#hearLDSwomen: After My Proudest Performance for My Degree, I Was Told It Didn’t Matter Because I Should Just Get Married and Be a Mom

Photo by MD Duran on Unsplash

When I was a freshman at BYU-I, the bishopric in my ward wanted to interview all of us to start the semester off. I ended up meeting with one of the counselors. When we sat down, he asked if I was seeking a “M.R.S.” degree. I didn’t get it at first because I wasn’t accustomed to the LDS marriage culture. I was totally clueless and confused. When I realized what he said, I laughed uncomfortably and then told him my deepest ambitions…like getting a BFA and then getting my master’s so I could teach art at any level. These are things I’d been wanting to do since childhood. He stared me down, and then said, “Well what if you meet someone here?” Immediately I felt uneasy, since my parents had always encouraged me to go as far as I can with my education. Why was he not happy with that, and seriously why would I spend all the time and money on education if all I was here to do was “meet someone”? I answered, “I’m sure we will figure that out together”. Which was the wrong answer. Now he’s almost glaring at me, and next he is explaining why I need to be thinking about my future husband and his career, and our need to start a family. I was crushed. All I could say was, “I’m not even dating anyone right now”. I left that meeting thinking, “Am I wrong? Was he somehow inspired to tell me this?”. Sadly, then I didn’t know the difference then between inspiration and his personal bias. This one horrible conversation derailed me, and pulled my confidence out from under my feet. I started feeling anxious about dating, like maybe I’m supposed to find a husband and not worry about my love for art. Oh how I wish I never had that interview. It changed me, but luckily I’ve found myself again.
– Anonymous

 

I was about a week away from leaving my hometown in Missouri for my first semester at BYU. I was talking to someone in my ward about being excited about starting college and going to BYU. They asked me what I planned to study. One of the counselors in the bishopric heard us talking and decided to butt in with his opinion that “it doesn’t matter what she studies. Her job is to go to BYU and accept the proposal of the first returned missionary that asks her to marry him.” I laughed, thinking it was a joke. Turns out he was serious.
– HS

 

I had a hard time figuring out what to major in and one of my guy friends said, “Well, it doesn’t really matter what you major in. You’re going to be a mom!”
– LP

 

I had someone tell me after one of my proudest performances in my undergraduate degree for music performance that it was nice but didn’t actually matter because I should just get married and be a stay at home mom. I was so hurt.
– NE

 

Pro Tip: See women as people apart from their relationships (or potential relationships) to others, such as marriage or motherhood. Women’s career choices and aspirations are valid and deserving as much respect as men’s.


Click here to read all of the stories in our #hearLDSwomen series. Has anything like this happened to you? Please share in the comments or submit your experience(s) to participate in the series.

“If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.” (Mark 4:23)

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11 Responses

  1. Feather says:

    Maybe I was in a cocoon or maybe I just hung out with a different crowd, but I spent 4+ years at BYU and never heard a single comment like this.

    • Rita says:

      Are you female, Feather? If so, you got unusually lucky. I heard comments like these all the time, both at BYU and when I was away from campus for summer jobs.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    I love BYU. I really love it, and I highly value the opportunities and experiences I had there. And of course, you don’t hear these types of things everyday! You may only hear them a handful of times. You may never hear them! But that doesn’t mean other people aren’t hearing them…

    During my last year at BYU (2018), I had three professors make inappropriate comments/assumptions about me because of my sex. In conversation with my father-in-law, I told him about two of these instances, and because he is a faculty member at BYU, he was required by law to report them both to the university’s Title IX office. I met with the Title IX office about one of the experiences, and with an academic vice president about the other. It is my understanding that both professors were informed (not of my identity, but of the nature of the report) and trained to do better.

    Although I knew better than to take these professors’ words seriously, their words—however ill-founded—did affect me. And I can only imagine what it would have been like to have heard those things at an earlier stage of my college career. What about the other girls that hear those things—the girls who aren’t as strong, who aren’t as sure? Breaks my heart. :/

    The reality is: there are well-meaning (and some not-so-well-meaning!) people out there (men and women!) who subscribe (consciously or unconsciously!) to destructive gender roles. And I think it’s very safe to say that unfortunately, the Church plays a heavy role in this.

  3. Rachel says:

    I heard it at BYU-I during church and devotionals. I remember being taught that we were sinning if we weren’t actively trying to find a spouse. I do remember, on more than one occasion, being told that the women were in college to find a husband and get an education just in case our husbands died and we had to work. Our majors should be “feminine”. I knew some poor guys who were foregoing majors that really sparked their interest for majors that led to more lucrative careers. They’d say “I’m not really interested in accounting/business etc but I need to have a job that will earn enough so that my future wife can stay home.” How sad for all of us. I do not recall my professors saying things like this but it was definitely part of the culture.

  4. Mathy says:

    My Mother-in-law told me that she only went to Parent Teacher Conference for her sons and never for her daughters because their performance in school didn’t matter. “After all, they were going to grow up to be mothers”.

  5. T says:

    Coming to BYU as a female international student, the goal that was kind of pushed on us was to marry an American student. Then our kids could live in Zion; when our kids needed to work to earn money for school during the summer, they could stay in the US and not have to go back to their home country where the money was worth less; when our kids got married, they could live or work in the US or our home country and have more financial security. We joked that it was winning the double lottery: an education and entry into the US.
    I didn’t win the double lottery and I felt that I had let myself and others down. I also wondered what was wrong with me that things didn’t work out for me as I listened to other parents brag about their daughters securing American husbands when I finished school.

  6. Hecate says:

    In my last semester of civil engineering, I was chatting with a fellow student about where we might be doing next. I mentioned I was looking at a master’s degree program. His comment was something like, why would you do that? It’s not like you are going to use it. Well, I got it and I use it. AND, I am a mother. Believe in the AND.

  7. Feminist Mormon says:

    I was told during high school while selecting a career that I’d eventually be staying at home with my kids, so to be sure not to take out loans for advanced training (like med school) that would keep me in the workforce paying loans back instead of at home with my children, or a field in which it is hard to take time off to raise kids and then get back in (like software). Although I did my master’s and have a comfortable career as a school teacher, I can’t help but wonder what might have been had I allowed myself any career possibility and not limited myself to a “family friendly” career. A housemate had it worse- her parents told her that who she was dating at college mattered more than how she was doing in her studies or her grades.

  8. EngineerMom says:

    Overall I had a wonderful time at BYU. I majored in Civil Engineering and never had a professor that ever made me feel like I shouldn’t be there. However, there was a fellow student that made some very sexist remarks. I was 8 months pregnant, sitting in the lab doing homework. At that time, I only had about a year left of classes. He and I were in many of the same classes along with many of our cohort. Typically we would all get together after class and work on the same homework near each other so that we could brainstorm and help each other out when we got stuck on a problem. So there I was, working away when he leans over and starts chatting with me about the baby. After a minute he asked me, “so are you going to drop out and take care of your baby?” I was totally shocked. I was almost done with an extremely difficult degree, I was literally working on a final project for one of my classes (one of the harder classes of the program). I answered that I wasn’t planning on it and quickly changed the subject (my husband ended up staying home with my son for a year while I finished my degree!). That interaction made me so angry and upset that I took great satisfaction in getting better grades that that classmate, while 8 months pregnant. His comments effectively ended our friendship and I was always a little uncomfortable around him for the rest of the program. Another fellow classmate (who was male) had a new baby at home at the same time, and I know nobody asked him when he was dropping out to stay with the baby.

  9. CBA says:

    When I was at BYU, at least once a semester the school newspaper would publish a letter from some parent chastising all the female students for taking a spot that her son could have had at BYU. The logic was always “He needs that spot more than you, because he’s going to support a family some day.” I don’t know why the paper even bothered giving those women a megaphone like that, but maybe they wanted the writer to get push back?

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