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Tomboy Angst

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Miwa: Why do you have to be so perfect?
April: Me? Perfect?
Miwa: Yes, perfect. You with your pretty face, and your book smarts, and that sugary sweetness that just oozes out of you. You're exactly the kind of girl Mother and Father wanted to have in a daughter. But instead they got stuck with me, who can't do a good thing unless it involves hitting somebody. Whenever I try to be sweet it turns to poison. So I'm better off just getting in trouble. It's what I'm good at, even if my parents wish I wouldn't.

Some Tomboys are fine with their stereotypically masculine personalities or even thrive in it. Others hate the fact they're tomboys but have difficulties trying to change their behavior. They may try to invoke a Girliness Upgrade but this often results in Femininity Failure. No Guy Wants an Amazon is often a reason for them disliking being a tomboy. Whether they're fine with their tomboyish streak is another matter. Or maybe they're tomboys with girly streaks, and don't want to be seen as too tomboyish, and object when others call them tomboys because of their outwardly tomboyish physical appearance, despite their girly personality and girly interests, even if they also have tomboyish interests as well.

This appears often in Japanese material and is a point of Values Dissonance to many non-Japanese audiences. Due to Japanese society being very strict about gender roles, many female characters are embarrassed by seeming masculine and actively try to change it. It's comparatively much harder to find a pure tomboy in Japanese media who is fine with their behavior than it is to find in Western media, particularly American media, because most Western societies, particularly the United States, place greater emphasis on masculinity over femininity. In British and European societies, emphasis on masculinity is somewhat downplayed, so you might find some purely masculine tomboys who are perfectly fine with their very masculine behavior, and other relatively more feminine tomboys with girly streaks who criticize them for not being feminine enough.

May overlap with Stay in the Kitchen, which is about how other people treat them. If they have a classically feminine mother for extra contrast, see Feminine Mother, Tomboyish Daughter. And if the parents express disappointment in the tomboyishness, see Wanted a Gender-Conforming Child.

If a character had tomboy angst in the past this could be why they Used to Be a Tomboy. Compare I Want to Be a Real Man, which has boys being insecure about not conforming to masculine gender roles, which is very common in Western media, particularly the United States, due to placing greater emphasis on masculine gender roles.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Boku to Boku is about a tomboyish girl named Yuuki who befriends a Wholesome Crossdresser named Junichirou after she saves him from a chikan. Yuuki hates how boyish she is but everything she does results in Femininity Failure. Another crossdresser falls for her specifically because she's cool and boyish, but Yuuki herself wishes she were girly.
  • Boyfriend is a oneshot about a girl who uses another girl as a Replacement Goldfish for the lack of boys at her all-girls school. Risa only likes Yuuko because she looks like a boy and she views her as one. She gets Yuuko to grow her hair out and start wearing skirts so she can see her as a girl. It's implied Yuuko didn't like being tomboyish much anyway.
  • Hime-chan's Ribbon: The titular character Himeko is a funny, energetic girl with Boyish Short Hair who is seen by everyone as the biggest tomboy in the school. She has an insecurity that she is not feminine enough and actually wants to be like her sister Aiko, a soft-spoken, domesticated girl who is considered very beautiful. Himeko sees Aiko as a role model and the ideal woman.
  • Himegoto - Juukyuusai no Seifuku: Yuki is a androgynous looking woman who wishes she was more feminine and hates her reputation as One of the Boys.
  • Ice Revolution: Masaki was Raised by Dudes and taught judo by her father. She hates how masculine she is and wishes to be girly however her attempts fail. All her peers still see her as very tomboyish or even as a boy. She gets into figure skating to become more feminine and gets a makeover over the course of the series. Though, Masaki still does best skating athletically rather than more "femininely".
  • In the Clear Moonlit Dusk: More like "Bifauxnen Angst", but the same rules apply. Yoi is well aware of the fact that she looks androgynous enough to pass for a young man and can even accept that, but she doesn't really enjoy being treated like a prince or constantly mistaken for a boy, given that it means she Only Has Same-Sex Admirers and suffers from Attractiveness Isolation. That said, she's too afraid of a Femininity Failure to even try changing things on her own and is resigned to her fate at the start of the story.
  • Love Live!: Rin is a tomboy who doesn't think she is attractive due to it.
  • Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun: Subverted with Kashima. When she got a cold which made her voice hoarse, she started mentioning how her voice is the only feminine thing about her and now that she lost it...she's happy because now she can pass off as a real guy.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi: Madoka has a lot features which makes her a tomboy (notably short hair and a husky voice), but an important part of her character is that she hates them.
  • Otonari Complex has Akira, who not only is a tomboy but looks like a handsome boy. For the most part she's used to it, but she has deep insecurities over not being as cute and feminine as the other girls in her life or her childhood friend Makoto (her exact opposite in every way).
  • Ranma ˝: Akane Tendo is a Tomboy with a Girly Streak who's treated by everyone as a full-blooded tomboy. Problem is, Akane desperately wants to be girlier but like Yuuki above, all her attempts to be more feminine finish in failure and lots of her tsundere behavior to her boyfriend Ranma come from her frustration at HIM for being better at girly things when needed. It's strongly implied that her beloved mother's early death and being partially raised by her very girly older sister Kasumi has lots to do with it too.
  • Sailor Moon: Makoto is a tomboy but one of the reasons she cooks and sews is to make herself seem more feminine.
  • Tomo-chan Is a Girl!: The eponymous Tomo doesn't hate being a tomboy, not a bit...but because of her boyish qualities she's worried that her crush/childhood friend doesn't actually see her as a romantic option. The majority of the manga has her do various schemes to appear more feminine as a result.
  • Urusei Yatsura: Ryuunosuke was Raised as the Opposite Gender and is a very tough and aggressive Bifauxnen due to her upbringing, but she really just wants to be feminine. She wants to wear dresses, put on makeup and date just like normal girls do. It's difficult since her overbearing father keeps foiling her every effort to be like a woman. As a result people keep treating her like a boy (or even mistaking her for a boy) and this is a huge Berserk Button for her.
  • Wonder Egg Priority: Momoe is a tall Bifauxnen, but she hates constantly getting mistaken for a boy and does not like how her female admirers tend to treat her like a male substitute because of her appearance; even her use of the masculine "boku" as an Expository Pronoun was just her resigning herself to this perception. After some time in the Dream World, she becomes more comfortable with herself, but starts using the more feminine pronoun "atashi".

    Fan Works 
  • Between the Lines (MrQuestionMark): Chapter 42:
    In reality though, the gender of the #1 Level 5 esper was hardly male despite what their appearance might indicate.
    The constant confusion that people made about her gender pissed her off however she felt as though she would drop dead from embarrassment if someone saw her, regardless of whether they were a stranger or not in a dress or something girly. She wore those types of clothes from time to time however only on days where she did not expect to go out into the City.
  • In Despair's Last Resort, Ayame Ishikawa, the only girl on her otherwise male football (as in soccer) team suffered from this. Hikaru's willingness to befriend her without judging her for that helped the two become friends, until he tried to kill her to keep his cheating on his girlfriends secret, and she accidentally killed him in response.
    Ayame: Do you know how hard it is to be the only girl on a football team?! Because it sucks ass! All my teammates would ask me why I didn't act more like a girl! They'd ask why I didn't try to be more feminine! I'd be told shit like I'll never find a boyfriend if I keep acting like this! Sure, my teammates never doubted my skills as a player, but when they always asked me why I couldn't act like a girl in the slightest it pissed me off!
  • Infinity Train: Blossoming Trail: Chloe Cerise is a Girly Girl with a Tomboy Streak, but all her classmates care about is her relationship to her father, not the fact that she actually has other talents. She mentioned one time that she was ostracized by both groups when they "decided" to make clubs: the girls found her too rough, the boys found her too girly. This adds more to the ostracization she faces in a world where almost everyone loves Pokémon.
  • Tomboy Blues: The main plot point of the fic. Stella had some bad experiences with ostracization due to her tomboyishness in her old school, to the point where people questioned if she was even a girl, and when Rusty did a better job at playing the role of the wife in the sting operation, it brought her insecurities back out. In the end, though, the boys and Lynn are able to help her realize that it doesn’t make her any less of a girl.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In The Cutting Edge: Chasing the Dream. Alex Delgado (Francia Raisa) is a tough, spicy amateur ice hockey goalie who, based on her body language, really doesn't like playing with the boys. After a few rough patches, and a coaching change on his end, she becomes Zach's replacement partner.
  • Implied with Janis of Mean Girls who is the "art freak" that has been ostracized by Alpha Bitch Regina George over her lack of traditional femininity.
  • Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen:
    • In Switching Goals, the athletic Sam admits she's tired of her You Go, Girl! reputation and that she would give away all her sports trophies to become a popular Dude Magnet like her girly sister Emma. Conversely, Emma would like to be good at sports like Sam. In fact, in this movie, the twins basically have an Adaptational Angst Upgrade of their respective roles in Two of a Kind.
    • In Winning London, the tomboyish Riley wishes her crush could see her as a potential girlfriend rather than one of the guys.
      Riley: He remembers me as that girl who puked at the Dodger game.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl: Elizabeth downplays this, as she has no problem wearing dresses. But her fascination with pirates and adventure stories shocks a few people, and she struggles with being a Proper Lady befitting her station. She finds more comfort in becoming an Action Girl.
  • Inverted in Reap the Wild Wind, where Loxie is a Tomboy with a Girly Streak who's perfectly capable of wearing a pretty dress to parties — but her Refuge in Audacity behavior (including trolling a group of shocked society ladies by performing a sea shanty at a luncheon) gives her maid several headaches.
    "It's hopeless. Making a lady out of you is just hopeless."

  • Iria Gai from Alice, Girl from the Future was quite upset at having no cooking skills once she fell in love. She learned quickly enough though.
  • Ballet Shoes: Petrova is the merger between this and Middle Child Syndrome. She's considered the plain one of the family and is put on the stage with her other two sisters — Pauline, who's beautiful and will be a great actress, and Posy the spunky aspiring dancer. Petrova, meanwhile, prefers engines and aspires to be a pilot — hating the dance lessons she's forced to take at the academy (she in fact is stuck in the beginners' class for years).
    "You can make me sing and you can make me dance, but if you push me, I will break."
  • Suggested with Hermione in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire where she can sense Ron likes her, but he doesn't ask her to the Yule Ball because he sees her as just another boy like Harry.note 
    Ron: Hermione, Neville's right. You are a girl.
    Hermione: Oh, well spotted.
  • At the start of His Dark Materials, Lyra gets angry when Roger tells her that the scholars of Jordan College will try to make her into a lady. At this point in time, she's a brash outspoken tomboy who dreams of having adventures.
    "No one can make me a lady!"
  • Jo of Little Women is frequently annoyed by how society expects women to be more traditionally feminine and become wives and mothers. It doesn't help that her older sister Meg is considered the beauty of the family, and her youngest Amy becomes a Proper Lady once she grows up.
  • Arya of A Song of Ice and Fire dislikes girly things because she's insecure about not being good at them, and wishes they weren't forced on her. The TV series changes it so that she just hates girliness.
  • In The Stainless Steel Rat, Jim visits a planet where the traditional gender roles are inverted. One policeman complains loudly that his mother raised a tomgirl out of him while he wanted to be a househusband like dad.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 3rd Rock from the Sun: One episode introduces Janice, a tough, super-strong cop. Sally, another tough Lad-ette, challenges her to an arm-wrestling match but Janice easily beats her. When Sally confronts her again, Janice starts crying and tells Sally that she is "soft inside", and hates being seen just as a "tough warrior" and not as a woman. Probably Truth in Television, since she was played by Chyna.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: In Season 1 Willow gets annoyed with Xander seeing her as "like one of the guys" even though she's more nerdy than tomboyish.
  • iCarly: Usually averted with Sam who clearly likes being a tomboy, but played straight in iMake Sam Girlier where Sam feels that a boy would never like her because of her masculine ways. She also tries a Girliness Upgrade but gets over it by the end of the episode.
  • Lizzie McGuire: In one episode Lizzie worries that being good at football will stop the other boys from thinking she's not feminine enough to date. The Brawn Hilda of a coach teaches her An Aesop about this — while also revealing she sews her own dresses and goes line dancing on the weekends.
  • Saved by the Bell: Tomboy Tori (introduced as a leather wearing biker) angsts over what to wear to a dance. Although She Cleans Up Nicely, she struggles in heels.
  • Total Divas shows Paige angsting over what to wear for the Hall of Fame ceremony — not wanting to tan or wear more make-up than usual. She finds a happy compromise, wearing a dress in black and still having Doc Martin boots on.

  • "One Of The Boys" by Katy Perry is about a teenager trying to make herself more feminine so she won't seem so tomboyish anymore. Her crush sees her as a platonic friend or "little sister" instead of a romantic option.
    I wanna be a flower,
    not a dirty weed
    I wanna smell like roses,
    not a baseball team
    And I swear one day maybe one day you're gonna wanna make-out with me
    (Don't wanna be...)
    'Cause I don't wanna be "one of the boys"
    "One of your guys"
    Just give me a chance to prove to you tonight
    That I just wanna be one of the girls
    Pretty in pearls
    And not "one of the boys"

    Video Games 
  • Mae from Fire Emblem Gaiden confides to her best friend Celica that, hypothetically, if there was a boy she liked they might not return her feelings because they don't see her as a woman. Celica reassures Mae that she's fine the way she is.
  • Makoto from The iDOLM@STER is a bifauxnen who has a lot of female fans who like her looks. She wishes she were more girly and popular with boys.
  • Senran Kagura: Miyabi is well known for being a handsome girl who has a lot of female fans. She's bothered by it and she tries to have a more feminine appeal.
  • Persona 4: Chie Satonaka felt jealous of her friend Yukiko Amagi because of her femininity and getting many of the boy's attention. Her Shadow manifested because of her obsession over dominating Yukiko because of Yukiko's reliance on her.

    Visual Novels 

    Web Video 
  • Sarah Z discusses this here in relation to the rise of the Not Like Other Girls trope. In her view, a lot of girls identifying as this (calling themselves NLOGs), didn't conform to traditional feminine traits when they were younger - and hated having cute frills forced on them.
    "But for young girls who grew up long hair, pink clothes and Barbie foisted upon them with no alternative, there is something powerful in rejecting that."

    Western Animation 
  • All Grown Up!: Lil plays soccer and mostly wears pants. Although there have been a few episodes of the series where she does try to be more girly to fit in with the other girls, those episodes also emphasize, especially in the end, that she is a tomboy at heart.
  • The Legend of Tarzan: In "Tarzan and the Enemy Within", Terk, the abrasive tomboy female ape, was having a crisis over how she viewed her tomboyishness as a hindrance to gaining the affections of a new male ape rescued by Tarzan named Gobu. It's also a Running Gag for her to be mistaken for a male by other characters - including her best friend Tantor!
    Tantor: Can't you boys play nicely?
    Terk: I'm a girl!
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil: One episode reveals that Janna secretly likes the color pink, but she hates to give into gender stereotypes.
  • Winx Club: In a season 2 episode, Musa complains that Riven, her object of affection, doesn't like her for this reason ("I don't think Riven could ever be interested in a tomboy like me").

    Real Life 
  • Thora Birch claims that her career declined into adulthood because she "wouldn't wear the frilly bows". Having become a star in the 90s alongside many other tomboy actresses, she had a hard time fitting in with the Turn of the Millennium that favored blonde Girly Girls.
  • Mara Wilson of Matilda fame struggled in a similar way — hating the studio's attempts to give her a Girliness Upgrade to make her "the next Shirley Temple". One of the reasons Matilda was her favorite role is because she was simply an interesting girl with her own story, rather than someone whose cuteness was played up. In her autobiography, she talks about feeling insecure once she realized she wasn't as pretty as the other actresses being seen for the same roles — one of the reasons she decided to give up acting professionally. She does love pink though!
  • Numerous female wrestlers who get signed to WWE are tomboys who are unprepared for the all the feminine things required to look good on TV. The Bella Twins say that while Natalya taught them how to wrestle, they had to teach her how to do the "Diva thing". It's something of a Running Gag for a tomboy to say she had no idea how to put on fake eyelashes, do her make-up or sort out hair extensions when she first arrived. The documentary series Breaking Ground shows that female developmental trainees are given classes on how to do their own make-up while on the road. Bayley at one point says that the wrestling is easy for her; the make-up is hard.
  • Keira Knightley has said she was a Tomboy at heart and struggled with being presented as The Fashionista when she got fame in her teens — as well as people assuming she was like her glamorous characters. She nearly lost a part in Pride & Prejudice (2005) because Joe Wright thought she'd be too glamorous to play Lizzie Bennet.
  • Truth in Television. Lots of women who often turn tomboys do it less because of a "Not Like Other Girls" syndrome and more due to feeling rejected by feminine virtues, or being bullied due to it. Didn't have money to buy the latest fashion trends, or invest in the expensive makeup industry, or were too chubby to fit in with contemporary beauty standards.