University of Arizona students are used to religious advocates trying to convert them outside the Student Union Memorial Center. These people often hold a large cross and yell about their extreme religious beliefs to students while they are on the way to class.
Mostly, students will rush by in a state of annoyance and avoid these speakers at all costs. However, one religious preacher came to the UA campus and was met with crowds awaiting her arrival.
Sister Cindy and Brother Jed have been touring college campuses for decades, preaching their extremely Christian conservative beliefs to just about any college students that will listen, but why are we listening?
Sister Cindy simply had herself and a microphone, yet she had an audience of hundreds of young college students. Many were sitting on the concrete sidewalk in the way of passers, causing a massive scene on campus.
I was hypnotized in the crowd. I fully participated in the cheers, boos, gasps and shout outs, and time slipped away. I eventually had come to the jarring realization that I had spent almost two hours willingly listening to a 63-year-old woman yell about everything I fundamentally disagree with involving women, sex, god and relationships.
Sister Cindy is not an admirable icon – she’s a marketing genius.
She takes everything that Gen-Z loves and turns it into a way to get younger people to listen to her extremely conservative religious views. She is an active and “trendy” member of the TikTok community with 389.5k followers (@sistercindyforreal).
Her message and public image are the perfect mixes of shock value, controversy and entertainment. This then gives her a platform, following and audience.
The energy of the students at Sister Cindy’s speech was comparable to the energy of a football game stadium. The lively response from the crowd was contagious, and students held their breath awaiting her next outlandish statement.
Her statements, taken at face value, are wildly sexist, traditionalist, patriarchal and deeply rooted in shame. However, with her whole image, it makes her message something students are willing to skip class to hear.
Her slogan “Be a Ho No Mo” can be found on buttons, stickers, t-shirts and bibles that she sells online and gives away at her public appearances.
A part of her appeal is that some of her statements are funny, relatable and agreeable to young college students.
In her speech on Monday, March 28, she stated “don’t ever let a hoe make you cry,” “just because she dressed like a hoe doesn’t mean she wants to do you” and “girls don’t want men who still live in their parent's basements playing video games."
These statements I could personally get behind. However, I believe that these types of statements are used to cloud the truly sexist views she actually preaches.
She has openly preached that pre-marital sex is a sin and that intercourse is solely the act of marriage for reproduction. This viewpoint is rooted in orthodox Christianity and is a far viewpoint from what many students are actually practicing.
According to Campus Health, approximately 73% of UA undergraduate students have participated in one or more types of sex, which can equate to over two-thirds of the undergraduate student body. These statistics are not widely different from other major U.S. universities, although Sister Cindy’s target audience is young college students.
Although many students listen to her without believing it, what does the media we are exposing ourselves to do to our subconscious?
After leaving the crowd of Sister Cindy watchers, I felt like I had just watched fake news for two hours, which is something I would never do. However, she has a grasp on her audience and is completely aware of her tactics.
Sister Cindy has expertly crafted her image and brand. She has become a well-known figure across universities and social media. She knows her target audience and has hit the bullseye. Young people are interested in her and by extension her message.
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Maayan Cohen (she/her) is an opinions writer and a sophomore majoring in digital journalism. In her free time you can find her trying new recipes, going to a thrift store or creating art.