This Woman's Experience is a series of blog posts about what growing up, and life in general, was like for women who were born before 1965. It's intended to show the young women of today how it used to be. They need to know this.
Today's post is from Ann Meier, who, after the experience she describes here, went on to earn a Ph.D. in psychology. More info on Ann follows her post.
I can’t do math.
As a straight A student, I never lacked confidence in my academic abilities. I found something of interest in every class I took. I know, it’s disgusting, right? I loved ninth grade algebra. In high school, I moved on to tenth grade geometry. I was very interested in art at the time, so the shapes, lines, and angles intrigued me. The first semester, my teacher was a woman. I earned three As for the first three six-week grading periods.
My schedule changed for second semester, and my new geometry teacher was a man. My first six weeks with him, I earned an A. I still had confidence in my ability to do math. The second six weeks. my grade dropped to a B, and the third six weeks, I received the only C grade of my high school years.
My male teacher believed girls weren’t capable of understanding mathematics. He said things like, ‘this is an easy girl-type problem’ or ‘this is a difficult concept, I’ll need a boy to answer this question.’ Our teacher loved to call a girl to the blackboard to work a problem, and then confuse her to the point of tears. A week didn’t go by without one of us crying in front of the class.
Unbelievable, right? Yet it happened. His constant discounting of girls’ ability to do math, and his relentless taunting convinced me. I’m a girl. I can’t handle math. My grades show the decline in my performance. He killed any interest I had in math.
The impact was far-reaching. I avoided all future math classes. No college algebra, no trig, no calculus. In college, I also managed to avoid math by taking science classes. With no math foundation, I found myself playing catch up. When I finally decided I wanted to major in psychology, I hit a huge obstacle with the required statistics classes. Without the goodwill tutoring provided by an incredibly giving classmate, I would have had to give up my chosen field of study.
One man and his sexist beliefs made all the difference. And at the time, none of us doubted what he told us. We were girls, and we couldn’t do math.
Ann Meier lives in Orlando and writes Mysteries with a Theme Park Smile for adults and a companion series for middle grade kids. She was a manager on the Universal Orlando Resort opening team and also worked at Walt Disney World. She has co-authored a college textbook, written journal articles, and worked in human resources for a Fortune 100 company. She earned an undergraduate degree in English from Ball State University and a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Maryland, College Park.
I believe the only way to get through the slings and arrows life throws at all of us is to find the humor.