Our Experience with Wear Pants to Church Day

Posted by on December 21, 2012 in Gender roles, Mormon Life, Mormon women, women | 23 comments

We’ve gathered the experience some of our permabloggers had with Wear Pants to Church Day. We’d love to hear what your experience was, no matter what you chose to do that day!

DefyGravity in Utah:
On Wear Pants to Church Day I wore gray slacks and a purple shirt. This wasn’t unique for me; I’ve been wearing pants in my Provo ward for about a year. It started with being cold and not wanting to shave my legs. But that Sunday it was about showing support for women who feel different and left out and solidarity with those who feel, as I do, that there is a need for greater gender equality in the LDS church. I also wanted to stand with the women who started the event who had been harassed and threatened for that involvement.

I was the only woman wearing pants in my ward. There were a lot of people in purple, but I don’t know if any of them knew about or supported Wear Pants to Church Day. I did not get any kind of reaction at church to my pants, which did not surprise me. I’ve only gotten two comments on them in the past year, and both were fairly positive. But I found support in my friends and family, and that support meant the world to me. My husband wore a purple shirt to church without my asking him to. A good friend of mine posted a picture on Facebook of the purple sweater and tie he was wearing. I teared up as soon as I saw it; knowing exactly what it meant even though he didn’t caption the picture. My dad told me after church that if he had known, he would have gotten a purple tie, which surprised me. My dad is one of the kindest people I know, but he is incredibly non-confrontational. His willingness to stand with me, even though he does not totally understand or agree with all of my concerns about gender inequality in the church, speaks volumes about him and his love for his family. It was nice to be reminded, in the face of death threats and cruelty from some, that there are loving and supportive people in the church.

Suzette in Virginia:
I wore pants to church on Sunday, December 16. I was surprised at how many people in my ward knew about “pants to church”. At least 6-7 people came up to me in support. Many said, “I was going to wear pants too, but xxxx” – and one said, “good to see at least one person is wearing pants today.” Three women did wear purple dresses.

I was asked to give the opening prayer in Sacrament meeting, which I did. And I met my Bishop afterward for tithing settlement. He was in full support of my pants. He told me that he considered wearing a purple tie, but since it was the Christmas program and he was on the stand, he thought it was too much. But he related to me that he told the entire ward counsel that if anyone wore pants today that she should be made to feel very welcome. It thought that was a great sign.

I did, unfortunately, have one man who was upset about my pants. He told me that I was being ridiculous and that the when the church divided on this issue, I would be on the wrong side.

EmilyCC in Arizona:
I have to wear pants when I play the organ (those foot pedals!), and I had asked in November if I could perform an organ Christmas piece on December 16th. Though I gladly would have participated in the wearing pants event on any Sunday, I was worried that my appearance on the stand this particular Sunday would look more calculated and provocative than it actually was intended to be.

All I heard were effusive compliments over my organ playing (maybe a little more effusive than usual?). I taught Primary so I didn’t see everyone, but I think I may have been the only one in dress pants. I did see a few other women in purple dresses, including my feminist friend in the ward. A few friends have asked if that was why I was wearing pants, and I’ve been lucky–they’ve all been gracious and supportive.

Also, I didn’t ask any women to wear pants, knowing that it is such an individual choice, but I did ask a few men in my family and others who I know are feminists. Every one of them gladly wore their purple ties. (My dad wore his wife’s purple scarf, too–”just so there’s no mistake about what I’m doing.”)

April in Utah:
I wore a pantsuit to church for the first time in my life on Pants Day. I live in Utah and I have never seen any woman wear pants at my local ward before, so this action was quite out of the ordinary. Yet, I am not sure that anyone noticed I was wearing pants except for my own husband, who supported me by buying himself a new purple tie and handkerchief to wear. No one treated me any differently because I was dressed differently. No other woman in my ward wore pants.

Dora in California:
I attend a rather conservative mid-singles ward. I routinely wear pants to church whenever it rains, which is not all that often in Southern California. When I first heard of Pantspocalypse, I didn’t feel strongly either way. However, the nastiness that ensued from opposers cemented my decision to wear pants on the 16th. As it turned out, it was lightly drizzling as I left my house, and I wasn’t sure that anyone would take notice of my statement.

As I entered the building, another woman held the door for me. She was wearing pants. She smiled at me, and said, “You look so beautiful today!” I smiled and replied, “So do you. I especially like your pants!”

Another women in my ward, that I am friendly with, was also wearing pants. We had a brief chat in the hallway, and I felt like I had discovered another kindred spirit in my ward. One of the politically neutral guys in the ward remarked, as me and my friend walked in, “Oh, you’re both in on the pants thing!” We all smiled.

On the whole, I think it went well in my ward. I don’t know how many people were even aware of the whole thing, but it was nice to be able to tell who was in-the-know, as well as signal to other women that I was someone who they could talk to, if they had questions about Mormon feminism, and equality within the LDS church. Generally, I think they already know this, but it was good to reinforce the idea for myself as well.

Caroline in California:
Last Sunday I was one of five women wearing pants to church in my ward. Some of these women who wore pants did so to express sympathy with women who have felt pain about women’s status and in the church and show that they support conversations about gender issues. One of my friends wore bright red pants. Her philosophy, as she said to me, was “Go big, or go home.” I think she mainly wore them to express solidarity with me, and I’m touched that she and one or two of the other women primarily put on their pants for me.

There were probably five or six men who wore purple. The handful of people who approached me about my pants were supportive, and several had heard of the movement. One older convert to the church pulled me aside and told me about how after she was baptized, she wore nice dress pants to church for a couple of months until a woman pulled her aside and told her that everyone was talking about her because of her pants. This was hurtful to her, so she roundly endorsed people trying to break this taboo.

I was disappointed to see no men in leadership wear purple, particularly since I know they were aware of the movement. But overall, it was a good day, and good conversations were sparked because of it.

Rachel (visiting) Utah:
My husband wore an unmistakably purple tie. I opted for a skirt and purple shirt for various reasons, but wore slacks immediately after church, including to a family gathering in honor of a nephew’s blessing. Both of the baby’s parents (a brother-in-law and sister-in-law) asked me if I wore pants to church. The brother-in-law’s eyes lit up as he asked. When I explained that I didn’t, he told me that he wished that I did, and that had he known about it more than a few days earlier, he would have encouraged his whole choir to wear pants during their Christmas program. My sister-in-law told me that I Could have worn pants, and that she would have supported me. It meant quite a lot, particularly because my husband’s family is rather conservative, and I did not expect any member to look kindly on this expression (however small).

Spunky, NSW Australia:
I wore bright, colourful pants. No one really noticed- but I have worn those same pants to church before. I was the only one wearing pants. It seemed to me that this was more about an American movement; I am unaware of anyone else in New South Wales who was aware of pants day. Though I am normally critical of the American-ness of Mormonism, (it is academically dubber “The American Religion”) I still see the pants event as a positive statement wherein the church and its members might better conceptualise overall equality in the institutional (and cultural) church in embracing concepts and practises such as priesthood for women, and a true, worldwide (not just American) religion.

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23 Comments

  1. After a lot of reading, sould searching, and praying, I decided against wearing my purple tie on that Sunday. The issue just felt divisive to me, but I was hoping to see if there were any pants in the Ward when I went. Just becaue it wasn’t for me doesn’t mean anyone else shouldn’t have done it. Trouble is, sitting on the stand (I direct music), I found I was spending much more time concentrating on seeing who was wearing pants than on the meeting. Not a one, that I saw, not even the women I often see wearing pants. Granted, I don’t get to go to RS to see the whole array. Still not sure how I feel about all of it.

    I mean, I’m glad of the associations I have with the many feminist women (and some men) that I’ve found here and elsewhere, and respect their wide array of opinions on many subjects, and I’I enjoy being able to bring feminist issues like this to the attention of my coworkers here at the Church History Libary (some of whom didn’t even know some women were uncomfortable with these issues), but I’m still feeling all limbo-ey (or maybe ambivelant, of two minds) about this pants thing.

    • Frank, I was ambivalent about it too initially. But seeing the vicious response from people made me decide to do it. It’s good to know that you are having these conversations with people at the Church History Library.

    • I think that a lot of people, like you, were worried about wearing pants because of the issue has the potential to cause division. I feel pretty confident, however, that the women’s suffrage protests and the Montgomery Bus Boycott were divisive, but people mustered the courage to “go big, or go home.” Wear Pants was a peaceable demonstration, and if it was distracting, upsetting, or discomfiting to some, so be it. We can no longer eschew doing what is right for doing what what won’t make anyone mad. Sometimes there needs to be divisiveness for a season for an eventual unity.

  2. I added Spunky’s response after the original post. Just so people can go back and read it!

  3. I have wanted to wear pants to church for a long time, but I’ve not wanted to bring attention to myself (I’m already only marginally active at church), so I have held back. I have also not wanted to embarrass my husband (who was recently released from the stake presidency). When I started seeing all the negative reactions to Wear Pants to Church Day, I decided I had to do it to make a statement for women’s equality. With no prompting from me, my husband also wore a purple and pink tie. His support really meant a lot to me. I sat through that meeting feeling like I did have a voice (something I haven’t felt at church in many years, if ever). I felt that with this simple act, I was saying, ‘Here I am, supporting every woman’s right to be here and to be heard.’ And there was my husband saying the same thing. To him, the fact that no one noticed or even said anything made him feel how ignored women are in the Church. So our reactions were different, but it was a very positive experience for both of us. And I will definitely be wearing pants to church again.

    • Thanks for sharing! I love your description of how wearing pants made you feel. I’m glad it turned out to be a positive experience for you and your husband.

  4. Amen to the wearing-pants-while-playing-the-organ. When I’m playing a song which requires the pedals, I have to tuck my skirt between my thighs to see my feet. It really does make a ton more sense for organists to wear pants.

  5. I don’t care what someone wears to church as long as it is nice. But to use church, and Sacrament Meeting in particular, as a venue of protest, Sisteers, you’ve lost me. That is unforgivable.

    • For many of us, it wasn’t a protest, it was simply to reach out to others of like-mindedness to say “I love you, I support you, I hear you”. I don’t think there’s much difference between pants day and celebrating mothers day at church, or wearing a pink ribbon in support of breast cancer awareness. If it were any kind of a protest for me, it was to protest the vitriol and nastiness (including death threats) that were directed towards anyone in support of pants day. If I can’t protest evil at church, where can I? Isn’t that what church is anyway? A fortification against evil in support and worship of God?

      • Annie,

        I agree with you wholeheartedly, its really an unhealthy church culture that enables people to use the scripture of God, and place of holiness to teach hate , intolerance.

        I would rather stand up to a bully in church, than to let someone go home feeling ashamed for nothing other than being different

    • When there are so many people trying desperately to explain that this is not a protest, I find it unforgivable to continue to see this situation so simplistically.

    • For most of us, it wasn’t a protest. It was a sign of acceptance and love to those who feel unaccepted. It was a show of support. If you can’t forgive a show of love and welcome, than I suppose you don’t like Mother’s Day where women wear corsages or other days where we show love by doing something different in church.

  6. Went to Christmas Eve mass at the Catholic Church around the corner from where I live. I wore sneakers, jeans, a turtleneck and a purple sweater. Guess What no one cared, in fact dozens of others were there as well wearing the same type of outfit and they were enjoying the mass, especially the kids who were acting out the nativity scene.

    That’s how it should be.

    yes, and I herd something that just about made me bite bite my lip to keep from laughing, the priest said,” okay now, just in case a couple of you had some beer before you came your not hallucinating, you really do see angels up front”

  7. I was against the vitriol. But some of the photos I saw of women in pants at church were a little too casual for my taste. This is church, not going to a movie or shopping. I feel it is a respect thing to God.

    • So would you rather people show up, or not show up because of clothing? I’m pretty sure God would rather have them there and feel welcome then be judged for their clothing and stay away.

  8. “The sisterhood of the feminist pants”. How silly this all is. It appears that you don’t really understand your religion. The Mormon church teaches and practices equality better than any other organization on this earth. I know this because it is Christ’s Church and his doctrine.

    Those of you Sisters who feel the need to be recognized through defiance don’t understand that Everything about the way the church operates is through the principal of revelation.

    We have all made covenants to obey and follow every word which proceeds from the mouth of God. This also includes his servants. I don’t remember President Monsen giving any counsel on this subject yet you feminists as you affectionately call yourselves seem to feel you own the responsibility to put yourselves up as lights to the rest of the ignorant women in the church.

    Do you realize why missionary’s all look the same? It’s so their appearance will not detract from the message and ultimately the spirit. They all look the same because they represent The Lord, not themselves or an individual cause they may espouse.

    Should sister missionary’s start wearing pants? They would be sent home, and rightly so because they would be drawing attention to themselves instead of to the gospel.

    Dear misguided feminist sisters. Your cause is your own, to vent your own frustrations and discontent with the church. If you love the church, love your covenants, love and respect your prophet, you will be happy living the role the God has assigned you which is to be mothers and to be humble, not to try and change the perfect organization of the church.

    Many of you are steps away from leaving the church and many of you already have. Is wearing pants worth that price? In the end I doubt The Lord cares if you choose to wear pants. In fact I don’t think most members even think you really understand what you believe so you get a pass.

    In the end what matters is the conflict you start, the stirred up emotions you engender, and the discontent you openly display. Until you hear the okay in General Conference from someone who holds the keys to that revelation sit down, cross your legs and focus with the rest of on what really matters, building Zion by following (not reading into) the gospel.

    Anything more or less than this comes from the adversary.

    This is not a cause to feel proud of, you are simply being deceived.

    • Adam, if you’ll forgive me using your phrase against you – “It appears that you don’t really understand your religion.”

      We are a religion of change. Women wearing pants is not against any church policy, not is it usually an attempt to gain attention by being “different”. I know several women in my Ward and Stake who regularly wear pants, and it has not detracted from the meetings or their service in any way. If pants are the best they have, then they should be wholeheartedly welcome. If the best that can be managed is a ratty bathrobe, then they should be wholeheartedly welcome (and help from the Bishop and RS President, if truly needed, close at hand).

      The main goal of most of these women (and men) is not to put themselves up as lights, but to try and help strengthen the Church by taking away these stumbling blocks we’ve set up for ourselves. If we’ve gotten ourselves to a point where people aren’t welcome in Church because of what they wear, we’ve set ourselves a very large stumbling block.

      This is not “steadying the ark” or “not following their leaders” but trying to help the leaders see the live adder in their path or helping remove the weight of tradition that has built up around their ankles like mud.

      Yes, this Church is directed by God. That does not mean that inspiration to the leaders can only come from on high. Just like for you, inspiration can come from anywhere, from reading a book that makes you reflect on your own beleifs, to listening to the concerns of one of your Sisters wondering why things are they way they are that helps you overcome a mindset that is keeping you from moving forward.

      If you think that the Church is just fine the way it is until angelicly inspired otherwise, “you are simply being decieved.”

      • Frank, you are awesome. I was tempted to take down Adam’s ridiculous comment because it violates the comment policy (it almost seems like satire of the worst within Mormonism), but I love your thoughtful reply. And besides, having both your comments up is a great example of the breadth we have within Mormonism. On the one hand, we have Adam’s perspective, which I think speaks for itself. And on the other hand we have your generous and expansive one. Thank you for being an ally.

      • Thank you Frank. The difference between your post and Adam’s does indeed show the range of belief and opinion in Mormonism, as well as the range of compassion, empathy, kindness and common sense.

    • Adam, the church has said, several times including in a recent press release, that they don’t care if women wear pants. So you yelling that we should wait for someone to say that pants are okay shows that you don’t actually know what your church has said on the issue. You also contradict yourself; you say pants are bad and we should all look alike and wait until church leaders tell us to wear pants, but then you say that God doesn’t care if we wear pants. Which is it? Might want to figure out what you actually think before you come here telling us we are wrong.

      You seem to be forgetting the many times we are told that we should not have to be commanded in all things. You can wait to be commanded; that is your right. But that behavior is often frowned upon in scripture and the modern church. You also seem to suggest that we should just follow without asking questions. That is also not what the church teaches. The church teaches us to study the scriptures, to apply them to our lives, to “read into” them if you will, to ask God questions and to pray about things that we don’t understand. We are told to pray when new leaders are brought in, to pray about what we hear in Conference, not to just “sit down, cross your legs” and obey without question. You don’t seem to understand your own church; the church I grew up was not nearly as into blind obedience and silence as you are.

      Finally, this is a church of revelation. Not just revelation for those at the top, but for everyone. We are entitled to personal revelation on this issue, and we believe we have received it. If you believe that you have the right to tell others that their revelation is wrong, you are being deceived. In no context have you been given that right or that power; you do not hold any kind of authority over the women on this page. Acting as though you do is called unrighteous dominion, something else frowned upon by the church.

      Just as we receive personal revelation in response to questions, the history of church-wide revelation shows that in most came revelation was not received until a question was asked. God often waits for leaders ask before giving information. You see that through most of the D&C. So if revelation is not being received, it is possible that the right questions has not been asked because those who lead the church have not thought to ask it. Suggestions from the members about what to ask could lead to the question being answered by God. As you are not a church leader, you do not know what questions are being asked and what are not. You are choosing to assume the church will never change; an assumption not supported by the church’s history. Policy and doctrine have changed countless times since the church began. Why would it suddenly stop? History supports the idea of the church changing, not of it staying the same. Again, you don’t seem to know your own religion.

  9. You are all Heros! You’re all defiantly “fixing” what’s wrong with the church. I like how my comment is ridiculous yet all the follow ups are gracious!

    I didn’t yell or demonize anyone, I simply pointed out that instead of complaining and trying fix our leaders you would be better served by doing your home and visiting teaching.

    My mother is a feminist who has wore pants to church for decades, she created tension and controversy wherever she went. I understand your movement very well, and pants is only the beginning.

    How about if men start wearing skirts to church? Would you be okay with that? Would that detract from the spirit of learning?

    I have never been in a ward where anyone was removed or belittled because of what they were wearing. Lets be honest, this isn’t about pants, it’s about females not having the priesthood.

    Your pant suits are simply a guise for deeper mal-content. Why else would you flock to a web site that sounds a lot like an early anti-church website call the expositor!

    I found your site by accident, I promise ill leave and not post anymore. Keep patting yourselves on the back and telling yourselves your doing the church a service.

    My mother regrets her feminist membership by the way, feminism does little more than chip away and tear down the family unit.

    I’m not yelling, I’m not angry, I don’t hate any of you. I’m simply disappointed you would use the forum you are to push your feminist agenda.

    Mormonism and feminism go together like milk and gasoline.

    • It is indeed pretty cool how your comment was ridiculous but the follow-ups to it were gracious. That’s one of the reasons I love the crowd here.

      I would absolutely be okay with men wearing skirts to church; don’t know how the leadership or membership would react, but I would absolutely be okay with that.

      Pants are a guise for deeper mal-content, but it’s not about Priesthood for all the participants. For me it was about budget inequalities between YM/YW in my ward, lack of support for camping activities for girls in my ward even though they (and I, their leader) want to do them, and the fact that my daughter’s Primary teachers tell her that I am not fulfilling my role as a mother because I teach at a university. Those things all bother me, and I want to change them – hence the pants.

      And this site is named after the early church’s Relief Society publication. If you want to beat people with early church history, it might be a good idea to learn it first.

    • Do you expect kindness to a comment full of judgement and condescending remarks? I think most of the comments have been kinder then yours was. I’m not claiming mine was, but Frank’s certainly was. Why do you expect gracious responses to rude remarks? And if you can’t handle responses to your comments, don’t comment.

      I’d be fine if men wore skirts to church. If what people wear is so distracting to you that you can’t listen in church, maybe you need to look at yourself instead of blaming everyone else.

      The Women’s Exponent has nothing to do with the Expositor. It is bringing back the Exponent, a magazine published by the Relief Society in the early days of the church in Utah. It contained church news, information about women’s suffrage (which the early Relief Society supported) and writings from LDS women. Again, do some research on church history before making bizarre connections to anti-Mormon websites.

      Many people have said multiple times why they wore pants to church. What gives you the right to ignore everything we said and tell us why we are doing something? It makes you sound like a fool; you don’t know all of us and therefore can’t speak to our reasons for wearing pants to church. And what if some of us did it to express a desire to hold the Priesthood? We have the right to that opinion. But your refusal to look at all the reasons women and men chose to be involved in this event is disrespectful and shows a huge lack of compassion. And your statement that you have never seen women ridiculed for wearing pants shows your lack of research in this event. Women received death threats for wearing pants. If you look at my original post about this event, you will find stories of women being thrown out of meetings for wearing pants. So it happens, even if you have not heard about it.

      Finally, just as you don’t get to speak for any of us, you don’t get to speak for your mother. Considering the way you have responded to us, I doubt you are representing her experience correctly. And even if you are, her experience is just that; hers. It does not apply to the rest of us. Many of us are in happy family situations. My feminism improves my marriage. I’m sorry you have had a negative experience with feminism, but if you bother to read what this and other forums say with an open mind, you might see that it does not have to be destructive. But if you insist on simplifying feminism and feminists down to something you can ridicule and dismiss, it’s not surprising you only express judgement and nastiness.

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