Friday Hoyden: Pippi Longstocking

[image credit: kiddie matinee]

I loved Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking as a kid, and I’m just rediscovering her now at bedtime read-aloud with my four-year-old. Pippi is a quintessential hoyden, the obvious choice for my first Friday Hoyden piece. As a quick google “define:hoyden” search will tell you, the word “hoyden” has traditionally been used as a perjorative for girls or women who are “spirited”, “tomboyish” or “behave in a boyish manner”. Like “tomboy” and “harridan”, “hoyden” has been used to dismiss and shame women who don’t conform to traditional scripts of patriarchally-enforced femininity. Well, we’re reclaiming it.

Pippi is everything I wanted to be as a child but didn’t know how – outrageous, loud, anti-authoritarian, strong, free-spirited, messy, generous, powerful, and brutally honest. She is self-sufficient, thinks “ladylike” is a loud of hooey, and is an efficient dispenser of justice to bullies. Her shoes are too big, her clothes are a mess, she can lift a horse over her head, and nobody knows what to do with her. What’s not to like? freelance journalist Tiina Meri’s article “Pippi Longstocking: Swedish rebel and feminist role model” notes that Pippi was an early critic of beauty culture. This was very much a new concept for me in my Seventies childhood, though beauty culture was slightly different back then compared to now. (I have an album full of photos of me in plaid trousers, not “Lil’ pornstar” T-shirts.) It laid the seed for my future rejection of a constellation of femininity dictates, just as Pippi’s strength started me on the path to realising that developing bulging, strong muscles from sports training was a source of power for me, not feminine shame.

Meri offers this snippet of outspoken self-acceptance from Pippi:

“There is a sign in a shop window in the small town where she lives that reads, ‘DO YOU SUFFER FROM FRECKLES?’ Pippi doesn’t. She isn’t interested in the anti-freckle cream on offer but nevertheless goes into the shop to makes her position clear.

“No, I don’t suffer from freckles,” she declares.

“But my dear child,” says the startled assistant, “your whole face is covered in them.”

“I know,” says Pippi, “but I don’t suffer from them. I like them. Good morning!”

Who’s your favourite hoyden from history or fiction?

Categories: gender & feminism

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8 replies

  1. I don’t know how it happened, but Pippi Longstocking was not part of my youthful reading, and I still haven’t read her. That will have to be rectified.
    To the pre-loved bookstore, yoinks and away!

  2. I loved Pippi Longstocking, too, but my favorite fictional hoyden as a child was Jo March from Little Women, with Anne of Green Gables running a close second.
    As for historical hoydens – when I was younger, I was fascinated by the life of Helen Keller. I thought she and Anne Sullivan were amazing. All the biographies aimed at young readers seemed to stop around the time she went to school, though, because while I got a clear impression of Keller as an intelligent, strong-willed young woman, it wasn’t until much later that I found out that she was an activist who promoted women’s suffrage and socialism.

  3. Some of my favourite hoydens.
    Miss Tallulah Bankhead.
    Shirley Temple’s movie characters.
    Mae West.
    Dr Germaine Greer.
    and ya gotta hand it to Courtney Love/Cobain
    read 1950’s Florence King ‘Confessions of A Southern Girlhood’ – hysterical and brilliant. protagonist declares
    re a professor: Dear Reader … I fkd him.
    she pronounces herself a virago in the final chapter and the whole story is about marching to the beat of her own drum.
    There is a blog titled Pippi KneeSocks – although I have not read it, it could be Longstocking themed.
    Freckles are fabulous.

  4. I have an album full of photos of me in plaid trousers, not “Lil’ pornstar” T-shirts.
    Actually, I think these may be one of those urban myths, like the Right are so fond of (you know, lipstick parties, abortion parties and such). I mean, has anyone – and I know you all have mainstream outlaws and school aquaintances, we don’t just live in some leftist bubble – really seen a little girl dressed in a “Li’l Pornstar” t shirt?
    My favourite hoyden was Kate from Kate (heh) Seredy’s The Good Master. It was the classic scenario of the weedy urban orphan comes to the farm and gets toughened up – and how. She rode like a cowboy and wasn’t above using her whistle-like scream to cause her cousin Jansci’s horse to rear so she could win the breakneck horse race and win a whole lot of… sausages.
    Yeah, it’s not called Hung(a)ry for nothing, you know.

  5. I mean, has anyone […] really seen a little girl dressed in a “Li’l Pornstar” t shirt?

    Busted – I was using it as a quick symbol for oversexualised little girls’ gear. I have, however, seen the teeny Bratz “bralettes”, preschooler tracksuit pants with slogans across the bum, and similar outfits; they’re no myth. Note that it is night impossible to google up girls’ tees with “pornstar” on them, since adult women’s shirts online are marketed almost ubiquitously as “girls” clothing, to differentiate it from “mens” or “adult” clothing.
    The plaid trousers are, sadly, all too real.

  6. The Bratz stuff is just execrable. And have you seen the morning cartoon? They teeter round school corridors in five inch heels. TOXIC.

  7. Ahh cute post! I love kid’s lit but have never actually read Pippi despite several people saying I’d love her (because of the kid lit fascination & having been a tomboy who liked her freckles).

  8. I so wanted to BE Pippi when I was little. Your post inspired me to pull out the movie and watch it this weekend. Ahhh, so good. Thanks!

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