Beating back against humanities shaming

Megan PeoplesA funny thing happened on the first day of school. We congregated together, making awkward conversation with the strangers who would become our housemates, gauging who the real cool people were (because of course I’m one of them) and deciding who would be our future friends. My room was a mess but my mom just left so I had no real incentive to clean anymore (or at least I thought I didn’t, that would change real quickly), and suddenly I noticed a script had been formed.

I refer to it affectionately as, “Small Talk: College Edition.” You’ve probably been through one of these conversations before too. They start out all innocent with a simple ‘hello,’ possibly an exchanging of names but, inevitably, that one question always arises: “So, what’s your major?”

Perhaps you don’t all fear the question as much as I do. Perhaps you’re deceived by its seeming innocence. But then again, perhaps it’s because you don’t have to go through the embarrassing process of explaining how you aren’t studying science or math, how you’re not even pre-med, how you’re only a lowly humanities major.

It always feels like I’m admitting that I’m not smart. The people around me are spitting out six-syllable words that are supposedly majors, and I just have to wait my turn to announce that I don’t plan on doing anything productive with my life.

Needless to say, it’s hard being a humanities major at Hopkins. Along with everything else that a college student has to deal with, balancing homework and friends, getting eight hours of sleep and still making it to your 9 a.m., humanities students aren’t always allowed to feel good about the work they are doing.

Sometimes it feels like I shouldn’t be allowed to complain about my homework, that I can’t whine about the 10-page essay I have to write about the biases of early American explorers because inevitably someone is going to scoff and say, “But you’re just a Writing Sems major.” Apparently Hopkins is only hard for students in STEM.

There’s a culture of humanities shaming at Hopkins and sometimes, it really sucks. It’s strange walking into a room full of the future doctors of America and having to explain that I don’t have the next 10 years of my life planned out, that I might graduate here and not know what to do with myself. And believe me when I say it’s not as funny as you think to make unemployment jokes to all the art majors you meet.

On the contrary we know exactly what we’ve gotten ourselves into. I’ve already told my parents that they aren’t allowed to touch my room because I may need it in four years. More importantly we are reminded constantly that we’ve chosen an “inferior” major, that International Studies isn’t as great or as hard or as important as physics or neuroscience, and I know more than one of you out there reading this is thinking, “Yes, that’s just a fact.”

So to all you STEM students out there, stop humanities shaming! I’m glad you’ve chosen to be a chemical engineer or a neurobiologist or some other similarly impressive sounding title, but that doesn’t mean that you get to tell me that my choices are wrong.

And to my fellow humanities students, my kindred spirits, remember that what you’re doing is important and that our favorite childhood shows had it right all along, and it’s okay to follow your dreams. Without dreamers we’d never have the Beatles or fried chicken. Where would we be then? Honestly, who would want to live in such a cold world?

So if that old friend, the existential crisis, ever comes knocking, just remember that you’re amazing, you’re at Hopkins because you’re smart, and my parents have an extra bedroom if needed.

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