Shiloh Jolie-Pitt Wants to Be One of the Boys But That Doesn't Make Her One

Shiloh Jolie-PittThis is an older haircut, but same idea.Shiloh Jolie Pitt is a girl, but as of this week, she "looks like a boy," according to published reports, because she (gasp!) got herself a new haircut. Yes, the 5-year-old girl is now sporting short locks and wants to be called "Shax" so that her name ends in the letter "x" like her brothers Knox, Pax, and Maddox. Now every publication from here to South Africa is calling her a "tomboy."

Okay, so maybe she does like short hair and maybe she does want to be "just like her brothers," but there are hundreds of ways to be a girl and maybe this is Shiloh's. I missed the memo where girls were supposed to wear dresses, have long hair, and only go by uber-femme names in order to be considered female.

In fact, the term "tomboy," while universal and certainly not meant to be demeaning or a pejorative, is actually quite frustrating.


As a mom of both a girl and a boy, I find our incessant need to label everyone and everything more than a little frustrating. Why can't she just be a little girl with short hair? Why does she have to be a "tomboy" with all the stereotypes that brings?

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She doesn't wear dresses? "Oh, she's a tomboy." That means she also hates dolls and play kitchens and loves sports and action figures, right? After all, as a "tomboy," she can't like "girlie" things.

Many people wear it as a point of pride, too. "My daughter is a tomboy," they might tell you, beaming at the idea that THEIR child isn't falling for all the insidious marketing tactics big companies use to sell fluffy pink tiaras and princess gear.

But here's a newsflash: If you use the term "tomboy," you are part of the problem. Our feelings about gender and what they mean in our society and to little kids like Shiloh Jolie-Pitt are expressed each time we label someone this way. Girls in pink, boys in blue, and everyone who doesn't fit those labels gets a name.

Boys who like pink? They are "princess boys." Girls who like short hair and black? They are "tomboys." And sure, I guess it's great that we even HAVE room in our language for such people, but it isn't so great that we aren't allowed to all be a little of both now and again.

Can I like sports and also paint my nails? Can I cut my hair short and also wear pink?

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The problem with words like "tomboy" is they push a narrow definition of what it means to be female, and by using it, we tell our kids we agree. Personally, I think Shiloh Jolie-Pitt is a lovely little girl who happens to like black and sports and running. This doesn't make her a "tomboy." It makes her like thousands of other little girls, some of whom have short hair, some of whom have long, and some of whom have varying lengths in between.

Let's get over these labels before they steamroll us.

Have you ever called anyone a "tomboy"?


Image via Splash

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