That boy has a really high-pitched voice.
An unfeminine female character looks like, or is mistaken for, a male. Sometimes this is to show that she's as tough as a guy, sometimes to show that she's a Butch Lesbian
, but frequently just to show that she's unattractive. Often used for comedy, in which case she may be an Abhorrent Admirer
Supertrope of Bifauxnen
, where a woman looks like an attractive
young man, usually with fangirls (or fanboys) who take obvious notice. Not to be confused with Sweet Polly Oliver
, who is a woman deliberately disguised
as a man; Samus Is a Girl
, where the story is deliberately misleading about the character's gender; or Viewer Gender Confusion
, where there's only out-of-universe confusion. Compare Dude Looks Like a Lady
and Attractive Bent-Gender
, for men who look like women, and The Lad-ette
, for women who act
like men. Sometimes involves a Gender Reveal
Anime and Manga
- Project A-ko has a female One-Gender Race of Human Aliens. Many look like guys.
- Cafe Kichijouji De features a group of macho-looking schoolgirls who serves as one of the main characters' underlings.
- Cowboy Bebop: Ed is a girl, which the rest of the cast doesn't realize until the very end of the episode in which she's introduced. Given that she's young enough to be prepubescent and her personality is halfway between Feral Child and Cloudcuckoolander anyway, it doesn't actually affect her characterization much.
- VT the middle-aged space trucker.
- Gundam SEED: Cagalli is introduced this way, though she wasn't specifically disguising herself as male, people assume she is until it's revealed otherwise.
- Hellsing: Sir Integra, who dresses in a masculine fashion and is referred to as "sir" despite being female. It's explained that this is deliberate on her part, to make people more accepting of her taking the traditionally male role of the head of the Hellsing Organization.
- Zorin Blitz is an even more convincing example, despite having the Boobs of Steel.
- Heinekel Wolfe is too.
- Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Strikers: The supplementary manga revealed that Otto of the Numbers Cyborgs had such a boyish appearance that most of her own Cyborg family were unsure if she had a male or female body.
- Very early on in Ouran High School Host Club, where Haruhi is assumed to be male because of her very unflattering appearance. This continues through the rest of the series, though a proper clothing upgrade makes her into more of a bifauxnen.
- Under similar conditions, Benibara of Lobelia has a rather masculine face despite dressing more effeminately. Ouran: The Vaguely Abridged Series parodied this by giving her a craggy man's voice.
- HeartCatch Pretty Cure!: Both Tsubomi and Cobraja thought that Itsuki was a male until different circumstances revealed the truth (a servant of Itsuki's called her "Oujo-sama" in front of Tsubomi and Erika/Cure Marine told Cobraja flat out that Itsuki was a girl). Cobraja was shocked while Tsubomi ended up falling slightly ill from the revelation.
- Liechtenstein of Axis Powers Hetalia cuts her hair short to mimic her adopted brother Switzerland. When the two go walking while wearing the same military uniform, an old lady compliments Switzerland on having an adorable younger brother. Cue Liechtenstein groping her chest in shock. This isn't as much of a problem when she wears dresses and a ribbon.
- When Sechs from Gunnm still had her (female) TUNED body, it was easily masculine enough to be confused for male, especially considering the manga's artstyle. Compare and contract with the twins, who, despite having the same series TUNED bodies, are easily identified as females.
- Waratte! Sotomura-san: In a flashback from when the Sotomura siblings went to a store to buy yukatas, each one was given something for the other's gender.
- Honey's and Natsuko's classmates in the original Cutey Honey manga, who are all ridiculously ugly.
- In Sky High, Royal Pain is thought to be a guy because of the voice modulator. It is later revealed that she is a she when she finally puts her evil plan into action.
- Madame Gasket in Robots is mistaken for a man, even down to the voice. The Reveal that she is in fact a woman has some pretty hilarious reactions (including the glass that helps protect the eyes shattering).
- Executed brilliantly in The Dark Knight Rises whereby flashbacks are shown of a child with a shaved head and modest dress. We're told this was the child of Ra's al Ghul and Bruce believes it is Bane, but it turns out to be Miranda Tate, birth name Talia.
- Done in The Lorax. The title character is about to open a can of fury on a relative of The Onceler's, who objects saying, "You wouldn't hit a woman, would you?" "That's a woman?!?!!?!?"
- Jaime Lannister gives Brienne of Tarth a lot of shit for this in A Song of Ice and Fire, specifically during the third book. At one point he even suggest she might be a female-to-male transsexual.
- Game of Thrones: Ser Jaime Lannister thinks Brienne of Tarth is far too masculine-looking for a woman.
- Arya Stark in season 1 behaves like a tomboy and was frequently being mistaken as a boy due to her appearance and it annoyed her. After the death of her father Ned Stark, she had to crossdress as a boy to hide her identity from her enemies.
- Monk: Mr. Monk gets stuck in traffic, where Monk runs into a truck driver whom he initially assumes to be a male.
- Up to Eleven in Sister Sister where Rhonda, formerly an Alpha Bitch towards Tia and Tamera, re-appears in the season 4 episode "You Are So Beautiful" looking and sounding rather masculine.
- In Married... with Children, Marcy was mistaken for a male several times due to her flat chest and short hair.
- Glee's Season 2 (and on) football Coach Shannon Beiste, and a good amount of her characterization is owed to the real life experiences of Dot Marie Jones who portrays her.
- Farscape has the Zenetans, a species with pretty much no sexual dimorphism. By the end of "The Flax," D'Argo has had it up to here with Staanz, a former space pirate and "garbologist" - only to find out that, not only is the male-looking Staanz a woman, but has really fallen for D'Argo. Supplementary materials discuss how Zenetans rely on pheromones to tell which gender is which.
- Because she's wearing trousers and has her long hair tucked into a cap, Polly is mistaken for a young boy throughout the Doctor Who serial "The Smugglers." While Ben pokes fun at her for it, she never really bothers to correct the mistake.
- (possibly:) The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time: Shiek is a debatable example. It's unclear if Princess Zelda is magically transformed, deliberately disguised, or simply dressed in a masculine fashion when appearing as Shiek.
- Touhou: Wriggle Nightbug is female, like 99.99% of the cast, despite her androgynous appearance (to the point of looking like a cute boy sometimes) and all the fanwork to the contrary.
- Pokémon: The Machop and Timburr lines have a 25% chance of being female, despite their very manly appearances- the latter line's final evolution, Conkeldurr even sports a visible goatee!
- Even better example: the very masculine looking Granbull actually has a 75% chance of being female. Its pre-evolution being pink may have something to do with it.
- Elh Melizée from Solatorobo, at least according to the characters in-game. This even allows Red to help her sneak into an all-boys magic school, insisting to the Ritual Master that she "couldn't be any more of a boy" - which, of course, annoys her immensely, since by that point she was quite fond of him.
- Adel. The only clue that she is a she is that she is called a sorceress.
- Sakura Oogami from Dangan Ronpa is an extreme example, to the point that she basically looks like a male bodybuilder wearing a Sailor Fuku.
- Anna Hottenmeyer from Mr. Driller.
- Jherii Gallo, the Dead Rising 3 Psychopath representing Pride, is an overzealous and arrogant bodybuilder with a deep voice and overmuscular physique. She tries to kill Nick when he accidentally keeps referring to her as a "sir".
- Mute from Ar tonelico Qoga: Knell of Ar Ciel. She's a musclebound brute and virtually devoid of any femininity outside of her voice (Which is normal in the JP dub, but very masculine in the English dub) and Sailor Fuku. Aoto gives her the unflattering nickname of "Butch" in the English dub, but instead literally just refers to her as "man-woman" in the JP dub. You later find out that she can transform into a typical loli when she feels like it, though.
- In Hemispheres, Mineshaft, the dwarf, looks like a generic fantasy dwarf male... but, of course, it's eventually revealed that dwarves in this setting all look and sound male to humans, beards and all.
- This also occurs in the Discworld books for dwarves.
- Same New Woman follows Marita, an ordinary librarian who wakes up one morning with a hyper-muscular body and extraordinary strength and is subsequently a source of gender confusion. She tries to go on with her old life but finds her world increasingly out of control.
- Family Guy:
- The Griffins go into witness protection in the Deep South. Chris befriends a kid named Sam who looks and sounds like a guy — until he kisses Chris and it's revealed shortly after that he is a she.
- Another episode, "Mind Over Murder", the 'man' Peter punches turns out to be a woman, leading to her delivering her child ahead of schedule.
- A recurring joke is that Meg is mistaken for a boy (despite having a clearly female chest).
- The Simpsons, episode "The Otto Show": Otto has to take a driving test, and Patty is his tester.
Patty: When you do good, I use the green pen. When you do bad, I use the red pen. Any questions?
Otto: Yeah, one. Have you always been a chick? I mean I don't want to offend you, but you were born a man, weren't you? You can tell me; I'm open-minded.
Patty: (Dropping the green pen) We won't be needing this.
- The episode "Selma's Choice" has a moment where the priest is eulogizing the deceased Aunt Gladys at her funeral:
Priest: He was a caring man, he was a kind man. He gave to his community and asked little in return. He-
[A man whispers something in his ear.]
That's a woman? Oh, dear God!
- ToddWorld, a series targeted at preschool audiences. Todd's dog, Benny, meets a dog named Sam and they play together in the mud, so he never really gets a good look at her. When they meet later, Benny is shocked she's a girl— "Sam" is short for Samantha. He thinks that he can't play with a girl, but learns differently. "Benny has a new friend now. Girls make great friends and so do boys!"
- Avatar: The Last Airbender : Smellerbee is frequently mistaken for a boy, a misconception which she is somewhat sensitive about and quick to correct.
- In the episode of Hey Arnold! where Helga gives herself a makeover a man mistakes her for a boy.
- Laney Penn from Grojband, at least to the titular band.
- In Total Drama, made by the same company, Jerk Jock Lightning thinks that Brawn Hilda Jo is a guy, leading to an amusing Mistaken for Gay situation when, in a life-threatening situation, Jo laments that she's going to die without ever having kissed a guy. Eventually he finds out that Jo is a girl and is completely shocked.
- One episode of The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack had Flapjack encounter a woman who looked like a hairy middle aged man with a long beard, he assumed at first that she was was a man with the voice of a little girl.
- Mary Frith, a.k.a. Mad Moll Cutpurse was a well-known pickpocket and pimp in the English Renaissance, who dressed as a man, dueled other men, smoked a pipe, and swore. She was married to a man eventually, but it was largely believed to be a domestic farce. Thomas Middleton's play The Roaring Girl was based on her.
- Kim and Kelley Deal. Wearing lumberjack shirts and smoking like chimneys hasn't helped
- Anne Bonney and Mary Read, female pirates in the early 1700's. Sources differ on if or how long they disguised themselves as men, though.
- Patti Smith
- Jeanne d'Arc (better known as Joan of Arc in English-speaking countries) cut her hair and dressed as a man during the Hundred Years War. Actually, when she was on trial by the English for heresy, this was one of the only things they could convict her of, and thus was one of the sole reasons she was burned at the stake.
- In Britain, during times when hairstyles either favored shorter hair for women or longer hair for men, it could be hard to tell the difference between a man and a woman who just wore trousers (or for pre-adolescents, a girl could easily be mistaken for a boy who hadn't hit puberty).
- Female spotted hyenas look almost exactly like the males, right down to having an enlarged clitoris that's essentially a pseudopenis, complete with a fake scrotum. And they give birth through it.
- When Fox News Channel posted an editorial in favor of traditional gender roles, they illustrated it with a photo of a lesbian wedding, which they had ironically mistaken for a depiction of a heterosexual couple due to the masculine appearance and attire of Stephanie Fiagrelle. Once this was pointed out, the photo was replaced with a more generic one.
- Catalina de Erauso, a straight up Butch Lesbian who escaped the convent whe had been recluded in at age four by joining the army. She had several female lovers who never realized she wasn't a man and served in the same company as his brother, who didn't recognize her.