Gender & Identity, Life Stories, Humor, Life

22 things English majors in Pakistan are tired of hearing

"We stan a Palestinian man who spelled out clearly how racist English literature can be."

Most societies still tend to value STEM degrees over Arts degree. There’s a misconception that humanities majors are unemployed and poor with no good career choices, though in some cases this may turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy when we begin to underfund and undervalue programs and spaces that have to do with the humanities. 

Desi societies are no different. You’re pretty much expected to study medicine if you’re a woman and then give it up to be a homemaker later. If you’re a dude, go be an engineer or get a BCom. It’s pretty messed up.

So when I chose to go an unconventional route and pursue a BA in English as a Pakistani woman, I learned that my tribe has to deal with some pretty weird stuff.

1. Most people you tell are horrified.

[GIF description: The cartoon character Max Goof looks straight at the camera in shock before fainting] via GIPHY.
[GIF description: The cartoon character Max Goof looks straight at the camera in shock before fainting] via GIPHY.
You’re a Pakistani woman not going to med school? By choice? Scandalous!

 2. You need to assure folks that your grades were fine.

[GIF description: A dark-skinned, black-haired woman in a pink dress waves a finger mockingly at the camera as she smiles. Under her the text reads: "Don't Assume"] via GIPHY
[GIF description: A dark-skinned, black-haired woman in a pink dress waves a finger mockingly at the camera as she smiles. Under her, the text reads: “Don’t Assume”] via GIPHY
Obviously, you failed every single course in college if your university degree isn’t in a STEM field.

 3. You are asked to explain your life choices…a lot.

[A dark-skinned man in an overcoat and glasses looks at someone off-camera with a serious expression. Text under him reads: Explain Yourself] via GIPHY
[GIF description: A dark-skinned man in an overcoat and glasses looks at someone off-camera with a serious expression. Text under him reads: Explain Yourself] via GIPHY
“Okay, but why didn’t you become a doctor, beta.”

“I don’t know, Aunty. Why do any of us do the things we do? What is the meaning of life, anyway? These are all good questions.”

 4. You’re constantly fielding off bad career advice.

[GIF description: A fair-skinned man in riot gear pulls the flap of his helmet down while staring intensely at the camera] via GIPHY
[GIF description: A fair-skinned man in riot gear pulls the visor of his helmet down while staring intensely at the camera] via GIPHY
PSA: Stop telling English students to give the Civil Service exam. No, seriously, you think you have something new to offer on that front? You’re wrong! We’ve heard it all.

 5. When you bring up your major, people suddenly start talking about Shakespeare…

[GIF description: Rows of sketches of Shakespearean busts on a black background stare intensely at the camera, and the abruptly stick their tongues out at the same time] via GIPHY.
[GIF description: Rows of sketches of Shakespearean busts on a black background stare intensely at the camera, and the abruptly stick their tongues out at the same time] via GIPHY.
Cool, I’m just casually going to start asking your engineer ass about Newton. Gravity, fascinating, am I right? Tell me more.

 6. …and especially mention Hamlet.

[GIF description: Actor Steve Carell in a train compartment wearing a suit, tie and glasses yells "We're all gonna die!" at the camera] via GIPHY
[GIF description: Actor Steve Carell, a pale man with dark hair in a train compartment wearing a suit, tie and glasses yells “We’re all gonna die!” at the camera] via GIPHY
Bringing up existential dread at the dinner table is rude. We feel very attacked.

 7. You love when people are interested in your major but the assumptions are a bit tiring.

[GIF description: KPOP group BTS flash a thumbs-up sign at the camera] via GIPHY.
[GIF description: KPOP group BTS, six young Korean men, flash a thumbs-up sign at the camera] via GIPHY.
Don’t get me wrong. Question and comments are great. Since English majors love what we read, we’re happy to talk about it! It just gets a bit tiring to see the same things brought up. How about you ask us what we do or what we’re reading and let’s find some shared interests to talk about, mmkay? There’s a lot apart from Shakespeare that we like.

 8. People think you learn to speak and write English in your courses…

[GIF description: Close up of a white kitten with big brown eyes shaking her head No] via GIPHY.
[GIF description: Close up of a white kitten with big brown eyes shaking her head No] via GIPHY.

This is most definitely incorrect.

9. …or that you just write character sketches and book reviews.

[GIF description: A white parrot vigourously shakes his head from side to side] via GIPHY.
[GIF description: A white parrot vigourously shakes his head from side to side] via GIPHY.
Ouch! The way English classes are portrayed in popular desi entertainment are weird. That’s not what we do.

 10. You meet folks who say English is the easiest thing to study on the planet.

[GIF description: A group of friends in a booth at a bar are laughing hysterically while clutching their drinks] via GIPHY.
[GIF description: A group of friends in a booth at a bar are laughing hysterically while clutching their drinks] via GIPHY.
 [laughs in Focault]

11. The post-colonial rage in your classrooms is real.

[GIF description: A scene from the animated Pocahontas film. Native American men and women gather around a leader who yells: "These white men are dangerous" while holding up a hand in the air] via TENOR
[GIF description: A scene from the animated Pocahontas film. Native American men and women gather around a leader who yells: “These white men are dangerous” while holding up a hand in the air] via TENOR.
Can these WASPy writers please stop calling everyone who is not white “uncivilized”? Looking at you, Joseph Conrad.

 12. You and your classmates love Edward Said.

[GIF description: Rows of sports fan standing up, waving flags and cheering in the bleachers] via GIPHY.
[GIF description: Rows of sports fan standing up, waving flags and cheering in the bleachers] via GIPHY.
Follow up on the last one. We stan a Palestinian man who spelled out clearly how racist English literature can be.

 13. People think you have no professional ambitions.

[GIF description: An animated woman white dark eyes and hair raises her left brow questioningly at the camera] via GIPHY.
[GIF description: An animated woman white dark eyes and hair raises her left brow questioningly at the camera] via GIPHY.
Random folks: “I think it’s great that you took English! Women don’t work after marriage anyway so you don’t need to study something more ‘professional.'”

Me: [has ambitions so huge my own brain tells me to chill ten times a day]: “Uh, sure.”

 14. You don’t remember the last time you just enjoyed something without over-analyzing it.

[GIF description: A Kermit the frog puppet types away frantically at a typewriter] via GIPHY.
[GIF description: A Kermit the frog puppet types away frantically at a typewriter] via GIPHY.
Let me tell you all about the sexist undertones of a Pakistani drama from the 1970s.

 15. Your friends are tired of your pseudo-intellectual bakwaas.

[GIF description: A bearded, fair-skinned male strokes his beard while looking at himself in the mirror and saying "When I stroke the beard thusly, do I not appear more intellectual?" while two of his friends watch].
[GIF description: A bearded, fair-skinned male strokes his beard while looking at himself in the mirror and saying “When I stroke the beard thusly, do I not appear more intellectual?” while two of his friends watch].
Bakwaas means bullshit in Urdu.

Also, if I bring up Roland Barthes one more time I’m getting kicked out of my school WhatsApp group.

 16. You were a Marxist once without knowing what that meant.

[GIF description: A black and white picture of Che Guevara looking in the distance. The background is red and purple hues periodically pass over the picture, imitating a glitch] via GIPHY.
[GIF description: A black and white picture of Che Guevara looking in the distance. The background is red and purple hues periodically pass over the picture, imitating a glitch] via GIPHY.
It has something to do with wealth redistribution? And, uh, dialectics! Anyway, comrade, I about it in class once and got a cool t-shirt with Che Guevara’s face on it.

 17. You casually bring -isms into all your conversations after taking one (1) class on literary theory.

[GIF description: The animated character Miss Grotke from the Disney Channel show Recess stands in front of a chalkboard and says "Fight the power". Miss Grotke is a brown-skinned, dark-haired woman in a loose green shirt] via GIPHY
[GIF description: The animated character Miss Grotke from the Disney Channel show Recess stands in front of a chalkboard and says “Fight the power”. Miss Grotke is a brown-skinned, dark-haired woman in a loose green shirt] via GIPHY
Hello, it is I, a revolutionary.

 18. Your need to hate on popular South Asian writers annoys your friends

[A female character animated in the anime style with big blue eyes, fair skin and blue hair flips her hair with her hand. She wears a white dress, a pearl necklace and is very pretty. Under her, a block of white text reads: "Sorry for your taste"] via GIPHY.
[A female character animated in the anime style with big blue eyes, fair skin and blue hair flips her hair with her hand. She wears a white dress, a pearl necklace and is very pretty. Under her a block of white text reads: “Sorry for your taste”] via GIPHY.
We English majors are a petty, gate-keeping bunch, oops. Sorry, Rupi Kaur and Kamila Shamsie.

 19. Your department is one of the most underfunded in your university.

[GIF description: Close up of a pair of hands holding an opened and empty wallet. Inside the empty wallet is a man in a suit and tie with a quizzical expression who holds his hands up questioningly] via GIPHY.
[GIF description: Close up of a pair of hands holding an opened and empty wallet. Inside the empty wallet is a man in a suit and tie with a quizzical expression who holds his hands up questioningly] via GIPHY.
There’s bird shit on the floor and I once took a class on Freud with literal wild cats roaming at the back of the classroom. The language lab was last functional in 1947, probably, and so was the AC.

But hey, the science department needs a new garden! That’s super important!

[GIF: a white, blonde, female character from the TV show Friends is sprawled on the floor sucking a drink from a straw. White text under her reads: "I don't even have a plan."] via GIPHY.
[GIF: a white, blonde, female character from the TV show Friends is sprawled on the floor sucking a drink from a straw. White text under her reads: “I don’t even have a plan.”] via GIPHY.

 20. Your career options are pretty limited.

[Jessica Huang from the TV show Fresh Off The Boat says "No one seems to appreciate how I'm good at everything I do". Jessica is an East Asian woman with dark hair and eyes] via GIPHY.
[Jessica Huang from the TV show Fresh Off The Boat says “No one seems to appreciate how I’m good at everything I do”. Jessica is an East Asian woman with dark hair and eyes] via GIPHY.
“Allowing artists, writers, teachers, journalists, and academics to have stable, well-paid careers? Wow, can’t relate,” Pakistan probably.

 21. You’re 45.87% sure you’ll be poor.

[GIF: a white, blonde, female character from the TV show Friends is sprawled on the floor sucking a drink from a straw. White text under her reads: "I don't even have a plan."] via GIPHY.
[GIF description: The male character ‘Junior’ from the TV-show black-ish says “I have zero dollars”] via GIPHY.
This is because social science majors don’t really earn much in Pakistan on average. Sad reacts only. But more to the point, it’s because people keep telling you that you’ll be poor although the research shows that prospects aren’t that bleak at all! Angry reacts only.

 22. But despite it all, you still love what you do.

[GIF description: Ron Swanson from the TV show Parks and Recreation looks at the camera with a severe expression while saying "I regret nothing. The end". Ron is a brown-haired, white male] via GIPHY.
[GIF description: Ron Swanson from the TV show Parks and Recreation looks at the camera with a severe expression while saying “I regret nothing. The end”. Ron is a brown-haired, white male] via GIPHY.
Ask any of us and we’ll tell you the same thing: we genuinely enjoy what we study. Sure, sometimes things are tough, but you should never let that stop you from doing what you want to do. Besides, there are still incredible things that we can do with our degree.