Yesterday I had a chat with a BYU freshman who is living in the dorms and wanted to provide some insight into what it’s like to adjust to not just university but a religious dominated university. We plan on doing future sessions, so if any readers have questions for Marilyn, please post them in the comments below and I’ll put them into the next Q&A.
Molly: Thanks for doing this. I suppose we can’t use your real name. Do you have a preference for a nom de plume?
Marilyn: Hmm. I love Marilyn Monroe, but I don’t know if I should use that name.
Molly: No, it’s a good one. We can call you Marilyn.
Marilyn: She’s my favorite actress. She said a lot of deep shit and was hot as fuck. (Laughs) Make sure you use that exact wording when you say why I admire her.
Molly: I’ll do that. So for our first question. When you got to the dorms at BYU this year, what did you encounter that you least expected and felt unprepared for?
Marilyn: How hard the girls try here. Eighty to ninety percent are super skinny and fit. Perfect skin, hair always done, and huge flirts. Its ironic because even though the church is against being slutty, the girls still try so hard to get boys because they all have been taught that marriage comes in college. They wont admit it, but they’re here to get their BA and their MRS. I’m okay with wearing glasses and putting my unbrushed hair into a messy bun, while my roomate spends at least an hour a day on her hair alone. She changes her outfit, like, 5 times before she walks out the door and fixes her hair and makeup every time we’re about to go out.
Molly: Do you ever find that being surrounded by girls like that makes it hard for you to take your education seriously?
Marilyn: Yeah, sometimes. There are smart girls and they obviously have goals and stuff but there’s always that second thought of, “Yeah, I’ll pursue my dreams until I find a husband and have babies. Then I’ll just stay at home.”
Molly: Is it correct for me to say that BYU does not provide good support to women who want to have a career?
Marilyn: I don’t know. It’s mixed. It’s a fucked up blend of chivalry and sexism. Its like, they are supportive, but it seems like a facade at the same time. They say we should work hard but then your religion teacher talks about gender roles and it conflicts.
Molly: So it seems like they are okay with women going to college, as long as women don’t forget that their first priority should be to get married and have kids and stay at home.
Marilyn: Yeah. They’re not against women having a career. It’s just not the first thing they would say. That comes as a second thought because they realize how sexist it would be not to say having a career was okay too.
Molly: Did you feel this conflict at all when you were in high school?
Marilyn: Nnnnnnoooo! Well, maybe at church. But never at school.
Molly: Do you feel that your high school gave equal support to the personal goals of boys and girls?
Marilyn: Yes. Of course. My math teacher had two kids and she still worked. There were lots of brilliant women that worked there that were moms.
Molly: Did you ever feel conflict over the gender roles taught at church, or were you able to push it to the back of your mind because you spent most of your time at a secular public school, interacting with non-Mormons?
Marilyn: Yeah. Because my guy friends didn’t think that way. I didn’t realize how sexist Mormonism was until I explained it out loud to my friend once. It never really affected me like this before, because I was in high school. The church’s teachings didn’t really apply to me to the way they do now.
Molly: Do you feel that moving to BYU, where everything is somehow connected to Mormonism, has forced you to really think about these issues for the first time in your life?
Marilyn: It’s not the first time. But I don’t like being at a school where my First Amendment rights are seriously limited. College is supposed to be an environment for free thinking and progress. I shouldn’t feel uncomfortable saying that I support gay marriage, that I’m pro-choice, and other crap like that. I shouldn’t be in fear of a sermon from a 19-year-old who grew up in conservative cow country
Molly: How often do you censor yourself in order to prevent others from noticing that you are more liberal than the average Mormon?
Marilyn: I have a small group of friends who are okay with it. I haven’t really gotten into any arguments with other people, although my roommate did the other day over gay marriage. This guy was just being an asshole and she was pissed.
Molly: So your roommate is pro-gay?
Marilyn: I think so . . . I don’t know. She was using the “hate the sin not the sinner” argument with him. So I’m not really sure if she just toned it down for him or what.
Molly: Do you think she might be pro-gay but afraid to be too open about it?
Marilyn: Yeah maybe. Her parents are super conservative too, so I think she’s in the same boat as I am.
Molly: If you were the ruler of BYU for one day, what advice would you give every student?
Marilyn: And have them actually follow it? Hmm. (Pause) I’d tell the girls to wear whatever the fuck they want and see if the campus breaks out into hell like the authorities think it will. I’d also tell the super Mormon students to sit down and talk with a super liberal person without judging them or cutting them off. Let them explain their views, because that’s something they have never heard. College is supposed to expand your mind to at least understand all views of the world.
Molly: Do you think there is an inherent conflict in a university that is controlled by one religion?
Marilyn: Yes. How can you learn in a box when the point of learning to think outside the box? There is no progress with limitations.
Molly: That was pretty deep.
Marilyn: Aww yee! Come at me smart people!
Molly: (Laughs) Okay, I’d better let you get to class. But that was brilliant. We should do this again.
Marilyn: Okie dokie!