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Feminine Mother, Tomboyish Daughter

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Elinor: Merida, a princess does not place her weapons on the table.
Merida: [moans] Mum! It's just my bow!

This trope is a specific variant of Tomboy and Girly Girl applied to a mother/daughter pair. The mother generally ascribes to the feminine norms of the time (such as a Proper Lady in period works or a Housewife from the 20th century onwards) while the daughter is a Tomboy who generally shirks away from girly things. The mother then disdains her daughter's lack of femininity and may take steps to induce a Girliness Upgrade, often with mixed results. More realistically, she might also worry about her daughter's future, especially in settings that are very strict about gender roles. Meanwhile, the daughter might be tomboyish in part because she is rebelling against her mother's aspirations for her, especially if she has a girly sister or cousin to whom she is often negatively compared. In period works, the Tomboy Princess and Spirited Young Lady may clash with more traditionally feminine older relatives.


This can be played several ways. The mother might be a very strict Fantasy-Forbidding Mother who repeatedly brings up that she Wanted a Gender-Conforming Child, or an Open-Minded Parent who is accepting of her daughter from the get-go — bonus points if she Used to Be a Tomboy (or at least less girly) but settled into a more feminine role in adulthood. She and her daughter may be distant because of their differences or very close despite them. Similarly, the daughter may stand her ground or experience Tomboy Angst. The important thing is the generational contrast between the two female characters, because this trope is often used to show changing gender norms. The mother is usually the embodiment of Acceptable Feminine Goals and Traits, and her treatment of her tomboyish daughter's personality and hobbies is emblematic of the changing times — society is increasingly accepting of women who take up traditionally 'masculine' pursuits, although old-fashioned characters may still be scandalized. For this reason, the daughter is usually the more sympathetic character, or at least the one the audience is expected to root for.


Subtrope of Tomboy and Girly Girl. Compare Jock Dad, Nerd Son for a loose modern gender inversion. See also You Go, Girl! and Stay in the Kitchen for other plots about girls trying traditionally masculine activities. Related to Women Are Delicate — the mother may ascribe to this perception, but the daughter challenges it.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Played for Drama in the manga version of Bokurano, where boyish military Otaku Maki wonders if she's afraid of acting girly because she loathes her abusive, neglectful biological mother, who was supposedly feminine. Maki doesn't actually have a very good idea of what kind of person her mother was, apart from the abuse, but admits that when she sees women who are "slaves to money and booze and men," she wonders if that was what her mother was like.
  • Digimon:
    • In Digimon Adventure, the tomboyish soccer player Sora doesn't get along with her mother, who is a Yamato Nadeshiko who specializes in traditional flower arrangements. However, Sora does experience Girliness Upgrade later in life, switching from soccer to tennis.
    • Rika of Digimon Tamers is a rough and brash tomboy who rails against her supermodel fashionista mother. After they make peace, she is depicted as something like a Tomboy with a Girly Streak, who secretly likes dressing up.
  • Pokémon: In the Pokémon X and Y anime, Serena and her mother are an inversion, where Serena is the Girly Girl and her mother is an athletic Rhyhorn racer who wants her daughter to be a racer too.
  • Tweeny Witches: Arusu is an athletic, short-haired Fiery Redhead who defies the norms of the witches without shame. She also dresses in a tank top and pants before a Significant Wardrobe Shift as part of her Going Native. Her mother, Yoko, is a Housewife with a Motherly Side Plait, though her similar clothes and ineptitude in cooking make her a downplayed example.

    Comic Books 
  • In Astro City, Butch Lesbian superheroine Flying Fox's mother is a much more traditionally-feminine woman, albeit one who spent much of her career in politics.
  • Subverted in Princeless. Adrienne is straightforwardly a Tomboy Princess who rebelled against the path her parents set out for her as a Princess Classic. Her mother the queen seemingly encouraged the feminine-princess path, but later supports Adrienne and is heavily implied to be the Black Knight.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): Helena Sandsmark is the prim feminine young mother of the very brash and tomboyish Cassie Sandsmark.

    Fan Works 
  • In Child of the Storm, this is one of the many reasons that the Danvers family is so dysfunctional. Carol (the daughter) is a tomboy who is incredibly talented at sports (to the point she was once forced to be tested for steroids) and highly assertive. Her mother on the other hand is the typical housewife who puts up with her husband's abusive attitude with little complaint, without ever explaining to her daughter why she does it. As a result, Carol doesn't like her at all.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live Action 
  • In Bend It Like Beckham, this is present in the contrast between tomboyish soccer up-and-comer Jess, and her traditional Indian mother. Jess family forbids her from playing soccer because they don't believe it's appropriate for a woman to do so. Also present to a lesser degree with the white Jules and her similarly ladylike mother.

  • The Count of Monte Cristo: While not exactly a tomboy (she's into music, can convincingly pass for a man and is all but stated to be a Butch Lesbian), Eugenie Danglars is much more outspoken than her mother Hermine (who's more of a Brainless Beauty interested only in her own pleasures, though she's smart enough to participate in insider trading).
  • In Little Women, Jo is the most tomboyish of the sisters, being outspoken, rebellious, and thoroughly against romance and her sisters' more feminine goals and traits. In contrast her mother Marmee is a strong and humble Proper Lady and Housewife who often imparts parental wisdom on her. Marmee once confesses to Jo that she once had a Hot-Blooded temper to rival Jo's but learned to control it; true to form, Jo matures into a more feminine Spirited Young Lady.
  • Lensman: In Children of the Lens, Clarissa Kinnison is described as a womanly feminine lady who tried hard to make her daughters grow up as feminine women too — and failed. They would not play house, or play with dolls; instead they played with atomic engines, flitters, and speedsters, and they also enjoyed roughhousing with their big brother Kit.
  • This is a major sticking point between Katarina and her mother in My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!. The original Katarina was spoiled but still well-behaved (when she wasn't acting the Alpha Bitch) and active in her engagement to Prince Jerod but Monkey-Girl!Katarina is the opposite. Her less than ladylike hobbies such as farming and climbing trees, and her complete lack of proper decorum for the daughter of a duke (much less the fiancee of a prince) infuriate her mother to no end, leaving her as literally the only person in the story who can't be won over by her simpleminded charm or quirkiness.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: Catelyn is a tried and true Proper Lady, while her middle child and second daughter Arya is a wild and rambunctious tomboy. Although Catelyn's husband Ned indulged Arya's hobbies like sword fighting and horseback riding (in part because of her resemblance to his famously tomboyish deceased sister Lyanna), Catelyn expresses concern about Arya's future, was critical over her lack of feminine skills, and takes pride in the fact that Arya's feminine older sister Sansa was "a lady at three."
  • Inverted in Remnants. One of the main characters is a teenager who goes by Miss Violet Blake (birth name: Austin). Violet was part of a clique called "Janes," because they prefer to dress and act in the style of Jane Austen characters. Her mother, in contrast, was a tough-as-nails businesswoman before the Rock hit, and the two often butt heads.
  • Honor Harrington: Honor has shades of this with her mother Allison, Allison is a genetists, small, beautiful and from the planet Beowulf that has a very open attitude to sex. Honor is a naval officer, is 6 foot 2 and always felt plain and was content as one of the lads' after some unpleasant experiences at the Naval Academy. While not at each other's throats, Honor was always jealous of her mother's beauty and for her part her mother was perturbed by Honor's lack of sex life.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Cold Case Season 4 episode "Torn", the oldest unsolved case in the series, focuses on the death of a teenage socialite who falls in with the suffrage movement, much to the dismay of her conservative mother. The mother turns out to be her killer in the end, though it's Accidental Murder.
  • Mad Men: Bourgeois housewife Betty Draper once called her daughter Sally "daddy's little lesbian" over her love of handiwork.
  • Stranger Things implies this to be the dynamic between Max and her mother Susan, which is confirmed and expanded on in the tie-in novel Runaway Max. Max (a Tomboyish Name for Maxine) is a tomboy who skateboards, drives, plays video games, and hangs out with a group of guys. Susan is dainty and frustrated with Max's tomboyishness.
  • The Witcher:
    • Inverted with the corset-hating warrior Queen Calanthe and her more Princess Classic daughter Pavetta.
    • Played straight with Pavetta and her daughter Cirilla; Ciri enjoys masquerading as a boy and playing knucklebones with commoners, takes to being on the run surprisingly well despite her sheltered background, and expressed frustration that Calanthe wasn't teaching her how to fight and rule.

    Video Game 
  • Caroline and Abigail from Stardew Valley. Caroline is a housewife who is happily married to her husband Pierre. She tends a tea garden for a hobby. Abigail is an adventure-seeking tomboy suffering from Small Town Boredom who wants to fight monsters in the local mine, and will quarrel with her parents in several of her friendship events.
  • Skyrim: Sigrid and Dorthe, the wife and daughter of Alvor, the local blacksmith. Dorthe spends most of her time helping her father at the forge and dreams of becoming a smith herself when she grows up, much to Sigrid's chagrin, who keeps trying to push her into more "ladylike" interests like cooking, sewing, and gardening.

    Visual Novels 

    Western Animation 
  • American Dad!: Francine is a bubbly housewife who wears a pink dress, while her daughter Hayley is a confrontational, rebellious Tank-Top Tomboy who always wears jeans.
  • Amphibia: Felicia Sundew is a very feminine-looking barmaid with Rapunzel Hair. Her daughter Ivy is a tomboy who wears overalls and hat and enjoys roughhousing and other boyish activities.
  • Danny Phantom: While Sam's individualism mindset puts her at odds with both her preppy parents, it's especially nasty between her and her mother Pamela, who's determined to stomp out Sam's goth personality and force her into pink dresses.
  • In Disenchantment, Bean is a hard-drinking tomboy who favors breeches and tunics, whereas her biological mother Dagmar was a proper queen (at least that's how her father insists on remembering her, the truth is she was kind of both and an evil sorcereress to boot. Her stepmother Oona is also fairly proper (with some odd quirks as a Funny Foreigner) but reveals a tomboyish streak when she takes over a pirate crew in the second season, but they never got close.
  • Ashley Spinelli of Recess is a rough and sarcastic tomboy with a feminine mother who likes shopping, makeup, ballet, and other girly pursuits. It's mentioned that Flo Spinelli has tried a few times to get her daughter to follow in her footsteps.
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil: Star is more of a Girly Bruiser than a tomboy, but she still often clashes with her more "proper" mother, Queen Moon. Granted, Moon is perfectly willing to fight if she has to, but doesn't seek it out like Star, who got that trait from her father.
  • Downplayed in Twelve Forever with Regina and her mother. Though her mother is not particularly feminine, she still seems to get annoyed that Reggie doesn't seem willing to wear nice dresses, and is confused as to why she doesn't want to embrace typical teen girl things.


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