joke) allowing an audience to know you’re feeling a single twinge. This isn’t after school ballet; incidentally, don’t think you’ve been unintentionally putting Tequila and Rubella through hell every Tuesday after school. Those classes go no further than chastising their feet during the Good Toes, Bad Toes exercise. However, I lost every play-fight to my ballet dancing sister due to the training making her incredibly strong. The flexibility and muscularity gained also made her good at climbing trees.
Barbie. I’ve defended Barbie repeatedly on Squeamish Bikini now. This is because I feel like I might be talking into a Barbie sized megaphone. ‘Eurgh! Barbie will make your daughter hate her figure and skew her life goals’ I am informed. Look, I know there was that incident with the talking Barbie who said “Math is hard” but otherwise I’m pretty confident this lump of plastic does not have the ability to talk. Barbie’s a toy, a toy to play imaginary games with. In my Barbie world she was rather acerbic, Ken was slow and Princess Laura was a martyr to her IBS. If your kid’s doing it right then this doll drives a shoe, your kid does not discuss ambitions to drive a shoe when they are older. End of.
Make-up. I am not advocating parents who send their daughters to primary school with plucked brows and fake tan. If a woman or a girl is interested in make-up, let them be. Do you really want to deprive your child of Saturday afternoon make-up experimentation, only for the poor things to be starting with ‘blue eyeshadow up to the eyebrows’ at 18? No. If you catch them lingering wistfully over that item in the Argos catalogue it’s not necessarily a portent to WAG based ambitions or of societal pressure. It’s a suggestion they value the importance of a well-lit mirror. Play with make-up can involve creating disguises, which I imagine Anne would have been in charge of had it come to that for the Famous Five. They were famous after all.
So let’s not dismiss those who harbour a fondness for the girly. Or sneer at various things that fall under a frilled girly umbrella. The tomboy has her place, as does the girly girl. There is no set way to be a girl or a boy. That’s the joy of being a child, everybody’s welcome in the treehouse (except not, children can be so cruel).