Romance novels have, in my opinion, made great strides in portraying females as strong people who must participate in saving the day. We rarely see helpless heroines saved by manly men. But have people changed so much in real life?
I try very hard to raise my children without stereotypes and to encourage my girls to be interested in all avenues of study and to consider all types of careers. But…
Yesterday, was the day in freshman biology that my daughter had been dreading all year. They had to dissect a frog. There are 8 girls in the class and 6 boys. They always choose their own partners for lab. The boys had paired up among themselves weeks ago for the frog lab. (They weren’t going to do all the work for these squeamish girls.) The girls had wailed and moaned for weeks.
My daughter threw up before class, just to get ready. (She actually brought a toothbrush and toothpaste to school, giving new meaning to the phrase 'prepared for class'.)
She arrived in class and decided to ask the one boy who's her friend to be her partner. (Never mind that everyone was already paired up.) He said sure, but he had to admit he might get queasy and need help. She ditched him pronto (and reported that he did get lightheaded later on, thereby embarrassing himself).
She contemplated another boy, Joe. Even though she’s barely ever spoken to Joe, and he’s a nerd, she knew he was the one boy who would do the work on his own. Desperate times call for desperate measures. She asked him to be her partner. (At least she's not a shrinking violet in the boy department.) He agreed.
Joe’s original partner said, "Hey, what about me?"
Joe said, “Sorry, I’m working with her.” (Girls rule.)
Meanwhile, my daughter had abandoned her friend, a girl with whom she’d been partnered for every lab the entire year. (Did I raise her?) That girl and another began crying (!?!) when they realized they had no one to lean on. The teacher finally had to assign them to a couple of boys and allow groups of three.
The class started the job. My daughter said her goal was to do nothing and look at nothing. (This is honors biology, BTW.)
The next exciting moment arrived when a girl fainted, sliding down to the floor in a swoon worthy of a 19th century heroine. (No stigma of shame assigned to her.) They revived the girl and she and her female partner decamped for the nurse.
Now as my daughter is telling this tale, I’m thinking, Whatever happened to women’s lib? It’s 2010 and these girls are behaving no better than I did back in the dark ages, when, I am sorry to report, I somehow managed to escape dissecting the frog. How hard can I be on my daughter, when I know exactly how she feels? But I have to try. Women need to be positive about science.
I say to her, “The girls didn’t make a good showing for themselves.”
She says, “At least I helped Joe pin the frog to the board."
I say, "That's good."
She adds, "By handing him the pins."
The frog had still better be the prince, and not the biology lesson.
Crown photo by Simon Goldenberg