I have a love/hate relationship with my alma mater, the Brigham Young University. I love it because during my time there, I met some truly wonderful people and self-directed my educational experience to be exactly what I wanted it to be (particularly as an undergrad). I had a transformative experience much in the same way Ziggy Ansah describes. Also, can I just say Ziggy Ansah himself is a point in the “why I love BYU” column? I don’t know if his story could have happened at any other university and I really love that kid and hope he has so much success.
Unfortunately, every few months a copy of BYU magazine ends up in my mailbox and I am forced to recall all of the things that I really hate about BYU. This month, it was a profile of some blog called “cutegirlshairstyles.com”. WTF? First off, this is embarrassing. I cannot imagine any other university alumni publication highlighting some alumna who blogs about doing her children’s hair. A woman who becomes an ambassador to Peru; yes, that is something to write about in the alumni magazine. A woman who braids her eight year old daughter’s hair; hmm, maybe we should hit the brakes before publishing that article. Last I checked, BYU doesn’t offer a four-year degree in cosmetology. The success of this blog might be of general interest to the alumni of the several cosmetology programs in the greater Utah Valley area. Perhaps in their alumni magazine, it might make sense. Second, this continues a pattern of BYU magazine highlighting the obnoxious mommy blogs of alumni that treat blogging like it is some sort of ideal career (that was worthy of a college education) compatible with being a stay-at-home mother. (There was actually an article in the BYU magazine called, “The Benefits of Mommy Blogging.” Feel free to gag a little bit.) These kind of stories play well in the BYU magazine because they reinforce those gender specific roles that drive people like me crazy because they subtly reinforce that a woman really shouldn’t be doing anything that doesn’t involve children.
I know, I am a bitter, barren hack. Right? That is the sentiment I am sure would be the prevailing counterpoint to my contention here.
But sometimes, it all just gets to be a little much. My feelings about BYU pretty much sum up my feelings about going to church sometimes. It is a love/hate relationship. It is a love relationship when I have been in great diverse wards where different people come together because of a common desire to worship and follow the example of Jesus Christ. It has been more of a hate relationship lately. Yes, my own medical issues maybe have accentuated the fact that it is hard to be in a ward where 95% of the ward is under the age of 30 and already have 3-4 children. But even if I had kids, I still would be annoyed at the shenanigans of the new Primary Presidency last week. They decided to introduce themselves to the kids using the same information that we use to spotlight a different kid every week. It includes information like your favorite food, where you were born, your favorite color, what you want to be when you grow up, and your favorite scripture hero.
As an aside, let me tell you, as a girl in primary, that “what you want to be when you grow up” answer is fraught with warning signals. When I was in primary, I answered that question with what I wanted to be when I was ages 6-11, a ballet dancer. To which I was asked, but don’t you want to be a mother? When I responded, oh no, ballet dancers can’t have kids because it ruins their bodies, I was met with a look of shock and horror that is fresh in my head to this day! I think that primary teacher went home and cursed my ovaries.
Anyway, so these ladies in the new primary presidency decided to answer the same questions including the fraught “What do you want to be when you grow up” question. This annoyed me because although all of these ladies are younger than me, they are all GROWN ASS WOMEN! So, enough with the infantilization of women, please? But of course, all of these women, who already have multiple children said they wanted to be “mothers” when they grew up. There aren’t enough eyerolls in the universe for that. Guess what! You already are! I guess you are done with life now, as you have accomplished everything in life that you set out to do. Then of course was the “scripture hero” character and every single one of these women picked a male character from the scriptures. Look, I realize that the ladies are sorely underrepresented in the scriptures (and in particular the Book of Mormon), but you couldn’t bother to even pick one? There are plenty of good ones who are much more admirable than that warmonger Captain Moroni, by the way. At the very least, instead of picking that guy that killed lots and lots of people, why not pick Pahoran, the longsuffering nice-guy who had to put up with that jerk’s zealotry?
Anyway, yes, sometimes it is hard to go to church, but I force myself to do it anyway, because I always hope, that at some point in time, it will return to one of those love moments. Even when you have four-year old boys in your primary class reminding you that “only boys can have the priesthood”, I sigh and think, I am doing this because I have a belief that my presence there will make things better and it will make me a better person.
But no, I don’t want your stupid plant on Mother’s Day. I don’t want a celebration at church of “Mother’s Day” as the one time in Sacrament Meeting when it is permissible to talk about women, and we have to do it in conventional ways. I don’t want to hear, “but all women are mothers, even if you don’t have children,” and then sit and listen to the same old exclusive talk about how raising kids is the “most important” thing in the world, which immediately reduces everything else any person does to lesser status. It is crap when I hear President Obama say it, it is crap when I hear Joe Blow sacrament talk say it. I don’t want to hear anyone say how special they feel because Heavenly Father “trusts” then enough to send these perfect spirits to them to raise, because I will remind them, he also trusts Kim Kardashian and Kanye West enough to send them a kid.
Finally, the quickest way for me to enjoy church again in my current ward would be to allow me to bring Knightley to church with me every Sunday. Seriously, a good comfort dog could really be an excellent remedy to hearing all of the insensitive, narrow-minded things people say.