This is part of our Summer Slowdown program of revisiting the archives, and was originally published in July 2007.
[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?
Sweden.se 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?