Would the Real 'Big Bang Theory' Feature More Jokes About Rape Than Physics?

Our recession-stressed society has said in no uncertain terms that parents and school administrators should be guiding the youth of today towards STEM subjects. You see, STEM majors become productive members of society, unlike the philosophy brains waiting tables, the art history graduates working three part-time jobs (two are actually unpaid internships), and the gender/sexuality student slogging it out in a Bronx elementary school. STEM majors are also happier, because if The Great Gatsby taught us anything it’s that more money = more problems—er, I mean, more happiness. Last, and perhaps most crucial, STEM majors will help us win this century’s reincarnation of the EPIC BATTLE with our best frenemy, China.

Now if you’re one of the many STEM graduates who fall into the category of exemplary to acceptable human being, please don’t take this personally.

Even though STEM majors are saving Amurica’s future one I-product at a time, the rape joke cracked Monday by a Microsoft employee during a preview of the new Xbox One at Electronic Entertainment Expo demonstrates an all-too-frequently ignored reality: Just because you’re a power-nerd doesn’t mean you’re not sexist.

Those poor Stubenville jocks and their ruined futures—football players and macho men are easy targets for feminazis, while nerdy guys fly under the radar because of their presumed sensitivity. Cherrie Moraga relates in This Bridge Called my Back that “…it wasn’t until I acknowledged and confronted my own lesbianism in the flesh that my heartfelt identification with and empathy for my mother’s oppression—due to being poor, uneducated, and Chicana—was realized.” You’d think it would work similarly for nerdy guys—that years of being picked on and cast as the effeminate other in relation to “real” men would inspire some empathy for the struggles women face. Alas, more often than not, they go the opposite direction with a vengeance.

It’s fine that the media has now made it its business to make sure millennials major in “something practical” (by the way, pundits, your trend pieces were a few years too late to save most of us). Having recently graduated from college with a double humanities degree, I see how pushing myself to minor in a STEM subject might have made my post-grad life a little easier.

But clearly there are a lot of STEM men who could have benefited from a literature class teaching A Room of One’s Own or Wide Sargasso Sea; could have used an anthropology class where what is “natural” is revealed as structured, what is “biological” is exposed as performative, and where the choices we make in studying/representing a group are questioned. Cutting right to the marrow: What about a gender studies class where they could encounter privilege, rape culture, and queer theory?

I’m certainly not claiming that STEM is the root of social inequality. But it’s this writer’s fear that if we keep pushing these subjects so exclusively, we’re going to stall on the small amount of social progress we’ve made, progress that owes much to activism but no small amount to education as well. Yes, social theory can be learned in other ways, but school, whether college or secondary, provides the most significant opportunity for a large pool of young adults.

Call me a daisy-chain-weaving, hacky-sack tossing, liberal-arts slacker, but you cannot make the sole purpose of education monetary. You just can’t. Part of education is about becoming a better person, a better citizen to the world. Until STEM courses can integrate this in their lesson plans, there is no way we should be shaming the humanities.

It's time to stop letting these men off the hook because they’re smart on paper, and start demanding they get smarter at life-- the stuff that's out there when they pivot their chairs from the screens.