It’s not about the pants.

Posted by on December 13, 2012 in feminism, Policy | 37 comments

I was pleasantly surprised to hear about “Wear Pants to Church Day” in local and national news. This Sunday, many Mormon women will wear pants to church in support of gender equality and sympathetic men will also wear pants…as well as something purple, the color of the suffrage movement.

I admit that I have never worn pants to church on Sunday, although there is absolutely no policy against doing so. (There is a policy against sister missionaries wearing pants, and I have expressed my opinion about that policy here. There used to be a policy against women’s pants in the temple, but it was eliminated in the most recent edition of the Church Handbook of Instruction.)

So, since I have not ever worn pants to Sunday services before, it is quite possible that people will have questions for me when I do so this Sunday. In the good old fashioned spirit of being prepared, I have planned my talking points.

pantsQuestion: Why are you wearing pants at church?
Answer: I am wearing pants for “Wear Pants to Church Day.” LDS women across the globe are wearing pants to church today to show support for women’s equality.

Question: Why do you think women should wear pants at church?
Answer: It’s not about the pants. I don’t care whether women wear pants or skirts. I am wearing pants today to raise awareness of the need for gender equality.

Question: But men and women are equal in the church!
Answer: I believe that men and women are equal in the sight of God. However, some church policies discriminate against women. I hope that raising awareness will lead to policy change.

Question: What church policies do you want to change?
Answer: Here are some examples.  I think women should be allowed to offer prayers at General Conference.  I think widowed women and men should have equal opportunity to be sealed to their second spouses in the temple.  I don’t think the church should fire married seminary teachers when they become pregnant.

Question: Do you want the priesthood?
Answer: I would be thrilled if the priesthood were extended to all worthy members, without regard for gender. I hope that happens someday.

For more information, see

http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/blogsfaithblog/55445256-180/church-wear-lds-pants.html.csp

http://jezebel.com/5967794/mormon-feminists-under-fire-for-encouraging-women-to-wear-pants-to-church

http://bycommonconsent.com/2012/12/12/women-wearing-pants-at-church-bingo/

http://www.feministmormonhousewives.org/2012/12/more-reasons-why-you-should-wear-pants-to-church-on-sunday/

Related posts:

37 Comments

  1. Oh yay, purple! I was wondering if there was a way for men to show support also, good to know. I think whether or not I wear pants I will definitely wear purple. I pretty much agree with your talking points. I’d add to my personal list of desired changes in the future that I hope the church acknowledges that many women and men already pray to Heavenly Mother and feel they have a personal relationship with her, and consider her to be as much a part of the Godhead as Heavenly Father. It would be great if church leaders recognize that, and no longer forbid us from praying to Heavenly Mother. The LDS church is so gung-ho these days about making sure women understand their divine role, and their divine worth…that’s gonna be a pretty tough point to sell as long as they continue with the philosophical burqa surrounding Heavenly Mother. I sometimes wonder if the lack of information from church leaders about Heavenly Mother is because for so long they’ve been trying to sell a subservient backstage image of her that doesn’t exist, and because historically throughout the bible, and even in Joseph Smith’s time women’s choices were disregarded as secondary to the decisions of their husband’s. I can’t imagine a Heavenly Mother (or Heavenly Father) that would be very happy with men’s treatment of women as second-class citizens over the years. Lest anyone deem that point irrelevant, women have had a vote in the U.S. for less than 100 years, and bastions of old thinking still remain as evidenced by the whole anti-pants sentiment.

    • That is a great idea. I have heard other women who are not quite ready to don pants at church say they they would wear purple instead.

  2. This sums up my feelings SO well! The only thing is I would add to the last point “while I would love to see the priesthood extended to every worthy member, that is NOT the focus of why I’m wearing pants to church on Sunday.”

    • Yes, I actually went back and forth about whether to add that disclaimer at the end before I posted. I finally went without it in the post because I don’t believe I should have to say what I hope for with a disclaimer, especially when I am not lobbying for the priesthood, merely expressing hope. Did people expect Black men to add an asterisk when they expressed hope for the priesthood to be extended in the 70′s? Still, I may add that disclaimer when I actually answer questions at church on Sunday because I don’t want to distract from the main purpose of the event, and for some reason, Mormons get distracted if a woman casually says something about the priesthood other than, “I don’t want all that responsibility they give 12-year-old boys.”

  3. Hi,

    I’ve been a lurker here for about a month, reading some current and some old things here. It’s been great to read everyone’s posts, comments, and experiences because I’ve been frustrated lately and trying to figure out who I am as a single, progressive, feminist Mormon in my late 20′s and where I fit in with the church, my family, etc. My political views have changed a lot in the last few years and I’ve become more of a feminist than I was before, though still figuring out where I sit on quite a few issues.

    Anyway, relating to the Wear Pants Day, I came across a bunch of comments on a Facebook Mormon meme page about it. I can’t even finish reading all the comments because they’re getting me too riled up and I’m floored. I don’t understand why people react this way or have to call others stupid or idiots. There are some great comments there, but others… I just don’t even know.

    https://www.facebook.com/MormonProbs/posts/411270698942596

    I really appreciated this post that stated the intent of the day in a clear-cut fashion. And again, Exponent II has been wonderful to lurk around, just to know I’m not the only woman in the church who thinks a little differently!

    • Aha! And now I see I missed the other post discussing similar comments all over the place. Not that that’s really comforting.

    • Calliope, welcome to Exponent! We are glad to have you.

      And yes, so many of the opposers comments are unnecessarily vitriolic. It is actually hard to comprehend.

      • Thank you, Rachel. :)

        Those kinds of remarks from fellow church members always leaves me wondering whether I should laugh, cry, or check to see if I’ve crossed into an alternate dimension…

    • Welcome Calliope! I love to hear from lurkers!

      With regards to the nastiness, I think a big part of that is the nature of the Internet can sometimes facilitate unfortunate tone. Given the strong social norms for niceness at church, i personally do not anticipate that kind of nastiness at the actual event on Sunday.

      • Thank you! I usually lurk because there’s multiple people who say it better than I can. ;)

        I suppose part of it can be attributed to the nature of the internet, and how no one is taught netiquette anymore, but still.

        I would be very surprised to hear if there was any in-person nastiness about this. In my experience, many Mormons are better at judging in whispers behind your back.

    • Yeah, my husband, in an attempt to keep me in the loop, sent me the Facebook page so I could read about the wearing pants event. After getting sucked in, I spent the rest of the day angry and agitated. I don’t know why people get so aggressive when it is only about gender equality. I guess when you support the status quo you feel threatened when others aren’t as ok with it. I would not suggest that anyone go to the Facebook page unless you are feeling feisty, or you would like to know what we may be up against.

  4. I’ve worn sturdy walking shoes with pants under a jumper to church ever since a stay in England where getting to the chapel meant a trip on the Underground and then a half-mile walk. I never got out of the habit even after coming home to my east bench Provo ward. So this Sunday, I’ll be wearing my usual purple jumper with pants underneath. Nobody in my ward would think anything of it, since that’s what I always wear, but I’m visiting another sacrament meeting for a mission farewell. It would be interesting to see if anyone reacts, but oblivious as I am to social niceties, I probably won’t notice.

    My first impression as I read about the event was the same as others have expressed – what silliness! – but the more I think about it, the more it tickles my fancy. It is SO well-behaved and non-transgressive as a political action – how stereotypically Mormon. And I don’t get too upset about vitriol on the Internet, no matter its source, because that’s what anonymous commenting will give you, unfortunately – trolls and misogynists and ultimately the death-threats. I’ve seen it play out in other forums. Disappointing that it happens among my coreligionists.

    • Yes, I do think it ironic that women are demonstrating by attending church, participating in our callings, without any pickets or noise, while dressed in perfect accordance with church guidelines, and somehow this kind of a well-behaved action is still outside the norm enough to get attention.

  5. Wonderful post, April! I will be wearing a purple ribbon to church in solidarity.

    Gender inequality hurts everyone, women and men alike. It seems highly likely to me that our Heavenly Parents want the church to develop everyone’s potential and make full use of everyone’s talents.

    • Isn’t it up to the individual to develop their talents, I know alot of very lazy Members, changing some of these policies will only allow selfish and proud people to bastardise the lords work

      • How do you figure that?

  6. I would also like to see you agitate for fair pay for women at church run institutions. (BYU has a bad habit of paying female employees less. For example, I studied under the [tenured] head of a department, but because her husband was also teaching there, she was to be paid less than her husband… in spite of having a longer history as a tenured teacher, and being the department head.)
    I have heard similar things from employees of the CES, and PBO.

    • Yikes! I had no idea such things were happening. Would you be willing to submit a guest post about your experience at BYU?

      • I second April’s suggestion. That’s an important piece. Thanks for sharing, Allan.

    • Oh, that makes me mad. I agree on the guest post idea.

  7. Are you kidding me? When will you ladies get that the members aren’t in charge of changing these policies? God is in charge and the prophet is his mouth piece! If you question policies then pray for understanding bc that’s the only way you can be okay with them! Men and women were created differently, let it be! Why should we be the same??? Embrace our differences, respect it! Quit wasting time on silly things! Invest your time in issues that need fixing!!

    • Maybe it seems to you that we are advocating for sameness because some women and men will be wearing the same article of clothing this Sunday. But as the title of the post declares, it’s not about the pants. Pants are simply a symbolic (and fully within keeping of Church standards!) means of expressing a wish for greater visibility and fuller participation of women in the worship, service, leadership, and teaching in the church. We all know women and men are not the same. Feminists do not want to be men. What we want is a removal artificial, anachronistic limitations on our ability to contribute and thrive.

    • This event isn’t trying to change policies, Brandi. It’s trying to show that there are people (women and men) who are hurting.

      I think we both agree…God is in charge and God will speak through the prophet, but God also works through us all and we are all entitled to personal revelation. I hope you’ll consider that many of us have made this a matter of thoughtful prayer as we’ve questioned policies and cultural practices. Sometimes, the answer is not a peaceful understanding and acceptance of things we do not understand. Sometimes, the answer is to work for change.

    • Brandi,

      Brandi, there is not any church policy regarding women wearing pants to church. Women have been able to wear pants to church for years without violating church policy (see the church handbook where it indicates only modest clothing should be worn). It is because God is in charge and he does NOT care about whether women wear pants in church that I find it interesting that you are wasting your time arguing about something you appear not be very uneducated about. It might help to take the time to actually learn what the policies are before you begin lecturing everyone about “God is in charge” because since that is your argument you clearly must agree with Him that wearing pants to church really is not a problem, because He does not seem to think it is.

  8. Obviously the issue goes WAY past wearing pants to church. I have known women for ages who have worn pants to church. And while it is not the social norm, its really not a big deal. I have also known men who don’t wear a tie or a white shirt to church – its basically the same thing.

    The real issue is perceived equality. I agree the Church should pay equal salaries for equal work. If the Church isn’t doing that, it is a scandal just waiting to jump out and bite someone hard.

    On the doctrinal issues, you can either pray for understanding and acceptance so you can move on or wallow in the mire of these issues and lose sight of the bigger picture.

    Everyone has their hurdles to overcome – for some its alcohol, drugs, porn, abuse, or something else. And for some its humbling themselves to the will of God in all things, whether or not you understand it or agree with it.

    Where is it written a white shirt MUST be worn to pass the sacrament? Yet I have seen boys turned away from passing it because they are not wearing one. Its a minor thing, just like giving prayers at GC.

    Some of the doctrinal issues you kick against are major issues. Ones which will probably not be decided in this life, if ever. So have faith and don’t fight it. If they are to be changed, it will be in God’s time, not ours. Focus on getting yourself to where you need to be and everything will work itself out in the end.

    • I disagree that we only have to options; to accept or to wallow. This event is an example of a third option; to act. To see inequality and try to do something about it. Most, if not all of the women involved in this event and in Mormon feminism in general, have prayed and feel that God supports their efforts to make the church more equal.

      How do we know this is not God’s time? How do we know this is not the method God has chosen to use to bring attention to these issues? We don’t know the mind of God, so we can’t assume that because things are a certain way that God wants them that way. If you look at church history, generally revelation was not provided until a question was asked. So if the questions are not being asked, God could be waiting until they are. And since the people asking the questions for the whole church are male, it may not occur to them to ask questions about women’s place in the church. President Hinckley said there was no agitation from the sisters in the church. He thought it was a non-issue. Now we are showing it is an issue for some of us, something that the men leading this church don’t know. So this might be just what is needed for the questions to be asked to allow God to change things.

      • Yes! This, all the way!! This is probably the biggest reason I support this movement, thank you for expressing this so well!

  9. I agree with the majority of the points in this article, except the remark about the Priesthood. I find that offensive and apostate. Women have their role in the Masters plan, if EVERYONE just got on with the job they have been alotted, we wouldn’t have these kind of issues. lets not muddy the waters as to what GOD has extended to either his sons and daughters.

    • Joe, it is bad form to call “apostate” when you don’t agree with someone, but since you are new here, I am going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you bring this up because you do actually want to engage in a meaningful conversation about women, the priesthood, and apostacy. I understand that it is difficult to listen (or read) carefully when a woman says something about female ordination, because our culture has such strong social norms that lead us to shut up such women. I have written a whole post about that subject here: http://www.the-exponent.com/i-want-cant-say-it/ However, I want you to try again to read what I said, even though our shared cultural norm would make shutting me up your first instinct.

      I said, “I would be thrilled if the priesthood were extended to all worthy members, without regard for gender.” In other words, if the prophet were to make such an announcement, I am ready for it, and I would be happy. What if I had said the opposite? “I would be horrified if the priesthood were extended to all worthy members, without regard for gender.” In this case, I am saying that in such a scenario, I would not be ready and it would be hard for me to follow the prophet. I do not think that either sentiment is apostate, but I do not think it is a problem that I fall into the first category.

      I said, “I hope that [female ordination] happens someday.” Here, I am expressing hope for a doctrinal/policy change from the status quo, but in a church that believes in continuing revelation, I do not see how this is apostacy. I have heard many non-apostate members express wishes that have not yet come to pass and may not ever happen. Take these examples: “I hope that we get to read the sealed scriptures someday.” “I hope a temple is built in my hometown someday.” “I hope to live to see the second coming.”

      Notice that I did not demand female ordination, nor did I threaten to harm the church, or even leave the church, if my wish is unfulfilled and I did not encourage anyone else to do so, either. I am not even lobbying for ordination. I am just raising awareness about the broad spectrum of issues surrounding equality in the church and being honest about my hopes.

      Not all the women who support gender equality believe that female ordination is necessary to achieve that aim, or even want ordination, and I respect that. Many of my female colleagues who will wear pants to church on Sunday to support equality are not interested in ordination, and that is fine. I am not pushing for ordination, but if it happens someday, I will be thrilled, and I don’t mind saying so.

  10. Nobody should be offended with the initiative these women are having. Knowing what I do about the Gospel and the Priesthood, I do believe it is a lack of both understanding and testimony to rise up in this way. These women are both aiming at the wrong target as well as trying to change things I think cannot be changed. If you are a devoted member I would think you would ask God and not protest to the prophet. Also, (I wish I could say this carefully) it sounds like people want to council God instead of trying to understand his. I have always found the Priesthood to be an encouragement for marriage. I think it would hurt families to give it to everyone. Also, I figure most would think if this is God’s church Eternity will be both fair and make sense when we get there. Wrongs will be righted. Those who are offended at these women do a poor job of being concerned that they will leave the church. I am not sure anger makes people want to stay. Plus, they need to consider the reason they want people to stay. Just so they can be right? Or because they care? I suggest this initiative is like going to a Furniture store and asking a 16 year old who works in the back to change it into a grocery store.

    • I appreciate your comments about anger being an inappropriate we for church members to respond the the women participating in this event. Because you’re right that it’s certainly not a good way to send the message that you want people to stay.

      That said, I do want to suggest that you not make assumptions about others’ personal relationships with God. You suggest that we do not pray, that we don’t seek God’s counsel. Why? Simply because we have reached conclusions other than your own as we do so? Because I assure you that most of us do seek God’s counsel and feel his guidance, along with that of our Mother, as we seek greater equity in the church. Isn’t it possible that those who want to cling to the status quo are also trying to put themselves in God’s place, judging their fellow saints and declaring what is and is not possible in the church? There were many saints who did not think the church would ever extend the priesthood to black men and declared it God’s will that it would never happen. It seems to me a foolish thing to try to decide for God, even based on what you think he has alread said, what he can and can’t do with his church.

    • It is interesting that several people have suggested the women involved in this should pray. That suggests that we haven’t. That’s a pretty big assumption to make. Why do you assume that disagreeing with the church means a lack of relationship with God? Most of us have prayed and have been told that God is okay with what we are doing. You seem to be assuming that because we don’t agree with you, your relationship with God is stronger than ours, that you know God’s mind better than we do. You don’t have the right to that assumption; all you know is what God wants for you, not for the rest of us.

  11. I was talking about this to my friend this past weekend, the Relief Society President when I was still a member, she reminded me that she always asked me to give either opening/closing prayer in RSP even though I wore pants and I said “yes, you did, but, never was I allowed to do that in Sacrament meeting when I was wearing pants” and she never noticed or equated that to my wearing pants, yet, on the rare occasions when I did wear a skirt, I was asked to give a opening prayer in sacrament meeting?

  12. You are an inspiration! I hope you have a positive experience and that our actions don’t go unnoticed :)

  13. This is a really dangerous line of thinking. This type of attitude is exactly how people become bitter with church and go off and start another. If this becomes a formal group and not just a philosophy then you are flirting with open rebellion against the church.

    The stuff about unequal pay and getting fired for becoming pregnant are cultural problems, not the church. The unequal pay is a problem for all women member or not, and same for short people and unattractive people. There is just an unconscious bias that many employers have for the “ideal” candidate. It’s good to remind employers to be fair, but it’s not wise to determine the truthfulness of the church based on imperfect Utah culture.

    As for the priesthood, that is a doctrinal issue which shouldn’t be mixed with cultural issues. No protest is going to change that, either there is a revelation to change that or there is not. Different roles does not = inequality.

    • How do you figure that a male only priesthood is a doctrinal issue and not also a cultural issue? Priesthood was first given to men in a time period when women were basically seen as the possessions of men. Throughout the Bible, women were almost invisible as spiritual leaders and almost all of our scriptural texts are written by men. Even in Joseph Smith’s time, the choices of women were seen as secondary in importance to the choices of their husbands, and it bled into the doctrine (see D&C 132). Women are still seen in many countries as possessions. Women in the U.S. have only had the right to vote for 92 years and bastions of old thinking remain. Past cultural ideas about women definitely bled into past religious practices, and still color LDS doctrine. God does not teach principles to mankind that they have not the ability to comprehend. He teaches line upon line. I believe in bible times the cultural ideas about women were so rudimentary that many men could not even comprehend Heavenly Father having a truly equal female companion, our Heavenly Mother, and could not comprehend women as spiritual equals, let alone authorities. I believe that’s still the reason why women are not given the authority to use their priestesshood in a routine capacity in the LDS church. We know that we have a Heavenly Mother, we know from temple ordinances that women are to become priestesses. I don’t believe it is God holding us back, but that mankind’s limited understanding is. I think(hope) we’re getting closer to a more Godlike understanding.

    • Cory, I appreciate your concern about my alleged slippery slope toward apostacy. Please see this earlier comment about why I do not think what I said should be construed as apostate. http://www.the-exponent.com/its-not-about-the-pants/comment-page-1/#comment-152903

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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