September 23, 2014

SVT #17, Boys Against Girls: #YesAllWomen

Posted in books tagged , , at 6:09 pm by Jenn

That boy looks like a jerk

That boy looks like a jerk

Summary: The twins have a new homeroom teacher, Mr. Davis. Normally this wouldn’t be newsworthy, but at Sweet Valley Middle School, homerooms actually do stuff. They go on field trips and play softball against each other and compete in the Sixth Grade Follies. In my homerooms all through school, the most exciting thing we did was have donuts on Fridays. These kids are pretty lucky. Overachiever Elizabeth has organized a field trip to the zoo, and she’s hoping to be the director for her homeroom’s skit in the Follies.

Mr. Davis puts the kibosh on that. He used to teach at an all-boys’ school, which for some reason means he doesn’t think girls are real people. Imagine how confused he must be to learn that there are Unicorns at this school. He makes the boys and girls sit on opposite sides of the room, then assigns the girls to do a bunch of classroom chores. This means Jessica has to take care of the class gerbil, and Lila’s expected to clean stuff. Strike one, Mr. Davis.

In preparation for the zoo trip, Mr. Davis tells the girls to pack lunches for everyone. He quickly proves his overt, cartoonish sexism by only calling on the boys, and looking down on the girls for, like, having opinions and stuff. The girls want to complain to their parents, but Amy thinks that would be immature. Plus, Ned and Alice are sick of the twins complaining about their teachers and don’t want any more of their whining. Every adult in this book is awful.

The girls get a little revenge on Mr. Davis by making him a gross sandwich for the field trip. Elizabeth thinks this is a bad idea, but fortunately, no one listens to her. She starts to change her mind when he continues to be sexist and terrible. The next strike comes when Mr. Davis announces that they’ll be having discussions in class, and assigns the students poems to read and talk about. The boys get an awesome poem about war, while the girls get something about fairies that even six-year-olds would find babyish. Amy (who could have been an awesome revolutionary if she hadn’t turned into a Jessiclone by SVH) announces that it’s dumb, but Mr. Davis doesn’t care.

When it’s time for the class to discuss the Sixth Grade Follies, Mr. Davis assigns Tom to direct the class’ skit. The boys, who are loving the preferential treatment, and are treating all the girls like they’re stupid, take over the whole thing and cut out the girls. This is strike three, though it’s more like strike 27. The girls decide to dress all girly the next day and act like the helpless, prim ditzes Mr. Davis thinks they are. Mr. Davis doesn’t catch on – they’re just doing what he thinks all girls do.

During that day’s softball game, the girls continue their act, and their homeroom loses. The girls are disappointed, especially since they like playing softball, but they’re willing to make the sacrifice to prove their point. Unfortunately, it backfires, and Mr. Davis takes the girls off the team before they can ruin the championship. Now it’s war. The principal, Mr. Clark, is supposed to visit the class, and the girls want him to see what a bad teacher Mr. Davis is and fire him. They act out in class, which gets Mr. Davis a talking-to, but he doesn’t change his behavior.

The class is supposed to nominate three students for some sort of committee, which Elizabeth (of course) really wants to be on. The girls expect that three boys will get the spots; there are an equal number of guys and girls, and Mr. Davis gets the deciding vote in case of a tie. So the girls scheme to take out a boy, convincing shy Ricky Capaldo to skip class the day of the nominations. Their plan almost falls apart when Lila’s absent, too, but she arrives just in time for the nominations. Elizabeth, Amy, and Nora get the spots, even though the girls admit that Ronnie Edwards would be a good choice.

The girls check in on the boys, who are preparing for the Follies by…not preparing. Their skit is dumb, and Tom is a horrible director. The girls offer to help, but the boys have drunk so much of Mr. Davis’ Kool-Aid that they don’t think girls are good for anything. When the Follies premiere, their skit is the worst. This gets Mr. Davis another talking-to from Mr. Clark, who’s starting to think the sexist guy who can’t control half his class might not be a good fit as a teacher.

Mr. Davis starts to realize that girls aren’t all useless, and he should have let them participate in the skit. But there’s no way he’s going to let them play in the championship softball game! I mean, they won’t want to get their clothes all dirty, and they might cry all over the place. This leaves the boys with only a few acceptable players, and the girls forced to sit on the sidelines and watch their class lose.

The Unicorns lead a protest, demanding that the girls be allowed to play. Some of the boys in Mr. Davis’ class are even willing to risk getting cooties if it means they don’t lose the game. The girls are brought off the bench, and before they join the game, they make Mr. Davis apologize and promise to treat them the way he treats the boys. Of course, their team wins, and now Mr. Davis thinks girls are awesome. I guess they fixed him. I only hope the Wakefields start listening to their kids so the twins will be willing to tell them about their real problems.

Thoughts: This book makes me so mad. I know it’s exaggerated, but it highlights exactly the sorts of things girls have to go through. “You throw like a girl!” “Make me a sandwich!” “We can’t have a girl in charge!” You won’t say I throw like a girl when I throw a bowling ball at you.

Elizabeth, you can be a goody-two-shoes or you can stand up for people who are being treated unfairly. I know it’s difficult for you because usually you do both, but in this situation, you can’t. YOU’RE the one being treated unfairly. If you want that to change, you have to put aside being nice. A gross sandwich is not worse than sexism.

Elizabeth: “A person who likes poetry can’t be all bad.” Yeah. “No one who speaks German could be an evil man.”

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