Girl Tomboy or Boy Wannabe?

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girl tomboyThe Girl Tomboy vs. Gender Identity Crisis is the subject of an article in the May 30, 2011 edition of OK! Magazine. Specifically, the boyish appearance of Shiloh Pitt, the daughter of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt  is once again being scrutinized. I bring up this issue not only because I happen to be their featured expert, but also because the issue is making the news lately. Chastity Bono, the daughter of Sonny and Cher is now a 42-year old man named Chaz, after having undergone a sex-change operation two years ago. He made a statement about Shiloh’s girl tomboy issue actually being a gender crisis that caused Angelina to speak out in defense of her child. Here’s the gist of the article [From OK! Magazine, print edition]:

“Angie really feels that her kids are off-limits,” says an insider. “People have been openly discussing Shiloh’s sexuality for a while, simply because she dresses like a tomboy. It’s ridiculous. She’s not even 5 and she’s already labeled as having a gender crisis? It’s upsetting to them – it would be to any parent.”

Angelina resents the attention Shiloh’s girl tomboy ways have attracted.

“The way she sees it is that it’s perfectly normal for little girls to be tomboys when they’re that age,” says an insider.

Experts say Angie has the right attitude.

“Tomboys generally don’t want to be boys – they just don’t want to be girly,” says Dr. Vicki Panaccione, a child psychologist and the founder of the Better Parenting Institute. “It’s more a desire to engage in activities traditionally considered for boys, and a disinterest in playing out feminine roles. However, this does not mean that they don’t eventually want to be women; they just may not be as feminine or interested in girl things.”

More OK! Magazine interview on the Girl Tomboy issue:

OK!: Does being a girl tomboy mean that a girl will grow up dissatisfied with her traditional gender role?

  • Dr. Vicki: No. There is a tremendous difference between femininity and gender identity. There are so many ways for women to express themselves nowadays, I am not sure there is one traditional gender role. If you mean get married and have kids, I think that girls who were tom boys want this lifestyle as much as the girlie girls. However, many tom boys grow into women who might be considered less feminine—but still happy to be a wife, mother, and/or career woman.

OK!:  How early in life would a person with a severe “gender crisis,” like Chaz Bono, realize that they are unhappy with their birth gender?

  • Dr. Vicki: I have seen very young girls reject anything girlie from toddler on up. At young ages, they don’t have the understanding that they are unhappy with their birth gender; it’s more about not identifying at all with girl clothing, activities, etc. I think that it’s not until adolescence that kids become aware of the actual gender nature of their discomfort.

OK!: Is it healthier for a parent to resist forcing traditional gender-specific clothing and toys on their children?

  • Dr. Vicki: I think it’s very healthy to allow children to have a variety of experiences from which to choose. A wide variety of toys should be given to all children; they will tend to gravitate to the activities that are of interest. It is interesting to watch boys tending to gravitate to traditional boy toys/play and girls to traditional girl activities. However, I think it is stifling to kids to only provide them with gender-specific toys. Boys should have dolls, play kitchen, etc. and girls cars, etc. to allow them the choice.  Clothes really depends on the individual child. I think kids should have some say in what they wear, and be given choices. However, there is nothing wrong with parents choosing gender-specific clothing unless the child really is opposed to what is being provided. Then there needs to be more flexibility for them to have self-expression.

What do you think? Do girl tomboys really want to be boys or just don’t want to be girly girls?

Please feel free to comment about Girl Tomboys in the box below:


10 Responses to “Girl Tomboy or Boy Wannabe?”
  1. Kristen says:

    When I was little, I just wanted to play and have fun; skirts and dresses got in the way of being able to play full out! As an adult I still am way too active to wear frilly things. I walk almost everywhere I go. Though I live in Los Angeles, I have set up my life to live like a New Yorker without a car most of the time. So heels and dresses just won’t work for me. That being said, I am a woman and I am tailored in how I dress. Does that make me less than? Or does that question my identity? I think there is room in the world for all levels of gender thinking. It isn’t one or the other any more…. Let these children be who they are exactly as they are and not make a fuss over her choices at this age!

  2. Andrea says:

    I just don’t understand why people are critizing a child? There are more important issues going on in this country/world more important than is Shiloh Pitt having gender issues. She’s a child, therefore leave her alone to be a child! As Dr. Vicki pointed out parents should allow children to tell their parents what they do or do not want to wear…what toys they like or want rather than having everything chosen for them. I feel this is how we build a stronger individual, so that when they are older they are more confident to make their own choices.

  3. missy kucia says:

    My soon to be four year old is a huge spider man fan so I got her some spidy undies. The neighbor commented why she was wearing boys underwear. All I could say was “not my fault they don’t make em for girls!” Seems a little sexist to me. (I don’t want) my baby learning something is wrong when people talk. She is only human and allowed to have heros”! I have to agree with Angie. And totally agree with Kristin. When you’re little, its all about havin fun; at a younge age there is no such thing as a critic…who needs em!?

  4. Dr. Vicki Panaccione says:

    Kudos to you for allowing your little girl to pick any hero she chooses!

  5. Stelladean says:

    1st of all Angelina Jolie must stop saying that Shiloh likes to dress like a boy.Don’t talk like that about your daughter… you hear?Shiloh is a beautiful little girl .She’s a GIRL not a freak like Chastity Bono.
    Please Angelina try to dress Shiloh with dresses and let her hair grow longer.Do not give in …and dress her in another way.Have faith in GOD…don’t listen to Bono.She has her own problems.

  6. Dr. Vicki Panaccione says:

    Thank you for your comments. I will say, however, that forcing a child to dress in a way that is uncomfortable to him/her can create problems and resentmetns, as well.

  7. wen says:

    What’s wrong with Tomboys?

  8. Dr. Vicki Panaccione says:

    Absolutely nothing!!


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  1. […] reportedly believes her children are “off limits,” according to a report in Ok! magazine where a source adds that Angie thinks it’s “perfectly normal for little girls to be tomboys when they’re that […]

  2. says:

    Girl Tomboy or Boy Wannabe? : Better Parenting Institute…

    The Girl Tomboy vs. Gender Identity Crisis is the subject of an article in the May 30, 2011 edition of OK! Magazine. Specifically, the boyish appearance of Shiloh Pitt, the daughter of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt is once again being scrutinized. I bri…