Tag Archives: Feminist Debates

No Girls Allowed (dir. Darlene Craviotto, 2011)

Filmmaker: Darlene Craviotto
Year: 2011
Country of origin: United States
Running Time: 52 min.
Original Format: Digital Video, DVD

No Girls Allowed 

Up until 1983, Philadelphia’s Central High School enjoyed a longstanding and prestigious reputation as America’s last all-male public school. Darlene Craviotto’s 2011 documentary No Girls Allowed traces the steps taken by seven girls who changed its legacy forever.

The film begins with the court case between Central High and Susan Vorchheimer, who wanted to attend the school because of its superior academic opportunities. Despite a court-ordered mandate to let her in, the school was obstinate in its unisex tradition, and she was not allowed to attend Central. Vorchheimer remained at Girls High, the standard choice for girls in the area. A few years later, a group of six students from Girls High pushed even harder for admittance to the boys’ school and won what Vorchheimer couldn’t; it was not, however, won easily.

In interviews with the women who achieved desegregation at Central, they coolly recount the relentless name-calling, pranks, and the overall sense of heavy isolation inflicted upon them not only by their male classmates but by their male teachers as well. These stories, however, do not infuse the film with the gloominess that may be expected. They discuss the sadness they felt because of these events but seem more excited to recall inspiring moments of resistance: the press conference in which they boldly declared their right to equal education to the media, the astute sense that they were involved in a defining moment for women’s liberation, and the striking image of flowers planted in the urinals of the newly-instated girls’ bathroom (the building had no urinal-free bathrooms, for obvious reasons).

Craviotto’s clear narratorial voice and rigorous incorporation of local newspaper articles and news segments makes No Girls Allowed a valuable resource for anyone seeking a personalized collective account of what happened at Central High. The events that transpired when the Central Six refused to be shut out by the “traditions” so dearly clung to by an ivy-clad institution illuminate feminism’s intersections with educational policy and the patriarchal history of American public schooling.

“The story of the struggle to open Central High School to female students is vividly reconstructed by filmmaker Darlene Craviotto in her engaging documentary No Girls Allowed.”
–  Juliet A. Williams
The Separate Solution? Single-Sex Education and the New Politics of Gender Equality, pp. 167.

Boy I Am (Dir: Sam Feder and Julie Hollar, 2006)

Running Time: 72 min


Color, VHS/DVD

Subjects: transgender, feminist debates, queer identity

Boy I Am, directed by Sam Feder and Julie Hollar, offers a look at the underrepresented experiences of female-to-male transgender people and addresses historical and current resistances within queer and feminist movements to recognize transmale communities. The documentary follows three female-bodied men from New York City, who narrate their experiences over the period of their transitions to male bodies, and discuss their own conceptions of masculinity and embodiment. In addition to the frequent social stigmatization and marginalization of transgender experiences are political criticisms from lesbian and feminist perspectives that regard trans-identification as a trend, a “cop-out” of the oppressions tied to being female-bodied, or an effort to tap into male privilege. Boy I Am endeavors to unpack the concepts of gender and sexuality used in these criticisms and speaks with queer and feminist activists pushing for greater recognition of transgender people in social justice movements.

The film engages a variety of perspectives on what masculine identification means-historically, theoretically and personally-blending academic commentaries with personal narratives of gender identity. Interviewees address the relevance of race and class, how cultural and social difference affects transgender experiences, and what innovations in sex reassignment surgery mean for transmen.

By opening up a space for the discussion of transgender masculinity and explicitly addressing concerns about male identity in contemporary society Boy I Am makes an effort to promote understanding and solidarity between lesbian, feminist and transgender communities, and does so in an intelligent and sensitive way.

Further Reading:
Judith Halberstam, Female Masculinity