This Sunday is the fourth annual Pants to Church Day and my third time participating. The first year Stephanie Lauritzen organized the event with the purpose was to highlight gender inequity in the Church (I didn’t participate the first year, back then I never would have even said the f-word). Since then other women have been the organizers and their purpose is to “stand for inclusivity and equity for those who are marginalized.”
Lately I’ve been reflecting on my official leap into Mormon Feminism that occurred on that freezing Rexburg Sunday in December 2013. Without the organized pants day I never would have had the courage to wear pants on my own, and knowing like-minded sisters around the world were acting with me helped me take the leap. After wearing pants to church and blogging about it, I inadvertently landed myself on the front page of the Rexburg newspaper. The response to the article was not entirely friendly, nor was it entirely hostile. I received quite a bit of local (esp ward/family) blowback, but I was also humbled and strengthened by the friendship and understanding I found from places I had least expected. That’s Rexburg for you, though: meeting my lowest expectations and pleasantly surprising me at the same time.
Recently I requested the editor of the Rexburg paper send me the most popular “letters to the editor” written in response to me and my pants. Below are the two responses he sent me:
I wear a skirt to church
In our culture, the strongest meaning associated with a skirt is femininity. It is not weakness or inequality. Especially not these days.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has proclaimed, “Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.” It may not be a very popular view these days, but that doesn’t keep it from being true.
Out of practicality and comfort, I generally wear pants throughout the week, but when I want to highlight my femininity, I wear a skirt. That is why I wear a skirt to church. I believe wearing a skirt helps me pay reverence to my divine femininity and the Creator who made me. This reverence is part of my worship. The way I dress not only shows reverence, but that I embrace the revealed truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I do not believe there will ever be a revelation declaring that women will be priesthood bearers. Women already have the opportunity to participate in the priesthood and in priesthood ordinances as much as men have the opportunity to participate in child bearing and child rearing. It is equal.
While the roles are different, that’s the way it should be. God intended for certain roles of men and women to be different because each is a vital role. He wanted us to realize that we can’t do it alone, that we need each other. If one or the other gender had the ability to perform all vital roles in life, it would make it so we felt that one gender didn’t need the other.
The divine feminine and the divine masculine are inseparable. I glory in the creation and wisdom of God. That is why I put a skirt on when I go to church to worship Him.
Make the best offering possible
Regarding the thoughtful and thought-provoking Dec. 19 article regarding Ms. Anderson’s wearing of pants to church meetings, it’s always healthy to live the examined life, isn’t it?
Here are some thoughts also to be considered: as vital as love and inclusion are, scripture and prophets give at least as much weight to submission and deference to God and approaching Him His way.
There are great lessons about making our best offering to God, which specifically includes our dress. I, too, have had the opportunity to travel, and am so impressed with the love for God I see among the poor and, in humble circumstances, their wanting to make their best offering to God, expressed in their dress as they come to worship.
There is the point, making the best offering possible. People initially “come as they are” and are welcomed, then progress to come as God wants them to be. A cardinal principle I’ve found in worshiping and approaching God is that we always do so His way, as He asks.
I can only speak for myself, but if I were to approach God making anything but my best offering, reflected in my dress, that would interfere with my worship. It’s never about me.
Someone who hasn’t given the same amount of thought to issues as Ms. Anderson might make that mistake. And since Paul was invoked, he also spoke strongly to the strong in the faith to not introduce behaviors into the church that might be a stumbling block to the weaker in the faith, for the faithful who are confident in their relationship with God to cause a distraction for others approaching Him. That would be contrary to inclusive discipleship.
He also spoke specifically of customs of the day and warned, though obviously transitory, that not living inside those customs could be a distraction for our brothers and sisters.
The responses could be summarized into (1) gender roles are separate but equal, priesthood=motherhood; and (2) by not conforming you can end up being a stumbling block to those weak in the faith.
Since these letters were published, Sheri Dew has written a book that was basically an expansion of the thesis (priesthood=motherhood) of the first letter, which has been subsequently debunked both by Elder Oaks and our own LDS.org essay on women and the priesthood. Surprise! The relationship between gender and priesthood is more complex than we ever thought it was.
As for being a stumbling block: ever since I began having questions about the church and the gospel, the things I see people mostly leaving the church for are (1) the church history mess left by our past leaders and (2) the way marginalized people are treated because they aren’t conforming with orthodoxy. Whether this second group are people of color, LGBTQ+, feminists, or just people with questions; the unchristian, unwelcoming, unloving treatment these people receive have often led them to judge the Church by it’s fruits (how it’s members treat them).
I never once have seen a person’s faith shaken by someone wearing pants or by an LGBT person participating in a congregation. Yet our inability to create and maintain an inclusive faith community, despite Elder Uchtdorf’s best efforts, cause nonmembers not to join and cause current members to leave the flock. Isn’t it about time to admit the biggest stumbling block to people’s participation in our faith is our lack of inclusivity (ahem, #lgbtpolicy)?
Since that fateful day in December 2013 I’ve worn pants dozens of times, usually when I’m cold. I don’t want wearing pants to church to be a statement, I want it to just be a reasonable option when I’m choosing a “Sunday Best” outfit to wear on Sabbath morning. In fact I often feel more dressy, comfortable, and modest in my pants. I also feel like I’m helping others know there’s not just one way to be a Mormon woman. So, Rexburg, I’m afraid you’ll just have to deal.
I have worn pants every Sunday to church for more than two years now. I had personal revelation to switch to pants permanently because a sister in my ward needed to wear pants and I realized the experience would be less difficult if she had a teammate. Because leadership was aware of her trials they immediately realized what I was doing and treated me with extreme warmth and encouragement. That was not the case for general members during the initial first sixth months or so of my pants wearing. I was frequently stopped and questioned, rebuked, and mocked by people in my ward family. It was interesting to experience this type of treatment during a worship service on the sabbath day in the house of Lord. I have spent a lot of time unpacking in my mind what would cause such a reaction over something as silly as pants.
Does my nonconforming pose a stumbling block to others? With all the beauty that exists within the gospel I would hope that prior to my pants wearing no member was staking even the tiniest amount of their testimony on my skirt. What a diminishment of the gospel that would be. My lived experience being a woman who wears pants to church has been this-
1. When the missionaries bring investigators to church they rush them over and introduce them to me. This is because the women are generally wearing pants and rather than viewing me as a stumbling block to faith instead I am used as a tool of inclusion.
2. People get over it. Eventually everyone realized I am the same lady that serves, raises children, and worships right along side them. After about a half a year my pants became no issue. Which begs the question why they were ever an issue in the first place.
I did have a friend approach me and tell me I was making it difficult for her to convince her 11yo that she had to wear a skirt to church
the only thing I said back is “it’s a great thing that each of us has agency to choose how to live the Gospel.”
That night they discussed my pants to church at Sunday dinner and my statement about choosing how to live the Gospel. The next day she sent an email thanking me because it prompted a really great gospel discussion in their home.
I randomly still get positive responses and negative reactions. It is what it is, and unfortunately it’s still an issue.
@ Kristine A
Ironically now my pants wearing is only an issue when members of my congregation run into me in public and I am wearing skirts or dresses. They react with shock and always have to comment. It is as though they believe I am wearing pants at church because I lost all my skirts in some type of tragic closet fire. When they have to face the reality that I own skirts it is too much to comprehend. I always tell them how flattered I am that my clothing occupies so much of their thoughts. You are correct. It is what it is.
And, limiting my first point just to clothing…there was a day in our secular culture when an respectable woman was not to reveal her ankles, that evolved to things such as not sitting astraddle a horse, and so on. We Mormons were surely just as subject to those norms as everyone else (and probably 10 to 20 years behind the times in that regard, as we are now).
In the subject instance, the skirts vs. pants issue today is another symptom of our STRONG cultural closed/narrow-mindedness as Mormons–after all, we are led by living prophets.
I have been an outlier in church culture since returning from my mission in 1969 (I mean, I wear BLUE shirts to church at least half the time). I have seen garments go to short sleeves and knee length, from one to two piece. I have seen our inspired leaders (always long after our American culture and we outliers) become “accepting” of miscegenation, birth control, women’s rights, blacks right to the priesthood, mothers working outside the home, trying to pray the gay out (if not electro-shock it out), to name those I can recall off the top of my head.
My point is that in all these instances both church leadership and church culture were wrong for way too long. The culture in all the (6) wards I have belonged to (none in Utah) has been dominated by folks with attitudes such as those represented by the two letters to the editor above: i.e., all of our cultural practices are from God, inspired by God and his prophets, seers, and (don’t you dare speak ill of the) revelators. In a word: vapid.
I stopped attending SS 30+ years ago and HP class 4 years ago because there were getting to be too many occasions when I just couldn’t stifle myself from reacting to the asinine comments of most.
We need more women wearing (dressy, not blue jeans) pants to church. Not primarily to make a statement, but to break down this thoughtless cultural barrier. I laud your willingness to do that.
I think its important for proper gender roles and traditionalism in our religion. I fear that men are being squeezed out of their roles and in a way give up because of it. I worry that these movements to acknowkedge women are misplaced and do a disservice to men and women alike. I feel a great desire to acknowedge and value women and their great spirituality, virtue, kindness, love and nurturing capacity. But I myself dont want to be a woman nor have her vital role. So why do certain women want mens role?
Ron, the only role I want us the one God would have for me. And if that includes blessing my children by the laying on of hands, etc., I wish my brothers in the church would stop instructing me otherwise.
Rob, perhaps the roles you see as exclusively mens, others see as available to all equally?
Maybe it’s just me. But it seems over the past few decades as a church we’ve become more focused on outward appearances. For example, I can count on one hand the number of men who aren’t wearing plain white shirts every Sunday. It didn’t used to be like that. Additionally there are the edicts against beards and having more than one earring.
I’d like to see men wear pantyhose every Sunday. It wouldn’t be long before the men would revolt. What does it say about us if a woman wears pants to church that it becomes an issue?
I dont see the gift of bearing and bringing Gods blessed children into the world as being made equally available to all males.
Men and women are different and have different abilities, gifts, etc. Me and my wife make up a relationship of one that compliments all things. It encompasses all sides, and is harmony in action. I have strong muscles that can tax away and earn a living for us while my wifes loving social nature is available to console, nurture, and care for others. We dont compete against each others gifts and abilities but rather work together as one covering all angles of spirituality, physicality, femininity and masculinity.
I dont know every eternal truth in regards to why we are different but the facts are that we indeed are and that God has given to each gender distinctly different jobs in the family unit and jobs in society and the church. All I can say is that it really does work. When propetly understood that husband and wife truly become one individual then it becomes clear that we are just extensions of each other where both are needed in each owns unique capacity to contribute to their union together.
Lois, I have no problem with women wearing pants. But, when a woman wears pants for the sole reason to create a statement of questioning Christs church then there is an issue. Its just not the right way to inquire or resolve ones unanswered questions. Its a distraction that causes one to bring a social opinion into the holy sacrament and take away from the true intent of the service. Its purely an act of selfishness that seeks to rob the sanctity of the sacrament in order to spotlight themselves.
The problem with clothing in general is that it is a type of communication, and a type of communication that is frequently misunderstood. Cultures create their own “languages” of clothing, and the LDS language of clothing is used to communicate a few things: how obedient you are (white shirt and tie, super-modest), how humble you are (inexpensive and dowdy), how vain or rich you are (nicer clothes with garments fudged a bit), or how liberal, intellectual, or rebellious you are (women in pants, men with colored shirts). It’s nobody’s fault that people read clothing at church this way. That is simply the culture we live in.
I’m fine with people dressing however they want, as long as they recognise what they are projecting to the culture by wearing it. If you are a more liberal, wear your pants with pride. But don’t be surprised if more conservative members raise their eyebrows at your blatant projection of liberal values at church. It would be nice if the cultural language gradually changed to see pants as something someone could project even in a conservative and obedient way, but we’re not there yet.
Ten years ago, in my ward it was pretty common for women to wear pants. The RS president and one of her counselors routinely wore black dress pants, not to mention the medical residents, maids, and military reservists who showed up in uniform on their way to or from work.
That changed with the pants protests. Now pants had a political agenda, and those of us who didn’t want to be identified with MoFeminist goals had to consider what message was being sent.
So I feel that women now have fewer choices in clothing, not more.
On my mission in DC I saw a few women who would wear pants to church (mostly investigators or women who came infrequently). Where I grew up and live now (I live in the same stake I grew up in, but a different ward), in a conservative area of Utah, I have literally never seen a woman wear pants to church. Never. Not once. In 30 years. Full stop.
I am planning to wear pants to church on Sunday. If you don’t hear from me next week, send help.
I absolutely agree with you about men and women complimenting each other in marriage. This is exactly how my marriage / child-rearing works. However, the line between my husband’s strengths and mine is very different from that of you and your wife’s. And I think this is what kind of kills your argument for me. Because EVERY couple’s line is unique. Or perhaps better said, Everyone couple’s ‘shape’ is unique – and that is beautiful!
So for us, my husband is the nurturer when it comes to the kids because its more natural to him (and he’s better at it). I’m the leader in terms of planning, executing their lives. I’m not social at all – so he keeps us tied to our family gatherings, church gatherings, etc. I end up in charge of whatever organized activities/groups we participate (and I do tend to end up ‘in charge’ of them). We both work in vastly different fields that absolutely compliment what we do at home (He’s in charge of maintenance/fixing things. I’m in charge of the finances and keeping us organized.) We switch off leading in our marriage/family, based on whose strength is needed.
It absolutely works for us and our kids. Being told that we are somehow sinning because we don’t follow a more traditional marriage division is kind of insulting and sad.
And just to clarify, because I think you don’t quite understand this perspective, I don’t want to be a man (at ALL). I want to be an amazing me. And I’m a professional. A leader. An organizer. A confident public speaker. A woman with skills that (I hope anyway) are worth putting to work in whatever sphere I find myself in.
“All I can say is that it really does work.”
It is wonderful that your marriage is working. Really. Can you believe me when I say my less traditional marriage really, really works too? Why does it have to be an either/or?
Yes, every individual is uniquely blessed with their own gifts and talents and the hope should be that each individual has the opportunity to develop those gifts and talents in a way that will benefit humankind. I reject the idea that we need to all conform to stereotypical gender roles. For example, what does it say to women for their roles to be defined by motherhood when many women don’t have that opportunity?
I remember reading an article “The Proclamation on the Pantyhose” (Meridian magazine) which talked about a Stk leader (in UT) who felt the need to inform women that they needed to wear pantyhose to church–bare legs were not appropriate. It led to members judging each other by their adherence to the edict.
Judging others by outward appearance (isn’t that something the Pharisees excelled at?) seems to me to go against what Jesus taught or wanted from us.
I would agree that a public organized protest may not be the most Christ-like way to initiate change(?)
Let us simply have the courage to do what we feel best for ourselves. I think pants should be the uniform for working in nursery or with young children!
If clothes are communication, it makes sense that in the LDS Church, there would be cultural pressure to conform to a shared message. Unity is highly valued, and public disagreement is frowned upon. The spirit of correlation extends beyond lesson manuals into clothing, language (“nourish and strengthen our bodies”), earrings, and automobiles. By dressing, speaking, and acting within the unwritten spectrum of acceptable behavior, we signal to the group that we belong and support the unified message.
Converts are allowed some deviation, which is even sometimes smiled upon because it makes us feel more universal and inviting of outsiders. But over time, you’re expected to pick up on the social cues and dress/speak/act more appropriately. Long-term members are supposed to know better, so when they deviate, it is interpreted as an act of rebellion.
These forces are probably present in all societies, cultures, and institutions. And while they have positive impacts, such as creating a sense of community and belonging and weeding out pretenders who could do harm to the group, they also have negative impacts by stifling individuality, fostering judgment and back-biting, and driving away diverse and talented people whose gifts would greatly benefit the group.
So ideally there should be a countervailing value of inclusion pushing in the opposite direction, welcoming people who are different, recognizing that not everyone has to conform and that some things (appearance) are less important than others (heart). If you don’t actively foster the value of inclusion, the value of conformity will overwhelm your group, which is what has happened with Mormonism.
“I’m fine with people dressing however they want, as long as they recognise what they are projecting to the culture by wearing it.”
Whoa! How can we recognize and be held accountable for any possible interpretation that someone makes from what we wear? We may be intending a different message entirely.
We had a bishop who always wore a polo shirt when he was not actually presiding over a meeting, to show that the white shirt and tie were a mark of stewardship. So he wore the polo shirt to stake leadership meetings, etc.–anyplace that he was not in charge.
My husband (former bishop, stake calling) routinely wears a blue shirt to church meetings because he likes the material and has blue eyes and it looks great on him.
I once had the opportunity to stop by a temple on a business trip, and had not packed a skirt. Should I have missed the (rare) opportunity to partake of the blessings of the temple because I had to pack light and appropriately for the main purpose of the trip?
I am a convert and a bit slow on picking up on all these rules that everyone is supposed to know. When my son was a young man and blessing/passing the sacrament, we always bought him pastel dress shirts. Nobody once mentioned that he was “supposed” to be wearing white. Do you think that they were whispering behind our backs, or just glad that he was there?
This is so frustrating. If you are going to be judging us for messages that we never intended to send, could someone please provide a handbook? Oh wait, the church does have a handbook and none of this crap is in it.
I also think that there is more than one culture within the church. Someone can be wearing the same clothes but are seen differently in Boston, Massachusetts vs. Rexburg Idaho.
(Not that I even know what “liberal” or “conservative” mean…sigh…)
My experience is similar to Naismith. In the ward we lived in from 2003-2007 (outside of Utah) it was not unusual to see women in dress pants (including an awesome SS teacher). We always had tons of investigators, so even blue jeans was not unusual. The ward was very low income and no-one had any room to judge anyone else based on outward appearance. Many individuals were unendowed, so even sleeveless shirts and dresses were not uncommon. Incoming members from elsewhere often had difficulty with the lax standards of the dress code, but after awhile they’d get used to it and keep personal opinions to themselves (it was a very transitory, urban ward).
Once the wear pants protests started 4 years ago, though, wearing pants stopped being personal preference and switched to being a political statement. While I’m all for sharing difference perspectives with each other on Sunday, it feels incredibly crass to use the meetings for public protest. Originally it was framed as an effort at acceptance, but turning it into a gender equality battle eliminated any validity to the cause in the eyes of many members. Now pants have become a symbol of dissatisfaction with church leaders (regardless of original intent). Like Naismith said, women who don’t want to ally themselves with public dissent are have to think twice about wearing pants to church. Organizing the event into a type of protest drew battle lines where there never should have been.
I agree. Women wearing pants to church do not bother me one bit. But to do it to make a statement ruins it for all. There are a myriad of other ways to bring up inequality issues that are proper and don’t cause issues. Sacrament meeting isn’t the place to make the statement, it just paints their cause wrong and ruins others who have the best intentions not wanting to be involved.
I agree with Nate, clothing is a way to communicate.
Sadly, the fact that women scramble to communicate in such as passive way is an indictment of a broken communication system in the church.
The thing that bothers me the most is the cumulative “gasp” from the LDS audience about this. Frankly, if our pioneer grandmothers wore pants to church, it would be considered spunky and a way for women to push back and get something done. Change would have happened. The fact that we are getting serious ’tisk-tisks’ means that there isn’t even a way for us to START a conversation that doesn’t get shut down.
“There are a myriad of other ways to bring up inequality issues that are proper and don’t cause issues.”
Generally speaking, men are different than women. There are some instances, but in general, men and women are in fact different and have different roles in the church. I’m sure there would be some guys that would excel in Relief Society and fit right in but there is in fact reasons why this is not accepted.
Like perhaps going and talking with your RS leader. Or perhaps visiting the stake RS president. Or perhaps going to the bishop or stake president. Perhaps one could even write a letter to the church magazine. Myriads of proper ways exist that are Christ like and ensure the right spirituality and sensitivity.
I know people who have talked to RS leader. Caused issues.
I know people who have talked to stake RS president. Caused issues.
Perhaps one could even write a letter to the church magazine. Usually that gets sent to your bishop and causes issues.
This is Hardly “myriad of other ways to bring up inequality issues that are proper and don’t cause issues.”
Yeah, there is no feedback loop that doesn’t cause issues.
I also don’t think Jesus worried much about causing issues. Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t he was killed because he brought up issues before the Pharisees and Sadduccees?
Yeah, I don’t think there is a way to bring up things to those in power without causing issues.
You, on the other hand, have been a perfect model in how to bring up inequality without causing issues. /sarcasm.
Quick question – how old are the letters to the editor cited?
In my considerable years of life I’ve continually seen change that causes great strife for some; I’ve seen resistance to change because how things have “always” been should remain how they should always be. Either way I’ve seen perpetual judgment, nay-saying, head-nodding gloom and doom, and apocalyptic Chicken-Littling.
Yet change comes whether we want it to or not. And miraculously, life goes on. The sun comes up every day, the birds sing, flowers bloom, crops grow, and stock markets rebound and inch forward. My grandmothers were absolutely mortified when men stopped wearing hats everywhere and a three-piece suit to baseball games. They were horrified when women began wearing pants in public, stopped wearing gloves to be out and about, and stopped wearing their hats when they left the house. Glory……they loudly lamented that men were becoming uncouth and women were becoming men.
But the sun still rose, daffodils bloomed, and baby lambs were born every spring. Women still had the babies even without hat, gloves, and dresses. And baseball still plays on (thank heaven!) even as men attend games in jeans and a team jersey. Men are still men and women are still women. So it has always been, and so it will always be.
Each generation has the privilege of agency to decide how they wish to dress, what ball games, if any, they wish to attend, and what perceived weaknesses of society they wish to improve. Some will move forward, some will just go along, and some will loudly lament that any sort of change is evil and destroying gender and society.
But this I know……change will come. And truth will prevail. The church will go on, even if colored shirts, beards, earrings, pants, and hemlines come and go and come and go. One hundred years from now none of us will be alive in mortality. None. I do not wish my turn on earth to be about clothes, and who blesses their children, or who’s gay or straight. I don’t want it to be about hats and gloves, or the pants I wore, or the color of shirts.
I want my life to be only about light, love, and Jesus Christ……that I loved well enough to worship God beside a man in a dress (which I’ve truly done) and women in pants (which I’ve also truly done). And my worship was deepened and strengthened in authenticity as I put aside my own Chicken-Littling and grew quiet and still in my soul as we worshipped together. If pants at church on women is about protest and evil feminism to us, WE are the ones who need to look inward and remember that Jesus would be the first to sit down by such sisters. He would LOVE them, pants and all….especially the ALL….
Frank, they were in response to Kristine’s appearance in a front page newspaper article in December 2013, so they’re 2 years old.
“I think its important for proper gender roles and traditionalism in our religion.”
I agree that gender roles are important, and having a mechanism for men to serve their families has helped our church to avoid the “missing male” phenomenon that so many churches struggle with. Indeed, the recent Pew report showed that Mormon men had among the highest rates of those “who say religion is very important in their lives” (82%, compared to 47% for all men) and the difference between Mormon men and women is among the lowest difference for any group (3 percentage points difference, as compared to a 12 percentage points difference between all men and women).
However, I do not find that our church teaches “traditionalism” as it has been commonly defined. “Traditional” marriage to me is a 1950s “Father Knows Best” model in which the man is in the charge and the wife is subservient.
Whereas I joined the church during President Kimball’s tenure because of the teachings around equality and full partnership between marriage partners that is NOT traditional That views different contributions as equal.
While only men have the priesthood and only women can give birth if that happens to be part of a couple’s mission together, there is much room for individual adaptation as RT points out.
I don’t want a traditional marriage, and I hate that people would look at us merely because I was at home when the kids were little and assume that we are “traditional.”
So no, I don’t think the church needs the sick, poisoned, misogynist views that make up USAmerican “traditionalism.”
Maybe the issue is a little larger… in my son’s high school 8-12% of the anatomically born females recently identified themselves as androgynous. And before anyone asks for a copy of the survey the school has not published it because they are not sure what to do with the results. I would assume if you spent time with your local school board they are working with the same issue.
Huh. I’m sure it was Kristine that was the subject of our discussion at lunch yesterday even though she was never mentioned by name. I’m thinking she must be a member of a book club also attended by a former co-worker of mine. This women in her 70s wanted to discuss Pants to Church and feminism to get a better understanding of both. The group consisted 5 women aged 70s to early 20s. Interesting discussion and an important one. If it wasn’t for Kristine’s activism we’d never have had the enlightening conversation.
The organized event is *meant* to communicate something. The whole idea revolves around the notion that we can communicate our personal beliefs by our choice of clothing, a passive protest. Individuals show solidarity by choosing to wear similar types of clothing (skirts on one side, pants on the other). To suggest that we shouldn’t look at clothing as communication undermines the entire purpose of the event.
I wholeheartedly agree that members should accept disagreement civilly and be Christlike in our actions toward one another. Wearing pants used to be idiosyncratic – a personal preference for a number of reasons (comfort, culture, etc.). The event purposefully downplays the myriad other reasons people might wear pants and gathers people together on a single day to make a statement about gender inequality in the church. You don’t have to have any prejudice against feminism to see that organizing people to publicly display dissatisfaction with the church during weekly Sunday services will not go over well, no matter how well-intended the participants might be.
Protests are about anger, frustration, and dissatisfaction. It creates defensiveness and suspicion on the part of those who are naturally inclined towards the institution that is getting targeted. The natural emotional responses on both sides lead to contention. Christlike compassion and understanding *should* always be present, but when people feel threatened they don’t tend to overcome natural reactions very well. On the side of the participants, they are standing up for a cause which often strikes at the core of their belief system – it takes courage to be that vulnerable. On the other side you have members who are witnessing their fellow wardmembers standing in opposition to current understanding of doctrine and confidence in church leaders. It can easily be interpreted as an attack from within on our current understanding of doctrine and/or church leaders. It’s that perception of attack that I feel is extremely problematic in Sunday meetings.
Honestly I find it to be such a diminishment of the beauty of the gospel of Jesus Christ to speak or behave as though females wearing dress pants has anything to do with worship. If my pants are impacting the religious experience of members of my ward I would invite them to study their religion because there is so much richness to it one could spend a lifetime focusing on that and have little time to worry about the pants wearing sister in their ward.
The comments that suggest that now women can’t wear pants who once did because it is viewed as a political statement are interesting to me. If women had ever been comfortable wearing pants to church in even the smallest minority then no one would have noticed women on pants to church day. There would have been little to no reaction because, well, women were already wearing pants. Mofems would have just blended in with the myriad of women being included with diverse clothing choices. In reality few women were wearing pants without experiencing some type of marginalization. This essay still ignites an emotional response years later and that is because women did not have freedom to wear pants without repercussions prior to pants-to-church-day and in many wards they still do not now.
As far as Nate’s comments on culture and knowing what one is portraying when they choose to participate in the daring act of wearing slacks. I agree with him. I suppose I did know that on some level there would be a negative response to the additional seam in my Sunday attire. Unfortunately I don’t think this reality speaks well for where many of my ward members are at spiritually. That is the bigger issue that is not being addressed. What incredible aspects of discipleship are we missing out on when religion is diminished to a debate over clothing?
I am starting to see why you are a heretic.
I’ve never really understood what the pants movement was supposed to be about. In the first iteration, it was about women being able to wear pants at Church. Pretty simple. Problem is that a week before the protest the Church gave a statement specifically stating that people should dress however they like to Church and should feel welcomed. Mission accomplished.
Rather than stop the protest, it’s direction was shifted to “stand for inclusivity and equity for those who are marginalized.” So it was no longer about the pants. Rather than keep pants day as a day to remind each other that the Church does not have a “dress” code for women, it’s now a rather nebulous protest. Becoming a protest has given (and continues to give) strength into the culture that women should only wear skirts to Church, the complete opposite of the original pants day intention.
I think we should let pants day go and move on to some other specific cultural hedge we’ve built up.
Governingmyself, the clothing now represents larger, much more important issues. The first letter to the editor is all about gender roles and pride in her perception of femininity. The second letter is expressing concern about the appearance of discord as a potential stumbling block to members with testimonies not quite as robust. Gender identity and strengthening each other in the gospel are major issues in the church. This isn’t about seam lines, it’s about the ideas people claim those seam lines represent.
oh my hell people, I swear some of you haven’t done basic research to figure out any of this:
(1) The very first year the organizers said the purpose was to HIGHLIGHT THE GENDER INEQUALITY IN THE CHURCH. That woman has since gone inactive.
(2) In the years since then other women have the stated purpose of wearing pants together TO CELEBRATE THE INCLUSIVENESS OF THE GOSPEL, THAT ALL ARE WELCOMED HERE. Black/white, male/female, bond/free, pants/skirt. As Elder Uchtdorf recently said, there is no sign at the entrance of our churches that says your testimony must be this high (size/shape) to enter.
After I saw women who wore pants the first year get death threats, I chose to participate the second year in their support. Even though at that time I didn’t agree with gender inequality……an even greater chasm existed between me and those throwing tantrums over pants. I chose to wear pants to do my part in creating a welcoming, inclusive gospel where ALL ARE WELCOMED HERE.
The point that is being missed is that there would be no power in any type of political movement attached to wearing pants to church if women were treated well when they did it. This is part of the reason the movement was attached to pants. The extra seam only represents something when a fellow member chooses to marginalize a women wearing pants. This then legitimizes the movement. When this movement started had women been received with nothing but celebration, warmth, kindness, and inclusion two things would have happened. One, many women would happily wear pants to church today and more importantly two, there would have never been an additional pants to church day. The pure love of the members would have proven the movement wrong. Those seemliness represent nothing when women can wear whatever they desire to church and are received well by the general membership. There will always be movements for equality within the church so long as there are people who feel as though they are treated unequally. The membership will determine the power of those movements based on the way the members practices their religion.
Naismith: You are Example #1 of pot calling the kettle black.
Over and over I repeat in this post that the stated purpose and message of me wearing pants is inclusivity.
You then say “Now pants had a political agenda, and those of us who didn’t want to be identified with MoFeminist goals had to consider what message was being sent.”
After Nate talks about owning the messages that others may interpret from your clothing you say:
“How can we recognize and be held accountable for any possible interpretation that someone makes from what we wear? We may be intending a different message entirely.”
Exactly. It’s your narrow-mindedness that is choosing to interpret my pants that way. I’ve restated my intentions dozens of times in this post and many of my other posts. It is YOUR responsibility for your own narrow definition — and you own that consequence.
Will some see me in pants and think I’m trying to be a man (or whatever else you attribute to the MoFem agenda)? I guess, but that’s their choice. If those people choose to not get to know me personally it will be their own narrow-mindedness that causes it.
Now, I also agree with Nate that I have to take that into consideration. Do I know that some people will see me and then think I’m an awful Mormon that needs to be avoided? Yes. I’ve weighed that in my pros and cons and my act to attempt to create a more inclusive community is more important to me than friends like you who I may lose. Their loss.
The first time I wore pants it was -15* outside and I was primary chorister and constantly crawling around on the floor melting and regrowing as a snowman. Wearing pants wasn’t radical — it was common sense.
The close-mindedness of others is the only thing holding them back from continuing to wear pants. If they want to “other” women who wear pants and make sure no one confuses them “those kinds of women” who now wear pants to church……They are the ones creating this line in the sand, not those wearing pants (who are trying to stay modest while working with children on the floor). Tis your choice.
Rob O: “I dont see the gift of bearing and bringing Gods blessed children into the world as being made equally available to all males.” Nor is that a blessing available to all women. A woman can’t be reduced to the sum of her uterus.
“I have no problem with women wearing pants. But, when a woman wears pants for the sole reason to create a statement of questioning Christs church then there is an issue. . . Its purely an act of selfishness that seeks to rob the sanctity of the sacrament in order to spotlight themselves.” How on earth would you know WHY a woman is wearing pants. Women wear pants for many reasons, and aside from wearing a dress to church, very few wear skirts or dresses at all! It could be that pants are her Sunday best. It could be that she’s a new member or investigator.
Or it could be that she simply wants to make other sisters comfortable. In this regard, couldn’t it simply be an extension of the female nurturing you seem to think is so innate? In Clayton Christensen’s book The Power of Everyday Missionaries, he shares this story: “On one Sunday, Sister Virginia Perry, whose husband L. Tom Perry, was president of the Boston Stake, noticed a woman who had quietly found a space on the back row in the Weston chapel, having arrived a few minutes late for sacrament meeting. She was wearing jeans and a T-shirt and had come on her motorcycle. Sister Perry quickly sensed that the woman felt that she didn’t fit in. Everyone else was wearing their Sunday best and was sitting with their families. So Sister Perry left her family alone, went to the back pew, and asked the visitor if she would mind if she sat beside her. When the woman smiled in the affirmative, Sister Perry put her arm around her. The next Sunday Sister Perry came to church wearing Levis and a T-shirt.”
Would you judge Sister Perry so unjustly?
MVT: sounds familiar. I had a group of friends recently have a small book club about Joanna Brooks’ Book of Mormon Girl. We had a great discussion and me and my pants were discussed. Now I’m wondering which of the two 70 yo women is your friend 🙂
This is such a green-jello-funeral-potatoes-belt problem. In our ward in Northern California, no one looks twice at a woman wearing pants. All five of my nursery workers wear pants to Church every Sunday– purely practicality. Of course, two of them are men…
The only differences between a cis male and female is genitalia. Anything else is developed talents and personality. Community and culture socializes people into believing that the differences are much more vast, to the detriment of everyone involved.
On another note. I had a friend in New England who wore pants to church every winter. She had her hips replaced, and was dealing with cancer. She stopped attending the LDS church because the members of her local ward shamed her for her wardrobe. They had no consideration for the arthritis pain, and the cold temperatures’ effect on her body. The ward basically forgot her, except for the occasional project. She died of the cancer, without the fellowship of her religious community. She never failed to pay tithing, and she never lost her faith. What she lost was comfort, love, compassion, and the grace that the members chose to withhold from someone who couldn’t/wouldn’t conform to their image of what a faithful “saint” looks like.
I wear pants to church because of medical reasons. I get looks, but no one has said anything to me. I keep hoping someone will.
It is not a good ward anyway. The Bishop is great, RS President is fine…..but everyone else…..meh.
@ Megami: so sorry about your friend. I understand completely. My spouse and I have medical issues and the ward does not know we exist, even though I am at church every Sunday. In most wards a person has to be in the right clique to warrant belonging and being included………like my ward.
hawkgrrrl, thanks for bringing up the Christensen quote–that story was one of the first things I thought of, but didn’t have the book handy.
You should go back and read all my comments before you post.
“It’s your narrow-mindedness that is choosing to interpret my pants that way.”
I am not interpreting YOUR pants any way at all. I am commenting on MY decision as to whether or not to wear pants.
My choice and yours are two separate things. I choose to ride a bicycle to church for various reasons, but that doesn’t mean that I am interpreting the choice of those who choose to drive a car.
When I said that pants “now had a political agenda,” I was mostly speaking of the changing opinions following the first pants day. It was not an issue before the action nor even on the day….but folks here found out about that meaning from the many, many news stories in major outlets like the New York Times, WashPo, and AP stories appearing in local newspapers, a week or so afterward since religious news often runs on Saturday.
Also, I should add that first pants action got even more press coverage in the months that followed. It was referenced in many reports about other MoFeminist events that unfolded, used as evidence of widespread support.
It was really an awesome public relations coup, and I admire the organizers for their success. The action undeniably had political overtones at that time.
So to blame people for “not doing basic research” is not quite fair. How many national news stories have there been about subsequent pants days aimed at “unity”? Um, well….
Not all of us live in Rexburg and have access to media that covers such things. I apologize if you intended that this thread was only to be about Rexburg and you don’t care how pants plays in other parts of the world.
To erase the enduring strong connection of equality and pants made by the extensive coverage of the original action because you keep saying “unity” over and over is asking a lot.
If the organizers really want to have a different message, why didn’t they choose a different action, such as everybody wearing flower crowns in the spring? Both men and women could do that.
But choosing the same symbol on the same date–were they perhaps trying to capitalize on the previous success? And yet blame others for not doing basic research if THEY make a connection as well?
I actually share the goal of having an environment where women can comfortably wear pants whenever they want for whatever reason they want. I’ve experienced that, so I felt the loss keenly. And I think the quickest way to get there would be to stop the annual Wear Pants days.
Naismith, I can’t help thinking if it is the annual pants day that is your problem, then you ought to be able to solve it simply by wearing a skirt on that one Sunday, and return to pants for the remaining 51 Sundays.
I have been wearing pants to church since the first event in 2012 and wrote about it in my post ‘A Year in Pants’ back in 2013. I would say there is no sense of political statement to my wearing pants now, three years later. It has become normal, and others are also more comfortable wearing them, including the very elderly, devout, arthritic sister.
It strikes me that if you and your fellow sisters had carried on as though there were no pants day in the first place, it would be have been recognised that you were doing as you always did, and that it was the way in which you reacted to it that has made them political. That’s unfortunate for sure, but I don’t think you can blame those who are trying to get freedom for themselves that you had possessed, but appear to have relinquished since.
I haven’t been to church in three months.
It’s hard to really put this into written language, but I’ll give it my best shot. I’ve stepped out of the LDS mindset for a brief time and now I’m peeking back in. How do I say this?
Kristine A., people like you may be happier outside of the LDS faith. There is some percentage of LDS membership who recognize the problems in the institution and labor under the notion that by staying they can help make it better. I think after “the policy” change, the stayers need to be doing some serious questioning of that underlying assumption. This is not a malleable institution.
I would add a couple other important reasons people leave:
(3) People leave because they believe their investment of time and effort and money in the LDS faith is not really making the world a better place to live. They leave so as to not waste the short time they have on earth.
(4) People leave because they care about the moral development of their children (grandchildren) and they don’t see the LDS faith as a viable 21st century alternative (a moral code based on obedience to a few LDS authority figures). i.e. “Follow the Prophet” isn’t a good moral code in the 21st century; humanity can do better.
I heard about the protest and decided that I did not want to engage in a politicized commentary. At the same time, I reflected on my attitude and realized that I unfairly judged sisters who wore nice dress pants. (And I had been judged once for wearing dress pants to a funeral held in the gym on saturday when I’d be running around refilling water and doing service.)
I decided then to incorporate dress pants into my church wardrobe. It helped that I was a nursery leader and crawling around on the floor after toddlers is easier when I don’t have to worry about flashing everyone in a skirt.
I’ve found my ward very kind. And as I’ve explained my point of view (judgement and calling appropriate attire) most people understand and quite a few reevaluated the cultural purpose of a skirt.
Kristine, you are welcome in my ward any Sunday, wearing whatever clothes you find comfortable. And I’ll cut the tongue out of anyone’s mouth who makes an issue out of it.
Kristine A – The first year it had a mixed message. First it was about the dress code, as an expression of gender inequality:
Then the church came out with a statement, so it moved to just gender roles, a precursor to Ordain Women:
And then shifted into a message about inclusiveness:
The rhetoric for Pants has not been constant form the beginning, and suffered from mixed messages in the first year.
Trying to keep it a protest for inclusiveness means you’re just whistling in the wind – no one is arguing we should be less inclusive.
“I have been wearing pants to church since the first event in 2012 and wrote about it in my post ‘A Year in Pants’ back in 2013.”
It was a wonderful post, and I remember thinking that it made perfect sense, wearing pants every Sunday rather than as a staged event. I applaud that approach. I think that is an effective way to go about the goal of making everyone feel comfortable.
“It strikes me that if you and your fellow sisters had carried on as though there were no pants day in the first place,”
So we should ignore the sisters who worked so hard to pull off such a publicity coup? Hmmmn. Is that respectful of their efforts? Would we not be condemned for failing to listen to their pleas?
“… it would be have been recognised that you were doing as you always did,”
Let’s be clear that there is a difference between “doing” and thinking. If a kid showed up at church in pants, then the Primary teacher would still likely wear pants the next week. I don’t think anyone let any fears of confusion get in the way of compassion.
But as far as thinking, yes, the notion of wearing pants being a political act was never part of the decision-making process before that day, and so the thought process was changed. Isn’t that what the organizers intended? They were successful, so why are you criticizing us?
“….and that it was the way in which you reacted to it that has made them political.”
So we should have just blown off the comments that organizers made in the New York Times? Not taken them seriously? It’s my fault for actually listening to their explanations that it was an “action” that they WANTED to mean something?
Looking up and down this comment thread, I am not the only one who (mistakenly) thought that there were political overtones to the pants actions.
In the Southeast US, there is a current debate over whether states and municipalities should eradicate symbols of the Confederacy from their flags, seals, and grounds. Statues are being removed, flags redesigned.
But apparently it is “the way in which some people reacted to it” that has made those symbols political?
I am glad that you are wearing pants if you want. I do not care in the least what others wear or their reasons behind their wardrobe decisions. I am glad to welcome anyone who walks through our doors.
Disclaimer that I would not hesitate to wear pants if I so desired, but for me, as a bike commuter I have little interest in wearing pants–they get caught in the greasy chain, or I would look down 2 hours later and see that I had not rolled the right leg down, it was up around my knee. And I own fewer skirts than pants suits. What I wear most days to office and church is culottes, split skirts that hit below the knee.
Naismith, now I’m really confused, not that it’s taking too much to confuse me at the minute, as I’m really tired. It’s late evening here…
I thought your complaint was that you couldn’t wear trousers any more because of the political message they would send. That’s how I read it. And now you’re saying that you would if you wanted to. So which is it?
I don’t have a problem cycling in trousers myself (my bicycle has a chain guard) and for one surreal moment I was anticipating reading that you thought cycling in a skirt was easier…
I really need to go to bed. Perhaps it’ll make more sense in the morning.
“I thought your complaint was that you couldn’t wear trousers any more because of the political message they would send.”
To be fair, I only said that the effect of Pants I was “to consider what message was being sent.” The choices that each women makes is her own–but that consideration was never on the table before.
I also clarified in #46 that those feelings of politicization of pants were strongest in the months following Pants I.
This blog is the only place that I’ve had any inkling that Pants IV is happening. It’s not near as publicized, and perhaps concern over Pants I has faded. Thus I would guess that the calculus women use in 2015 is different than in 2012.
For me personally, I am not a big conformer anyway.
The fact that people still have major issues w women wearing pants to church (to me) shows it’s a worthy endeavor. I show up w my testimony of the gospel and my pants ready to serve and teach nursery and help and contribute. Me wearing pants has been a signal to others that I am a safe place to talk about things other people may judge them for. I’ve actually had a handful of people reach out to me the last two years in my local ward because they “knew I would understand.”
Well Naismith you did say you felt “that women now have fewer choices in clothing, not more” as a result of the Pants action. Granted, you didn’t say you felt you had fewer choices personally, but…
I wasn’t aware of either pants 3 or pants 4, where I am until Kristine’s post. I’m not sure it is an action as such, so much as anniversary of the original event, known only to those who had participated. So I’m really not at all sure, why, even if you had felt so initially, you still feel women have fewer clothing choices now.