Review by Stacia Oparowski
Despite what others may believe, Liz is not a boy or a lesbian. She is a girl who would rather wear pants; she’s a girl who feels completely uncomfortable in a dress. She wants to hang out with boys, but also wants to date them. It’s a hard road for Liz, and a confusing one for other people watching her. A road she leads us down in her graphic memoir: Tomboy.
Tomboy wasn’t a word child-Liz had heard until she started school. Then, because she didn’t conform to her gender-role, “tomboy” she was. She wouldn’t dress like a girl, she didn’t identify with other girls, and wanted to play sports. All her role models were men, because the women idols she was supposed to worship (like Disney princesses) were too reliant on men:
“The slew of fairy tales and Disney movies I consumed presented women in need of a savior. Sleeping Beauty is cursed with eternal sleep; only a kiss from Prince Charming can save her. Snow White is the ultimate home-maker, but suffers the same tragic fate as Sleeping Beauty. Rapunzel is waiting in a tower her whole life for a guy to save her. Even when women were the main characters, a man always came to steal the show. Given the choice, I’d much rather wield a sword than wear a tiara. So, it’s not surprising that I would envy those born into boyhood.”
Luckily she had a mother who was comfortable letting her bend the rules of gender, because not all parents would have been so inclined. As Liz grew up, she found other tomboys and made friends. The only time she really began to wonder about herself was when she noticed boys crushing on girly-girls. She wondered, did her boyfriend hide from her that he was really attracted to girls that wore makeup and skirts?
As a tomboy, I completely relate to Liz’s story. I shared many of the same experiences with her in my life, even girl-scout camp. Read this article if you want to know why we couldn’t be in boy-scouts. It was just too much of a hassle, even if we were, begrudgingly, allowed to participate.
Today, in our adulthood, the lines between manliness and womanliness have kind of blurred (for the better). It’s more acceptable to not be cemented into a gender role, and in fact, it seems to be encouraged. There are always going to be people who don’t accept the way you are, but you don’t need them in your life. I think it’s generally harder for children and teens who don’t identify with a specific gender-based role, but Liz’s story can provide encouragement and support and hope for kids who are a little different.
(Also, I really agree with Liz that stuff like this needs to stop happening: “In the unlikely event there is a tomboy character in a film, she’s usually made over to be a desirable female by the end of the movie.”)
Funny, heartbreaking, and heartwarming all at the same time, Liz Prince’s memoir is great even if you aren’t a tomboy. Her artwork is charming and accurate. This book forces you to think about and question gender roles, if you hadn’t before, and I think that’s something everyone should do.
Liz is based outside of Boston, MA. She draws comics full time, and is a self-professed tomboy. This is her first graphic novel. She is amazing.
Here is Tomboy on Goodreads.