Girly Girl Dominance: Death of the Tomboy

Illustration by Erin Johnson

Illustration by Erin Johnson
Exploring the Wrong Jungle

While searching for a birthday gift for my (now 9-year-old) sister two months ago, I went straight to the clothing store Limited Too’s Web site because I loved shopping there when I was younger and thought it would be a great location to find cute Capri pants, witty graphic tees and trendy cut denim. To my surprise, the store has changed quite drastically from when I used to shop there in the mid-to-late 1990s.

No longer carrying loose pants or comfortable yet stylish tees, I was bombarded with rhinestoned tank tops, miniskirts and low-rise underwear. I have no idea why a 9-year-old would even wear low-rise underwear. The evidence at stores like these shows that tomboys and an active lifestyle are on the way out and that girls are instead encouraged to focus on looking sexy.

Unimpressed with the selection of nitwit styled clothing, I thought to look under the “Girls Stuff” tab to see what gadgets and accessories were available to the young girls. As soon as I hit the tab, the first thing to pop up on my screen was a guinea pig doll and a whole page of other similar stuffed animals. Following the list of “stuff” on this page were glittered soccer balls, more plush stuffed animals, rhinestone-encrusted CD players, pink curling irons and more rhinestoned items, including chorded phones. Other than the soccer ball, there was nothing on the Web site that promoted being active or going outdoors for play, because a young girl wouldn’t climb a tree or play ball in a rhinestoned miniskirt.

Limited Too and its sister company, Justice, are some of the leading clothing companies for tween girls aged 8 to 13 years old, along with Lola Rogue Kids and The Children’s Place. When leading clothing companies for tween girls carry mostly glittery and rhinestoned shirts, Hannah Montana (one of the biggest icons for young girls in America today) apparel and padded push-up bras, it is difficult to even think about engaging in sports or outdoor events.

I was surprised when on The Children’s Place Web site, I saw a tab that started with “sporty” but was quickly disappointed with the following words of “spring flower.” There was nothing sporty to the clothing, other than they weren’t pink and didn’t consist of only short-shorts and spaghetti-strap tank tops. Under this section were flower-printed shirts, flower-printed skirts, princess-printed football tees (because so many princesses play football, right?) and other girly printed apparel.

With clothing companies shoving rhinestones and glitter down a girl’s throat, it’s difficult to go out and find clothes that promote playing sports, being active, playing outdoors and such. The tomboy is slowly dying off and is being replaced with Hannah Montana clones. Even the media promotes girly girls and does little to showcase tomboys. None of the hit children’s television shows and movies even have tomboys in their casts: “High School Musical,” “Hannah Montana,” “iCarly,” “Drake and Josh” and “Camp Rock” all have girls playing superficial characters only interested in shopping, singing, makeup and boys. The closest thing to a tomboy in recent television would have to be “Dora the Explorer,” the young bilingual girl who promotes going on adventures and journeys.

However, even Dora is being girlified with her new computer game, which allows young children to change her hair, fashion and eye colors, and her video game makes her into a mermaid. No longer hunting for treasure and going through tough terrains along her journeys, Dora is now being added to the list of superficial shopaholics.

Despite living in an age which is all about change and acceptance of differences, girls are not allowed to be sporty or active without their sexuality being questioned. Tomboys should not be associated as being lesbians, but rather as just girls who like to get involved in more boy-dominated activities and not dress up like Barbie. The days of the tomboy are coming to a slow end and the rise of the girly-girls is on its way.

Megan Jhu is a second-year literary journalism major. She can be reached at mjhu@uci.edu.