Everyone in college has been asked countless times “What’s your major?” whether by professors during office hours, eager freshman during O-week, or Aunt Susan during Thanksgiving dinner. Though an easy question to answer, I have always dreaded having to respond knowing that I must endure the plunge in excitement into a looming cloud of disappointment. After explaining my decision to major in sociology and the courses I’ve taken, I’m usually asked “So, what do you plan on doing with that later in life?” To be honest, I have no idea, but why does it matter? Sociology, unlike many other majors, does not follow a rigid path. It can take you anywhere you desire, whether it’s pursuing a career in law, starting a nonprofit or becoming a professor. What I love about sociology is the freedom it provides to explore a plethora of social issues with the ability to narrow in on a point of interest like race or gender. Yet, it still lives in the shadows of the academic world, belittled by the social factors that defines its existence.
Stigma around the study of sociology is abundant, though not always explicitly visible. Rarely anyone seems genuinely impressed when you tell them you are a sociology major. Rather, many respond with a forcefully enthusiastic “Oh, great!” at best. Many associate the field with lazy students who end up choosing sociology in their search for the easiest major available. Though sociology is notoriously “easy” it is complex – it is vital to distinguish between the two. The two terms aren’t mutually exclusive; easiness does not imply simplicity. Just because the themes aren’t always difficult to grasp, does not mean it is any way easy.
I find sociology so fascinating because it directly applies to the world around me, including my everyday social interactions, politics, and current events. Like any science, sociology reveals the hidden. I find the ease with which I can understand sociological themes stems from sociology’s social relevance and my sincere interest in the topic. When I am passionate about and can connect to what I am learning, engaging in course material is effortless when I am truly interested.
As a sociology major, it seems impossible to be seriously seen as a true academic because we are overshadowed by the more typical “intellectual” fields. But, why is this the case? In every school system, there is an unwritten rank of subjects that places quantitative subjects, like math and science, above qualitative subjects like sociology. This is because professions like doctors and chemists have a more orthodox functional importance than, say, a sociologist. It can also be argued that this seemingly inherent ranking is a function of socialization. As a young child, I was conditioned to associate doctors, lawyers and business people as esteemed, whereas everyone else was merely mediocre. This (uncoincidentally) is why these professions receive higher salaries. I argue that all subjects are of equal value in that they all contribute important insights and requires its own unique toolbox of skills.
Throughout my schooling career, I have experienced the subordination of my love of sociology. This led to feelings of shame and inferiority that I am still in the process of overcoming. Though my experience is likely manifested by my own insecurities, the perceptions I hold are largely a consequence of social stigmas. I find it difficult to convince my peers that it’s not the major lazy people flock to; it seems impossible to rid this stereotype from everyone’s minds. Rather than wanting to change the perceptions of every scornful person out there, it’s important to overcome this stigma and for sociology majors everywhere to embrace their academic passion.