‘No Girls Allowed’

// 28 May 2009

ngacover.gifThis could be an interesting book to give to girls in your life aged 9-12:

No Girls Allowed is a graphic novel telling the story of seven women* – six historic, one mythical – who “dressed as men for love, freedom and adventure” – including a Viking, a pharaoh and surgeon James Barry. It’s been reviewed on Boing Boing and AfterEllen this week. There’s a promo YouTube video about the book on Boing Boing, but I haven’t been able to watch it yet.

AfterEllen says:

We talk a lot about the comfort of seeing yourself reflected on screen and in books. This is the first young adult work I’ve come across that has the potential to provide that impact for middle school-aged girls who refuse to conform to the images they see in magazines and on television.

Perhaps equally important is the way these stories can reframe our understanding of history. It is almost impossible to ascertain the historical influence of women from standardized text books, but No Girls Allowed opens up the reader’s mind to the possibility that there really were women there, making significant contributions. Maybe they just weren’t recognized.

I like this quote on AfterEllen, too, by the book’s illustrator Willow Dawson:

I think it’s easier for younger kids to sort of play with identities of gender. It gets trickier when they get into school and are confronted with these other kids who are sort of assuming these opinions of their parents that are very strict: girls are girls and boys are boys, end of story. I hope kids reading this book will see, you know, it’s OK if I’m a 12-year-old girl and I want to dress like a boy. It’s OK if I go in the opposite direction, and I’m a boy who feels like dressing like a girl. It’s cool.

*I’m copying the book and reviewers’ language here – I guess it’s impossible to know how any of the people featured would have identified themselves, and most if not all the gender identity language we use today would be anachronistic…

Comments From You

Karen // Posted 30 May 2009 at 9:20 am

I think this is a great book idea. I recently saw a childrens book by the wonderful Sandi Toksvig, about how being a girl doesn’t mean that you have to pander to stereotypes and that you can grow into a strong woman and be who you want to be. More of this please!

sarahcl // Posted 3 June 2009 at 12:22 pm

Yes, it does look like a nice book for children, but the illustrator does seem to be missing the point a little bit, it’s not (only, or maybe at all) about some women being ‘brave enough’ to be their ‘real selves’ which is dressing ‘like a man’; it’s an illustration of how cripplingly limited women’s and girls’ life options were up until very recently, and how some women defied those limitations.

If women could have got an education, gone to war etc. as women, would they have disguised themselves as men?

And as you say Jess, we don’t know how these women would have identified themselves, and talk of gender identity is anachronistic.

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