A tomboy is a girl who engages in behaviors that typically only boys are interested in and/or wears clothing that is not stereotypically feminine. Although many young girls start out as tomboys, most of them mature into more typically feminine interests and behaviors after puberty. But not all do. Some women continue to prefer careers and hobbies more often of interest to men. Since God created two genders with differing roles, is it wrong for Christian women and girls to be tomboys?
While God did create two genders (Genesis 1:27) with differing roles, He does not necessarily endorse all the cultural mores that dictate feminine or masculine behavior within a society. Throughout history, women have been oppressed, denied education, and left virtually powerless—all in the name of feminine standards. In some cultures today, women still cannot vote, work outside the home, or seek higher education. Even though those cultures consider oppression to be normal for women, God is not the author of that. On the other hand, women who reject their God-given femininity in an effort to be masculine are also stepping outside of God’s design.
There is a difference between a tomboy and a woman who rejects her gender. Tomboys usually happily accept their female status, while also exploring interests that fall outside the typical female spectrum. A tomboy can be a construction foreman and still fully embrace her gender, while another can wear a dress while resenting the fact that she is a woman. Unfortunately, in modern Western culture, women who continue to be tomboys into adulthood are often labeled as “lesbian” or “bisexual,” when that may have nothing to do with their interest in “masculine” things.
A Christian tomboy needs to be aware of her culture’s viewpoint and take care to present herself accurately. As Christians, our first priority must be representing Jesus well (1 Corinthians 10:31). We should be willing to limit our own freedoms in order not to offend or send the wrong message to the world we are trying to reach (1 Corinthians 9:22; Galatians 5:13). A woman who acts and dresses like a man may be communicating a message she does not intend to communicate. She should remember God’s instructions to the Israelites about wearing the garments of the opposite gender (Deuteronomy 22:5). His reason may have been that He wants to keep a clear distinction between men and women. He designed those genders and expects us to celebrate the difference, not blur the line.
Another matter Christian tomboys should consider is hairstyle. Some women prefer short hair because their own hair texture is not well-suited for wearing it long. However, the decision may have more significance than simple style preference. Christian women who desire to honor the Lord and their husbands should prayerfully consider what God thinks about hair. First Corinthians 11:5 says that “if a woman has long hair, it is her glory. For long hair is given to her as a covering.” That word covering implies an attitude of submission to the Lord’s design and her husband’s authority in the home (Ephesians 5:23; 1 Corinthians 11:3). When a woman buzzes her hair off in a military style, she is removing what God says is her “glory” and her “covering.” A Christian woman need not try to imitate a man’s appearance in order to retain her identity as a tomboy. She can do everything “tomboyish” she needs to do and still look like a woman.
Another aspect to consider in whether or not it is wrong for a Christian woman to be a tomboy is her role in the home. Tomboys can be excellent wives and mothers. Tomboy moms can earn the respect of their sons by playing sports with them and showing them how to change the oil in the car. A tomboy mom can model for her daughters that femininity does not equal helplessness, as she utilizes her gifts to do home repairs, remodeling projects, and running a ranch if need be. Tomboy wives delight their husbands as they join them in cheering for their favorite sports teams or providing companionship on hunting and fishing trips. A man who marries a tomboy chooses her because of those traits, so she is not defying her God-given role by developing them.
However, a tomboy may be tempted to use that identity as an excuse to neglect her more important roles. While no woman has to get married, those who do should consider carefully the role they are choosing. Being a tomboy does not cancel God’s command that women be “keepers of the home” (Titus 2:5) and submissive to their husband’s leadership (Ephesians 5:22; Colossians 3:18). Being a tomboy does not release a woman from her responsibility to develop a “gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” (1 Peter 3:4). Having a gentle and quiet spirit is not about personality. All types of women with different temperaments can develop this gentle and quiet spirit before the Lord. This type of spirit is of such great worth to God because it is an indicator that this woman, His daughter, has embraced the person He created her to be and is willing to submit her own personality to His control. Nothing pleases Him more (1 Corinthians 7:32–34).
So, while it is not wrong for a Christian girl or woman to be a tomboy, she needs to keep in mind that she is, first, a Christian and, second, a female. God created her female for a purpose. A woman can reject God’s purpose and try to forge her own path, or she can embrace that purpose and submit herself to it. That may mean she is a stay-at-home mother of five children, or it may mean that she is an airline pilot. As long as she keeps her identity in Christ as her primary motivation, He will give her the desires of her heart (Psalm 37:4).