Singled Out


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.”


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13 Responses to “Singled Out”

  1. Progressive Scholar Says:

    Thank you for highlighting these narratives which show that sexism is still happening, every day, and even these subtle incidents can have great impact on the person who experiences them.

  2. Axiomatic Says:

    You were cheating. At physics.

    You actually BROKE THE ACTUAL LAWS OF PHYSICS just to spite them, didn’t you!

  3. Gretchen Says:

    I like how your physics teacher inadvertently insulted half of the world’s population by suggesting that they are worse at physics than females, too proud to admit it, and willing to be assholes about it.

  4. Jonathan Says:

    Must have seen you switch the wood and glue for metal and epoxy. “Just being boys” seems to be a valid excuse for just about any behavior

  5. A Different Sam Says:

    Personally, I think that breaking the laws of physics would be even more of an accomplishment than using toothpicks and glue intelligently.

  6. PharaohKatt Says:

    We did this too, with straws and glue. Everyone else just glued heaps of straws together, whereas I used triangles to strengthen it. After my team won, the boys in the class gave all the credit to my male teammates, despite the fact that the design was my idea.

  7. Krischan Says:

    Why should the teacher defend your work? Your work defended itself well enough, and so you could take the nagging as was it was: envy. Envy from boys just beeing boys, unable to admit defeat.

    • Holly Says:

      By allowing those comments to pass unchallenged, the teacher was tacitly giving permission for the boys (i.e. the rest of the class) to gang up on her, as well as allowing the myth that girls can’t do science (at least not without cheating) to be perpetuated. The motives of the boys in question are irrelevant—that behavior and those attitudes are not okay and it’s up to the teacher as the authority figure in the classroom to put a stop to them when he sees them.

  8. Pavlov's Cat Says:

    It makes me so angry when I hear about teachers making comments like that and excusing that kind of behaviour. They’re a disgrace to the teaching profession.

  9. Asinknits Says:

    In my year 12 physics class, there were 12 boys and 4 girls in the class, and guess who made a functioning motor first – that would be the group of girls. Testosterone does not trump careful construction.

  10. gogocerauno Says:

    I would have got up and left the biology class, that is so unbelievably degrading.

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