Bad Feminist

STEM fields? English degrees? Who cares? Do what you love.

More stories from Rebecca Mennecke

I’ve always wanted to major in English.

In third grade, I decided I wanted to become a published author like my older sister, and so I was a busy bee writing pages and pages of intricate, imaginative stories that I imagined were the greatest pieces of literature, like, ever. In sixth grade, my first friend was my English teacher, with whom I matched funky-patterned socks. In high school, I excelled in my AP literature and AP language classes, and I wondered if there was any other field that I could love as much as English.

But you would expect that from someone like me, wouldn’t you? I mean, I am a woman.

Okay, even just saying that made me cringe a little bit. Cough, cough, stereotyping.

But the facts say something about this, right? Most of the people in my English classes are women, and the men in my classes are treated like some kind of novel anomaly. It’s sad, really. The critical discussions we have lack that male perspective. But it’s a true reality of university systems: more women pursue English degrees than men. And more men pursue STEM degrees than women.

I didn’t really understand why until I took my first neuroscience class.

Let me tell you, I fell in love with science when I was in that class.

I learned everything about how we are the way we are, how we live, how we think, how we eat, how we breathe, how we sleep. I learned how our brain communicates, how we feel things. I learned about life in that neuroscience class.

I won’t lie and say it was easy. I studied harder for that class than any of my other classes, ever. It was hard and confusing. At the end of the semester, I felt like I had just finished running a marathon.

No more of that, I told myself. I can’t handle the hard sciences. I convinced myself my brain was wired for English.

But why did I never question that assumption? Why did I let myself believe I couldn’t handle neuroscience? No one ever point-blank told me that; I just let myself believe I wasn’t strong enough to handle the hard sciences.

I think too many women decide they can’t handle certain degrees, and I think some men don’t feel invited to certain fields. Let’s talk about male nurses. Let’s talk about female engineers. And, let’s not just talk about it. Let’s make it real. We should never feel like we cannot pursue a career because of our gender. Ever.

Sometimes I feel like I’m a bit of a bad feminist because I never joined the STEM field. I never pushed that boundary. I never tried to fight against expectations.

However, I like to think I’m pushing other boundaries by doing the things I love. A couple decades ago, I wouldn’t even be allowed to work a job, let alone pursue a career I love.

At the end of the day, I love English and it’s the only thing I could ever picture myself doing. I’m so blessed that I get to study this field and pursue the career of my dreams. I’m crazy lucky.

You’re not any more or less of a woman or a man because of the field you study. Whatever your dream is, don’t be scared to follow it.

Mennecke can be reached at [email protected]