|Girl with "Tomboy" look
I have a question. If a girl who acts like a boy is called a tomboy, then what is a boy who acts like a girl called? If I had to guess I would assume most of us can agree the ‘opposite’ of a tomboy would be a sissy—or in other words a boy that acts like a girl. Growing up, I’ll admit that I was a tomboy because I loved catching frogs and climbing trees. Both actions could you might consider masculine, but perfectly acceptable for a young girl. Yet, if I were to ask a group of boys if they were sissies growing up I can assume I’d receive some confused looks and rejecting responses. For whatever reason it is shameful to act like a girl if you’re a male, so those who do are insulted by being called a sissy.
Whether I act ‘girly’ (feminine) or like a ‘tomboy’ (masculine), my behaviors are deemed as socially acceptable in our culture. Because of this, I never realized how many times the media reinforces an acceptance of girls behaving ‘masculine’. Consider the movies, She’s The Man, Motocrossed, and Mulan. What do these movies have in common? All three have a female character that disguises herself as man so that she can participate in the masculine activities she desires.
Now lets consider the reverse, are there any movies where a male disguises himself as a woman to do feminine activities? I can think of a couple, like Mrs. Doubtfire and White Chicks. The difference is in the movies when the females dressed as men, they are considered brave, strong, and dedicated (to their sports or country). In the movies when the males dress as women, males wear dresses and act ditzier than their original male character.
In this way movies are reinforcing the idea that it’s OK for females to want to act masculine because that means they are being brave, strong, and independent. It also reinforces that it is not OK for males to act like women because then he would need to dress sexually and act ditzy. Thus an understanding why the word sissy has a negative association with males who act like women.
As society has become more aware of this lack of acceptance for feminine boys, CNN came out with an article that notes how,
|‘Anna’ from the Disney
CNN’s claim was supported when pop artist Adele took her three-year-old son, Angelo, to Disneyland decked out as ‘Anna’ from the Disney movie Frozen. “In the past, allowing boys to dress as female characters was seen as extremely controversial and while it is still notable enough to spawn articles like this one, many parents like Adele now realize that heroes come in various forms.” This quote comes from an article from the Advocate that shows how Adele and her family are evolved enough to recognize that allowing her son to dress as a woman (in this case a cartoon) can represent him dressing as a brave and courageous character that just so happens to be female. Compare this to the movies mentioned earlier, Mrs. Doubtfire and White Chicks, where males dressing as women meant acting as a ditzy woman with large breasts.