Tom Boy: A “Butch” Straight Woman’s Story
I will not repeat the names that I was called at school because I actually think they are too offensive for public consumption. I have had many years of living this dual existence. On one hand I am a very powerful, independent, intelligent and well-respected woman. On the other hand, I am the Tom Boy that woman love to hate because their guys say that they prefer my company. The LGBTIQ community once embraced me as their own based purely on my appearance and mannerism; but soon turned on me with incredible viciousness once they realized that I actually liked guys. One even had the temerity to tell me to my face that I was “a lesbian in denial”. By this time; I was well past those old days when I would try to unsuccessfully explain myself.
I have to admit that there have been times where I have opted to hide behind my assumed lesbianism just to get people off my back. There would be questions as to why I was so “unlovely”, as someone once put it. Then you have some of the boys that were originally so comfortable with me that they began to tell me about their exploits with other girls as if I was their bosom buddy. There reached a time when I wanted a bit of romance, not stories about some rowdy antics by horny teenage boys. Eventually the boys worked out that I actually liked them. Then I had a healthy romantic life. Since then I have never had a problem finding boyfriends, something that puzzles and annoys girls.
Why should someone so unfeminine be able to beat them hands down at a game they had perfected from childhood. I was not interested in skirts, dresses or make up. You are more likely to find me mucking out in the farm or repairing things than preening in front of my dressing table. It just went that way. The fact that I am the only girl in a family of a widowed man with his 7 boys did not incline me to be socialized as a girly girl. I insist that I am a girl despite the assumptions about whether or not I am one. Frankly speaking, I find it offensive that people want you to live up to their labels yet you were never consulted when they started coming up with the labels in the first place. If you have an image of what an ideal girl ought to be, don’t go trying to turn me into that girl without even bothering to ask me.
Tom Boy: Constructed Identities and Conflicted Roles
Because my mother died when I was so young and my dad never bothered to remarry, I never had someone on my back telling me what I had to be as a girl. We all naturally did the things that needed to be done around the house including cooking. But at the same time we were running a huge family farm sitting on 50ha. There was simply not the time to be a girl, hoping and waiting to be called upon by courting gentlemen. Although I was the second youngest, nobody gave leeway in terms of the work that needed to be done. I think I also became a surrogate mother for my youngest brother. That means that I am not an ‘incompetent woman” by any stretch of the imagination. Put me in a house and I will have it sparkling in a matter of hours. The thing that has brought me trouble is the fact that I am equally at home with carpentry and horsemanship.
The girls at school assumed that I was a lesbian. How could they not? I did not wear a single piece of makeup and had never been seen in a dress or skirt of any description. My favorite and most comfortable attire was a onesie pair of jeans with a white T-shirt and a baseball cap. They must have thought “What’s up with that butch lesbian?”. They could not have been more misguided. I think my boyfriends over the years can testify to the fact that I am all woman. Whenever I tell woman that “I’ve had no complaints”, they are completely shocked. How could a woman possibly be that honest about her sexuality? I am open about it because I think it is nothing to be ashamed of. Just like I don’t believe that I have to change my appearance and behavior in order to satisfy the notions of womanhood that society has created for me.
As it happened, I ended up with an office job. The dress code was a black suit with a knee-length pencil skirt. It was all prime and proper. I looked absolutely ridiculous and told my supervisor. He said that a pair of trousers would be perfectly fine. It must have been a joke because he was quite surprised to see me the next day. I was wearing what would be the men’s uniform and I looked great (if the guys are to be believed). I never changed that look and the bosses never raised the issue again. My colleagues called me a fool for giving up a rather sexy uniform for that “junk”. Well it was my junk and I loved it. At least I was feeling comfortable going to work rather than dressing up to the nines for a role that I was not particularly enjoying.
Tom Boy: To Be or Not to Be a Feminist?
One of the things that I find so interesting is the fact that my feminism is always questioned. The “girly” feminists tell me that I am kooky and plain weird for not caring about my appearance. They are wrong. I actually do care about my appearance; just not in the way that they are used to. I think you should put your best foot forward on your own terms. If I feel happy in a pair of jeans, that is just me. Anyone that cannot accept me as I am can stuff it. This has been my controversial policy but I think it is right. Those girly feminists have no right to tell me that I can only be a feminist if I look like them.
Then you have the “empowered independent types” who sell the lie that they can do without men when in reality they really need them for many things besides, procreation. I also get bad vibes from that lot who seem to think that I am committing some act of sacrilege by going on a date with a man, falling in love with them and actually sleeping with them. It sounds incredible but one even wondered: “What do you get out of it? Men are smelly and nasty. I can’t imagine letting one put their dirty bits in me”. I did not bother going through the details but that same woman ended up being happily married. I wonder what she thinks of her dirty, smelly and generally nasty husband now?
I describe myself as a feminist…but a feminist on my own terms. I believe in the power of women to change things and make the world better…but crucially, I know that they need to work with men to get this done. Even if you are not straight, you still interact with men who bring out a different perspective and way of doing things. I think it is silly to lie to ourselves that men are surplus to requirements. They are not. We need them just as much as they need us women. I also happen to think that these divisions about who is a “true feminist” end up weakening our case. We end up looking like a bunch of bullies that want to harass and exclude those who dare to be different. That is an even worse look than any fashion atrocities I am supposed to have committed over my lifetime.
Any Tom Boys Out There?
Maybe I should start a movement of Tom Boys so that we can do our own advocacy? The thing is that I am not that into identity politics. It is me as I am. I don’t judge people unless it is done unconsciously and definitely without malice. That is why I insist that I do not want people to judge me. I am not hurting anybody by being a Tom Boy. Maybe I am challenging what society considers to be the proper order of roles…but so what? It might be a good idea to start challenging a bit more.
If we all started challenging the norms of society, there may be fewer wars and incidents of discrimination across the world. I am not one of those naïve people that believe in the inherent “niceness” of human nature. We can be very cruel to our fellow human beings and we need someone to call us out on things so that we can back off. I wish that throughout those years at school, there had been someone that had stood out for me despite the fact that I did not belong to the established traditional “victim” groups.