Women on BYU campus feel the pressure to be perfect

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Stephanie Toman clears a day’s worth of piled dishes. Toman is a BYU alumna, has a full-time job and is just one of the many women who feel the pressure to be perfect. (Stephanie Toman)

Women feel the pressure to be perfect, leading to harsher criticism, and these feelings seem to plague students as well, according to a recent study conducted by Women’s Services and Resources.

Women’s Services and Resources recently conducted a survey to better understand how they can help women on campus. The survey asked what concerns women think women have and what concerns women actually have. More than 2,100 female students responded.

Survey results showed most students thought women were concerned with body image issues, balancing work and family and trying to be perfect. When asked about themselves, however, academic performance, dating and time management were the biggest concerns.

“Students feel pressure to be the best or to be perfect,” Director of Women’s Services and Resources Tiffany Turley said. “A lot of these students were some of the best students in their high schools. Now that they are in an environment where everyone around them has this similar drive. It’s good in small doses because it helps motivate them to work hard, but it can also be destructive.”

These concerns individual women have may seem like everyday pressures, but Turley said the results reveal a hidden message that is uniquely female.

A word cloud generated from the responses from the survey. The more common the word, the bigger it appears.
A word cloud generated from the responses to a BYU survey representing pressures BYU women feel. (Brynn Dew)

“All of these individual concerns all have an underlying theme of perfection,” Turley said. “When we read the responses and dug deeper into those issues about dating or academic performance, most of these issues stem from wanting to be the best or perfect.”

Female alumnae continue to feel these pressures after they graduate. Stephanie Toman said she often feels she is not a good wife. She works full-time and finds she is not able to cook dinner that often and dishes seem to pile up in the sink when she does. She also feels like her house is always in a current state of disaster because she works 10 hours a day as a math teacher.

“The weird thing is, nowhere does it say that those things should be my stresses,” said Toman. “I think I am so critical of myself because of the way the role of the wife has been portrayed to me by the media, by others and even my own family. There is all of this pressure to look put-together and to have a presentable house and to prepare meals, and it’s just too much sometimes.”

The Daily Universe also conducted a Facebook poll regarding women’s concerns. The online poll was similar to the one conducted by Women’s Services and Resources, asking both current BYU students and alumnae what concerns women think women have and what concerns women actually have.

The results revealed the most predominant issues other women face are body image issues, then balancing work and family.

The survey results also show the main issues women actually face are time and stress, which received 16 percent of total responses, planning for the future, which also got 16 percent of total responses, and body image issues, resulting in 15 percent of total responses.

Responses from both surveys were similar, however The Daily Universe’s survey had a unique feature: a chance for the surveyors to explain what was the driving force behind these concerns.

Responders said they felt inadequate and pressure to be perfect. Eliza Ringer, a senior at BYU and a survey respondent, said she agreed there is a huge weight put on women to over perform.

“I think women feel like they have to do it all when we aren’t meant to do it all,” Ringer said. “No one is meant to or can do it all. This leads to a lot of self doubt and criticism.”

 

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