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Where Have All the Tomboys Gone? Women’s Accounts of Gender in Adolescence

Abstract

This study was designed to investigate accounts of tomboyism cessation and continuation in adolescence in the narratives of a small sample of adult, working and lower-middle class, New Jersey-area lesbian, bisexual, and heterosexual women who identified as childhood tomboys. Study participants discussed several reasons for ceasing and continuing tomboyism in adolescence, including maturation, heterosexual interests, parental and peer pressures, athletic participation, and sexual desires for girls or women. Several participants questioned the tomboy label by highlighting discrepancies between behavior and identification. Women’s relationships to the varied gendered meanings referenced in the “tomboy” label, the salience of women’s adult sexualities in their narratives of gender in adolescence, and the dangers for scholars of presuming conformity and heterosexuality are discussed.

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Notes

  1. I have changed participants’ names to protect the confidentiality of the interviews.

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Acknowledgement

I thank Judith Gerson, Ira Cohen, and Sarah Rosenfield for comments on initial drafts. I originally collected interview data used in this study for a doctoral dissertation, supported in part by grants from Rutgers University Graduate School and the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues.

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Correspondence to C Lynn Carr.

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Carr, C.L. Where Have All the Tomboys Gone? Women’s Accounts of Gender in Adolescence. Sex Roles 56, 439–448 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-007-9183-7

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-007-9183-7

Keywords

  • Tomboyism
  • Retrospective narratives
  • Gender in adolescence
  • Sexuality