By Emily Goodell Major-shaming happens when a person knowingly or unknowingly expresses a low opinion of someone’s intelligence, ambition or academic rigor based on their major of study.
When someone laughs at a major and says,“your classes must be so easy,” it shames that person into thinking that the area they have chosen to study is easier and therefore intellectually inferior to other majors.
The issue is not whether certain majors are easy or hard, but rather that having a negative view of a major delegitimizes some one’s intelligence and future career. The rhetoric students use to discuss each other’s majors can degrade an entire area of study. Major shaming happens, it’s harmful and it needs to stop.
Over 200 Whitworth students responded to a survey regarding the perceived level of difficulty of majors. Communications was consistently mentioned as the easiest major on campus, while biology was mentioned as being the most challenging. This shows that some majors are viewed as intellectually inferior.
One student from one of “the most challenging” majors anonymously shared their view on the difficulty of majors:
“I don't want to belittle anyone's major because I don't think any major is easy in college but they are definitely not equal. There are some majors that require more time and energy than others.”
Others detailed their experiences with major-shaming:
“I am a communications major and I am tired of people thinking I am wasting my time. Because I'm not... I am learning about something I love. I am learning about how people communicate and I get to put what I learn into practice every day, all day long, and strengthen all of my relationships...Why is that answer not good enough?”
Other students shared their experiences with negative perceptions of majors. Students in fields that were ranked easiest responded defensively.
When someone major-shames another person, it belittles their identity as a student and as a person. When people constantly refer to your major as “easy,” it implies that you are not intelligent enough to succeed in a “harder” major.
Coming from my own perspective as a communications major, I can say that I have experienced negative, minimizing attitudes.
People assume that because I am a communication studies student, I cannot express valuable opinions toward other subjects. I can’t talk about math or science or economics or philosophy because the assumption is that I am not intelligent enough to be able to discuss such things.
Whether the assumption is correct in my case or not, does not matter, because the premise of the assumption is what is harmful. Just because someone is a certain major does not give an indication of intelligence or knowledge.
Who are we to judge each other for what we want to do with our lives? Rather than listening to socially constructed prejudices about a nonexistent correlation between major and level of intelligence, we should be supporting each other in our major decisions and valuing each other for our unique abilities and differences. In the words of one communications student:
“I don't think majors should be judged on difficulty. People study different majors for different reasons, and who can say whether one person's' path is more difficult than someone else's?”