When I was in middle school, a quirk of registration meant that I ended up the only female student in a class of thirty for a biology and physics elective. Now, I was pretty psyched . . . what could be more cool than getting to dissect things and build stuff and do all the cool scienc-y things the class promised?
During the biology section, one of our tasks was to dissect frogs. When the day finally arrived, I was over the moon with joy. Until, that is, the teacher from next door stopped by to borrow some supplies from my teacher. He walked into the room and said, “Oh, only one nurse for all these doctors?” Then he laughed. My teacher laughed, too. The dudes in my class laughed. I wanted to gouge their eyes out with my scapel. To this day, it’s still one of my most vivid (and humiliating) memories of school.
In one of the physics sections, we were supposed to build a bridge out of toothpicks and glue. While the boys slopped together as many sticks and glue as they could, I carefully reviewed the instructions, which outlined how their strength would be measured and came up with an elegant, lightweight design. Come time to measure, my bridge held several fewer kg than most of the others. However, it weighed significantly less, and when all calculations were done, had been the strongest bridge in the class. All the boys who had been bragging about theirs shut up for about two seconds, then immediately started accusing me of cheating and dismissing my work. Again, my teacher did nothing to defend my bridge or my work, and said I should just be okay with it because they were “just being boys.”