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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 dislikes more 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 in 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 and Like Father, Unlike Son. 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 
  • Ayakashi Triangle has a Gender Bender-induced example: Matoi is an opulently-dressed Lady of War. Her child Matsuri was originally male, then turned female, but continues to dress and act like a boy—which makes for a visual contrast because they otherwise look near-identical. Matoi has expressed a preference to Matsuri to remain a girl, and is seemingly trying to get him to become more feminine.
  • 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 the Series: XY: Inverted. Grace is a spunky, short-haired woman who is a famous Rhyhorn racer. While she wanted Serena to become a Ryhorn racer like her, Serena ended up leaning towards the Idol Singer-esque Pokemon Performer career instead. Serena has a more feminine look than her mother as well, though she did end up with an Important Haircut halfway through the series.
  • 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.

    Comic Strips 
  • In PreTeena, harassed mother Tess Keene manages to look casually presentable and stylish in a well-dressed feminine manner. Older daughter Jeri is obsessed with appearance, style and makeup. Eleven-year old Teena, however, is a tomboy who prefers slopping around in jeans, or shorts, and t-shirt. She absolutely hates formal occassions where she has to wear dresses. Her idea of clothes-shopping is to spend no more than five minutes in locating a new pair of jeans and four or five t-shirts, and any time spent above this is time wasted. Her mother despairs.

    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 sporty, assertive, tomboy. Her mother, Marie, on the other hand, seems to be a typical housewife who puts up with her husband's emotionally abusive attitude with little complaint, never explaining to her daughter why. note  Once this is explained, her Hidden Depths are revealed (Harry picks up on them almost immediately), and she resolves to put aside her fears and be proud of her "scrappy little warrior maiden", the two get on much better. She also effectively kicks her husband to the curb once she discovers how far he was really willing to go to make Carol more traditionally feminine ( get Harry to Mind Rape her. Harry reacts badly to this suggestion). He's still technically around, but only on temporary visits, having had a promotion out of state arranged for him, never left alone with his children, with the implication that a divorce is on the cards - and this punishment is indicated to be significantly milder than what Marie would have come up with if she'd found out about what had happened directly, rather than from her own mother.
  • Inverted in The Choice of Group: Alice is and has always been a spirited, rebellious and adventurous Action Girl, and both her little daughters are shy, timid bookworms. Alice is completely fine with that.
  • In Infinity Train: Blossoming Trail: Talia is a stay at home mother who also has a job as an illustrator who makes cute and sweet drawings. Her daughter, Chloe, is a Nightmare Fetishist who is currently on the Infinity Train having fun exploring multiple cars and fighting with a steel pipe/donut holer.
  • Discordant Princess' Hazbin Hotel works have this dynamic with OC Megan Lowell and her mother Marjorie (as well as her six older sisters). Marjorie and her oldest girls are "proper" ladies who put their efforts into looking good and roping a fine marriage, while Megan is a studious tomboy who eventually becomes a World War Two Army nurse. Justified, as in the time period Megan lives in, that's what was mostly expected of girls.
  • A Downplayed example in the Luca fanfic The Story of Apollo, Daphne and Luca: An Italian Tragedy with Caterina Marcovaldo and her daughter Giulia. Caterina, while not a full-fledged Girly Girl or Proper Lady, has a gentler, more soft-spoken and mild-mannered personality compared to the Hot-Blooded, blunt and tomboyish Giulia.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Bend It Like Beckham:
    • Jess' family forbids her from playing soccer because they don't believe it's appropriate for a woman to do so.
    • Jules has a similar problem with her ladylike mother, who wants her to be interested in shopping and boys and is thrilled to learn that she and Jess had a feud over a boy (she'd thought they were a couple).
  • In the Star Wars universe, Leia is a fiery and tough Tomboy Princess, and usually dresses in a more practical way, in contrast to her Silk Hiding Steel mother Padmé, who is more soft-spoken and diplomatic, and often wears ornate, formal gowns. However, Leia wears them when required and is also a trained diplomat, while Padme also put on more practical clothing sometimes. Both were also good fighters and Padme died shortly after giving birth so there was no opportunity for conflict between them (or accord), making it pretty downplayed.
  • Inverted in Halloween (2018): Laurie is a badass old woman and Tank-Top Tomboy who spends her free time target practicing while her daughter Karen is much more motherly, demure and soft-spoken.
  • In The Help Skeeter is a wannabe journalist and writer who doesn't care much about fashion, her mother Charlotte is a former beauty contestant who is concerned with her daughters' lack of femininity (and single status).
  • Mulan (2020): This dynamic is more present than in the animated film, as Mulan is more outright tomboyish (she has been a budding warrior since childhood) and her traditionally feminine mother more openly disapproves of her behavior.
  • The Princess: The princess, a tomboy who likes to fight and is well trained in doing so, has a demure Proper Lady mother in the queen. Unlike in many examples however, it was her mother who had her trained to fight, quietly supporting her daughter while her father the king is not happy at all when learning about her unfeminine activities.
  • August In The City: August is conventionally feminine, while her daughter Ana has quite the masculine style, dressing much like a boy with a ball cap, low-hung jeans etc.
  • Signature Move: Zaynab is a Butch Lesbian. Her mother Parveen is a traditional Muslim woman, always wearing a dress and mostly hijab too. They clash on many things, naturally, most particularly Parveen pushing for her to marry a man and have children, unaware at first Zaynab is a lesbian.
  • Freaky Friday (1976) has feminine pink skirt wearing housewife Ellen, and her rambunctious skateboarding jeans-and-sneaker preferring teenage daughter Annabel who then swap bodies and learn about each other's lives.
    • The later Freaky Friday (2003) looser adaptation of the same source book departs from this with career woman psychologist Tess and rocker-chic teenager Anna who both are more on a grey area of the Girly-Girl to Tomboy ratio.

  • American Girls Collection:
    • Felicity Merriman is the tomboyish protagonist — she would rather explore and ride horses than sit and do embroidery. Her mother Martha is a Proper Lady from a well-to-do family who expresses exasperation at Felicity's tomboyishness and wishes that her daughter matures into a genteel young woman. Throughout the series, Felicity matures enough to calm down but her mother accepts her less conventional hobbies and interests (even where she'd run her father's counter at their store when he is away).
    • Kit Kittredge's mother (at least before The Great Depression wrecks the family's financial stability) is a housewife who loves hosting garden parties and wants to give her daughter a pink, princess-themed bedroom. Kit, however, is much more into baseball, writing her own newspaper, and idolizing real-life career women like Amelia Earhart.
  • 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).
  • Honor Harrington: Honor has shades of this with her mother Allison. Allison is a geneticist, 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 the Katarina after regaining her Past-Life Memories is the opposite. Her less than ladylike hobbies such as farming and tree-climbing, 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.
  • 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.
  • 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."

    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.
  • House of the Dragon establishes this dynamic between Aemma and her daughter Rhaenyra from their very first scene together. Aemma, a demure Proper Lady has to explain to her strongly-opiniated tomboy of a daughter that her role as a woman with royal blood is to provide heirs for the Realm. Rhaenyra dismisses her mother's words and tells her she would rather be a knight who rides to battle and glory. Guess who ends up having 5 children in the end.
  • Mad Men: Bourgeois housewife Betty Draper once called her daughter Sally "daddy's little lesbian" over her love of handiwork. The relationship becomes more strained as Sally starts questioning her domineering and insecure mother's beliefs and toxic traits and the girl adopts a style as preppy as her Grace Kelly esque mother but favors jeans and sweaters rather than shirtwaist dresses.
  • The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House: Mother Azusa is the proper but slightly airheaded former geisha and house manager. Her brusque teenage daughter Ryoko has tomboyish fashion and manners and resents the lifestyle.
  • Never Have I Ever: Elise Torres favors skirts and dresses, is introduced trying to bond with her daughter over manicures, and later runs the school bake sale. Fabiola Torres dresses "like the janitor's nephew," is invested in STEM, and has created her own very advanced robot. They do get along better than most examples of this trope and are shown as having a very loving and supportive parent-child relationship compared to the others on the show.
  • The Spencer Sisters: Victoria is highly feminine, with long hair, a demure manner and always dressing in flattering slacks with blouses or similar outfits. Darby, her daughter, has a slightly tomboyish look in contrast. While she also has long hair, Darby eschews more feminine outfits (like her mother wants her to wear), for shirts and jeans. She's also more bold and unladylike in her attitude.
  • 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.
  • Trigonometry: Ray not only goes by this Tomboyish Name, compared to her mother her clothing style is more androgynous or masculine, though she'll wear dresses as well. Her mother though finds her usual outfits ugly, urges that she put on dresses to look beautiful, and dislikes that she also got a tattoo, having a far more feminine style herself. This causes some strain between them.
  • The Vampire Diaries: Inverted. Caroline is a bubbly, flighty cheerleader, while her mother Liz is usually seen in her cop uniform and has Boyish Short Hair.
  • Willow: Sorsha has long hair and always wears an elegant, beautiful gown. Her daughter Kit on the other hand is a short-haired tomboy who wears very masculine clothing, eschewing the more feminine things that were expected of her as a princess. The illusion of Sorsha Kit meets in the Immemorial City apologizes for trying to make Kit something she's not, as part of the Crone's temptation.
  • The Witcher (2019):
    • Inverted with the corset-hating warrior Queen Calanthe and her more Princess Classic daughter Pavetta.
    • Cirilla 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 Games 
  • Blodeuwedd and Kari from Dead In Vinland. Blodeuwedd is a housewife and excellent cook, who's always trying to convince Kari to cook, clean, sew, and other traditionally feminine tasks. Kari is rude, snarky, and impatient, has a Hair-Trigger Temper, wears trousers, and would much rather go hunting with her dad and explore the Island of Mystery they've ended up stranded on. Blodeuwedd even tells one of the male characters that she wishes she had a daughter like him. Complicated in that Blodeuwedd is also an axe-wielding Lady of War who's the best tank in the game.
  • Joyce and Chloe Price, as seen in both Life Is Strange and its prequel Life Is Strange: Before the Storm. While no pushover, Joyce cooks, dresses in a typically feminine manner, and generally accepts her second husband David's conservative outlook on life. Chloe, on the other hand, dresses in a much more typically masculine style, has cut her hair short, and absolutely cannot stand David. Interestingly, neither party is presented as wholly in the right, and while they may sometimes not get along, both of them deeply love each other.
  • 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 
  • CLANNAD: Nagisa is soft-spoken, nurturing, and obsessed with Dango plushies. Meanwhile, her daughter Ushio is more spunky, plays with toy robots, and does baseball.
  • In Umineko: When They Cry, Natsuhi and Jessica Ushiromiya have this dynamic. Natsuhi is refined and tries her hardest to be a Yamato Nadeshiko (despite being a bit too high-strung to play it straight), while Jessica is feisty and tomboyish. Natsuhi clearly Wanted a Gender-Conforming Child, as she often wishes Jessica would be more ladylike.

    Web Animation 

    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 tea shop owner with long hair. Her daughter Ivy is a tomboy who wears overalls and hat and enjoys roughhousing and other boyish activities. Felicia wants Ivy to learn how to run the shop, but contrary to Ivy's assumption, has no problem with her daughter being a tomboy as she herself was an adventurer and learned how to fight on her travels.
  • Bionic Six: Meg is a spunky short-haired speedster who enjoys a good fight. Her mother Helen has longer hair and prefers using telekinesis to conquer her foes.
  • Danny Phantom: While Sam's individualist 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.
  • Shareena Wickett from Detention is a goth girl into dark things, while her mother wants her to be into pink and fashion.
  • 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 sorceress 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.
  • The Simpsons: Episodes set in the future have this dynamic with cookie-cutter housewife Marge and her youngest child, Maggie, who dresses like a punk rocker.
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil: Star Butterfly 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.
  • In Tangled: The Series, spunky, outdoorsy Rapunzel can sometimes be at odds with her demure, Proper Lady mother. However, Rapunzel's Aunt Willow reveals that Queen Arianna definitely had an adventurous streak in her youth like Rapunzel too.
  • 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.

    Real Life 
  • On The Sonny and Cher Show, Cher would often bring out her young 'daughter' "Chastity" at the end. "Chastity" was always dressed in super feminine and cute attire… then "Chastity" grew up as a "Butch Lesbian", later figured out and came out as transgender. He is now known as Chaz Bono.