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Tomboys! Fiesty Girls & Spirited Women

Distributed by Women Make Movies, 462 Broadway, New York, NY 10013; 212-925-0606
Produced by Twentycentsleft
Directed by Julie Akeret and Christian McEwen
VHS, color, 28 min.
Jr. High - Adult
Adolescence, Gender Studies, Gay & Lesbian Studies, Women's Studies

Reviewed by Monique Threatt, Indiana University, Herman B Wells Library, Bloomington, IN

Date Entered: 1/14/2005

Co-director Christian McEwen (Jo’s Girls: Tomboy Tales of High Adventure, True Grit, and Real Life) narrates this energetic documentary-short which seeks to answer questions such as what do tomboys look like as they mature into adulthood, and what kind of career might she make for herself?

The film is inspired by both McEwen’s research of the female role in fiction, and of childhood memories of being a tomboy. McEwen’s research reveals that the word tomboy has been in existence for over 400 years implying that women have been challenging traditional norms for a long time. Adventurous, athletic, and risk-taker are but a few keywords to describe noted, celebrity tomboys such as Amelia Earhart, Billie Jean King, Annie Oakley and Sojourner Truth.

It is also McEwen’s warm childhood memories of being a tomboy - living carefree, climbing trees, playing with boys, rejecting long hair, dresses and neatness - that leads her to enlist the aid of filmmaker Akeret to document stories of women with similar childhood and adult experiences.

The film focuses on four women ages 14 to 90 as they recount their ideal happiness as a tomboy, as well as, the cause and effects of not conforming to traditional roles and societal expectations bestowed upon girls. African-American teenager/student Jay Gillespie, artist/boxer Nancy Brooks Brody, Massachusetts firefighter Tracy Driscoll, and the indefatigable political activist Doris “Granny D.” Haddock provide inspirational stories which reflect individuality, rebelliousness, and spirited characteristics which continue to energize their day-to-day activities.

Carol Gilligan, acclaimed author and professor at New York University, weighs in to help demystify the negative connotations associated with the “tomboy” label. She explains that tomboys are positive symbols of courage, strength, and are resistors to preconceived archaic molds of womanhood.

The overall organization and quality of the film is okay, but it’s the message that is most important and that is to let girls, teenagers, and women be who they want to be at any age without labels and dehumanizing the spirit. Tomboys unite! Recommended for junior high through college students.