Tomboy is a Dirty Word


My twelve-year-old son and I were at the pool throwing the football in the water.  It was the day after I had just finished the Tough Mudder and I was pretty much feeling like I could accomplish anything; like I could fly and it wouldn’t be surprising.

I sent Donovan a pass the length of the pool and the mom next to me said to her daughters,

“See, she doesn’t throw like a girl.”


I throw like a girl because I am one, a girl who can throw a football.

At my preschool I once asked some of my three-year-old girls if they were tough.  Almost no one wanted to be tough except one little girl who can often be found flanked by her three older brothers, that girl, that girl wanted to be tough.

She’s right, she is.

But we live in an era when a little girl can be tough without having older brothers to show her what tough is.  We live in an era when gender roles are exploding and yet little girls still cringe at the word tough and the girls who want to be it are still called “tomboys”.

Growing up I wanted to be a boy; I tried to change my name to Sam.  I never wore a skirt or sandals because they just hindered everything I wanted to do.  I loved digging in the dirt.  I loved getting sweaty and pushing boys off the top of the hill in King of the Mountain.  I always joined the neighborhood football game.

My mistake was that I thought those were “boy” things because I was the only girl doing them.

My parents gave me the gift of never treating me any different.  I didn’t curry special favor because I was a female and everything that was expected of my brothers was expected of me.

I had my turn behind the lawnmower and my brothers took a cooking class.

There was never anything gender specific in the Suder household and a second generation of Suder girls is being raised the same way I’m glad to say.

I’m not saying don’t let your daughters wear pink or take ballet or be a cheerleader or other things “feminine” anymore then I would deny my son a dance class or a sewing lesson or chastise him for being afraid, kind, scared, or sweet.

Girls can be tough and tender.

Girls can be competitive and caring.

Girls can be strong and sweet and let’s hope they are.

I hope the same for my boys, and maybe one day they’ll be able to throw like a girl too.

If they’re lucky.

Let it fly.




Some days I write, some days I wait tables and some days I work with preschoolers; all of which I love; but ALL days I am the wife of a Richmond City Firefighter and the mother of two great boys named Beau and Donovan who couldn't be any more different if they tried. In my five seconds of free time I run, ride bikes and try not to watch trashy t.v. I can be reached at