Frog Dissection: Has Feminism Made Any Progress?

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


Maree Anderson said...

Omigosh, I just can't stop laughing after reading this, Carly! I remember having to dissect a cow's eye in high school. Gross, but not too gross. And as for my daughter? Well, she loves Biology so far. But then she's only 6 months into her first year at high school, and she hasn't had to dissect anything.... yet. She's an animal lover, so it could be interesting, to say the least! I'll keep you posted ;-)

Vonda Sinclair said...

LOL! Too funny, Carly. Great post! I still remember dissecting a frog in HS. My partner for that was a boy, thank goodness. The weird thing was our frog had recently swallowed a mouse so we got a two for one deal and the teacher was so excited. When we dissected an earthworm my partner was a girl. We barely got it done. No one threw up or passed out, thank goodness. I think its just because most of the time girls (and most boys) aren't used to seeing the insides of animals unless it's disguised as food. Most don't live on farms and butcher their on chickens, etc. I think if we did, we'd be much less squeamish about that sort of thing. In the country, where I live, boys are much more likely to hunt and fish, so they have prior experience in cleaning or gutting whatever they catch. Girls not so much. (Definitely not me. I'm very squeamish.) :)

Kimberly Menozzi said...

Forget feminism. When I was supposed to dissect the frog in school, I protested with "I'm not going to contribute to Frog Genocide."

The teacher pointed out that the frog was already dead.

My response: "He wouldn't be if someone else had refused to dissect his grandfather."

So there, Mr. Biology Teacher! Nyah!

Carly Carson said...

Maree, this is first year of high school here also. Honestly, I think the fear of dissecting the frog colored dd's entire experience of biology. She used to love science. Sigh. I hope your dd does a better job of it. Let us know.

Vonda, that's actually interesting and funny at the same time. My dd dissected owl pellets in, I think, first grade and they found mouse bones. But I never knew a frog could eat a mouse!

Carly Carson said...

Kimberly, lol, I think my dd is on your page. Her original female partner had said she'd do the job if only someone would cut off the head first so it didn't look so real. (She turned out to be one of the criers.)

Anonymous said...

I never had to do any dissecting of any kind...ever. If I had been forced to take biology (which, thank god, I wasn't), I would have done like Kimberly and protested. My mom would have been more proud of me for standing up for what I believed in rather than just "sucking it up" and doing what I was told. Besides, dissecting anything is just gross. I give your daughter kudos for handing the boy the pins. Yuck.

Darla M Sands said...

Wow! Now I feel like a freak. I thought dissecting was cool! It's a great story, though.

Felicia Holt said...

Oh, I dissected a rat in school. My (male) lab partner almost fainted so I had to do it all myself.

I take it none of the girls are going to med school? ;)

Donna said...

I loved the post and it brought back great memories of kids passing out at just the thought of cutting into the frog.

I however must be a bit freakish and raised one, too. I enjoyed dissecting things in school and my daughter has gone on to major in biology and criminology with minors in antrhopology and psychology. She lives to dissect things and put skeletons together. A true nerd and a success for Feminism. My oldest daughter didn't do so well with the disection or the site of blood, but did end up in nursing.

Carly Carson said...

Casey, I'm not sure dd was taking much of a stand except - the boy should do it - though I am fond of Kimberly's phrase 'frog genocide'. My kids used to hunt frogs for fun, but they'd never kill one. Rarely catch one either.

Wow, 4 women who can dissect things. Darla, Felicia and Donna and Donna's dd, I tip my hat to you. There is hope. Though Donna, how does someone become a nurse when they don't like the sight of blood?

Donna said...

They have a child. It seemed to help her get over the blood and bodily fluid thing. LOL. Motherhood seems to fix a lot of things.

Natasha Moore said...

LOL, Carly. That does bring back memories. Did anyone else have to dissect a fetal pig in college? Ugh, I can smell the formaldahyde now.

Carly Carson said...

Yes, Donna, motherhood gives you a whole new perspective on things.

Natasha, yuck, can you pig now?