Wearing Pants to Church

Posted by on December 12, 2012 in feminism, Gender roles, Mormon Life, Mormon women, women | 57 comments

Recently several women have been created an event called Wear Pants to Church Day. The event page on Facebook asks LDS women to wear pants to church on Sunday December 16 to show “solidarity for women’s equality… This is the first act of All Enlisted, a direct action group for Mormon women to advocate for equality within our faith.” The description continues “We are feminists. We do not seek to eradicate the differences between women and men, but we do want the church to acknowledge the similarities. We believe that much of the … inequality that persists in the LDS church today stems from the church’s reliance on – and enforcement of  – rigid gender roles that bear on relationship to reality.” This event is also an attempt to stand with women who feel they don’t fit in, to show that everyone is welcome, even if they don’t look like everyone else. (Note, while women who write for the Exponent, including myself, are participating, this event is not sponsored by The Exponent.)

When I first heard about this event, I rolled my eyes. I’ve been wearing pants to church for a year, and haven’t gotten any negative reactions, even thought I live in the heart of Utah Valley. I figured it was a moot point that no one cared about. But then I started reading reactions to the event, and realized this is actually a big deal, because the negative responses to something as simple as something pants has been huge. And I find that disheartening and a little frightening.

In reading through various comments left on the event page, I see several trends. The first is that wearing pants makes women masculine, and thus denies the God-given differences between men and women. This idea seems to only exist at church, as most women wear pants every other day of the week and aren’t called masculine or accused of trying to be men. Some examples of this mentality are listed below. (I’ve copied the comments directly from the website, with only occasional edits for length or when parts of a comment fit into two different trends)

“I don’t appreciate this at all! Wearing a dress is a feminine fashion statement why do we have to wear masculine pants to church to prove we are equal? It is our differences that make life so great. I enjoy being a woman and being able to wear a dress to show that off is a blessing.”

 

“This “Day” to me shows lack of gospel knowledge and maturity for all those involved. I, for one, am against gender neutrality.”

 

“Its our differences that make us women…I love wearing a beautiful dress to church to show God how grateful I am for my womenhood…for my uniqueness…for my place in life.”

 

“Men and women are different, to compliment each other, not compete with each other.”

 

“God sees farther than we can at our viewpoint. I trust the Lord and his wisdom. And I dress to show my respect for the Lord when I attend Church.”

 

“And secondly, as women of faith, why do you feel the need to take a stand on women’s “equality” when you know that women should not be treated the same as men? We’re DIFFERENT! Always have been, always will be and always should be. Femininity is something to value and cherish. Instead of demanding to be treated like a man, you should be demanding that others respect your right to be a woman who is modest, confident and strong without flaunting her gender.”

The second trend I’ve noticed is comments about not wanting the Priesthood, even though the event descriptions says nothing about holding the Priesthood. It seems that some are equating wearing pants with holding the Priesthood.

“It was like a whole other world on the “going” wall. They were talking about how they want to hold the priesthood. It is so sad to see how our members have become so worldly they can not accept God’s will. I love being a woman and I love my role as a woman. And darnit, I really like super cute heels! It is just sad to see Satan getting such a hold on the ladies of Zion.”

 

“When Joseph Smith was the propeht, he did give blacks the priesthood. No one really knows when or why it stopped. The important thing is that the issue was finally taken to the Lord in prayer and once again, all worthy males are allowed to hold the priesthood. In the Bible, God NEVER gave priesthood to women.”

 

“As for the pants issue…it’s not just about wearing pants for a lot of people I think. If it were then more power to you, wear pants! However, if its not just about pants, and its more about wanting the responsibility of the Preisthood all I can say is search it out for yourself. Read and ask, I for one have a testimony of the family proclamation. We are given roles in this life and talents by which to achieve them. I am not the type of wife to sit back and let my husband tell me what to do (just ask him) but I do respect his role as patriarch and Preisthood holder in my home, and I love him and all worthy men for their willingness to carry that responsibility.”

 

“these “rebellious, immature” women are making women look bad, grow up! you don’t see men bawling and protesting because they can’t bear children. this is so immature and childish.” (I’m assuming this is equating Priesthood and motherhood, and saying that since women can have children they should not complain about having the Priesthood.)

There was also the sense that the women attending this event had weak testimonies and that wearing pants is the first step to apostasy.

“I am so deeply saddened by this event. I think it should have been called “Past, Present and Future LDS Apostates.” God’s ways are not our ways. Our gender roles are divine and ordained by God. Please so not feel that you need to liberate me. I am quite happy thank you. I have tried out the other side and this one is better!”

 

“ANY FEMALE writing on this post who says they are tired of the church giving women no rights/authority etc is straight up saying YOU are smarter, more intelligent, and better than god. Your crappy statements are no different than those made by non-members/members who think they know better than the Lord. GAIN a REAL TESTIMONY and move on. If you have a testimony of the restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints through the Prophet Joseph Smith by the Lord, then there is no further debate on the woman rights/authority issue. The STRUCTURE of the church IS perfect. Again, quit your bitching and move on .” (From a man)

 

“10 years ago, when my testimony was weak, I probably would have thought this women holding the priesthood thing was great. Now I know that I don’t need to personally hold the priesthood. This event is trying to put their own will ahead of God’s will… I am tired of you bullying every woman who has a strong testimony and is happy with the lot God has given.”

 

“As for the symbol it apparently holds for some, I fear that you are on a very slippery slope.”

The final trend I noticed was the notion that it is disrespectful for women to wear pants to church, that it was a sign of disrespect to God. Many also seemed to believe that it is a church rule that women must wear dresses to church. This is interesting, considering that the Church Handbook of Instructions says nothing about women wearing skirts, nor are there any recent comments about the necessity of dresses from church leaders. The policy seems to be “The Church has not attempted to indicate just how long women’s or girls’ dresses should be nor whether they should wear pant suits or other types of clothing. We have always counseled our members to be modest in their dress, maintaining such standards in connection therewith as would not be embarrassing to themselves and to their relatives, friends, and associates.” (Priesthood Bulletin, June 1971.) The same is true of the temple; to my knowledge the current policy is, don’t say anything about what people are wearing and let them in.

“I feel like this is like the men in church saying “Forget the suits, let’s wear scrubs today.” We wear our best and nicest to show respect and reverence for the Lord.”

 

“Heavenly Father set the standards so who am I to try and go against him. We all look nice in our suits and dresses. God bless the differences. Just my opinion :)”

 

“I am an active member of the church and I view the church is not just a building to worship, but the Lord’s House, and I should look my best for hm, my Savior think about that. Pants show what? Too Lazy to get a skirt? I am too lazy to show respect for my Lord. Sunday treated just like any other day..”

 

“Ask yourself this- would they let you in the temple that way- no they wont. So why loosen your standards when you partake of the sacrement then.”

 

“This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen! I am Laughing Out Loud at you people next Sunday when I dress my daughters and I in dresses to show respect to my savior and his church.”

 

“I guess the question to ask is would Heavenly Father want me wearing this in his church. It’s not about what women want or men want it’s about what HE wants.”

 

“Heaven forbid you should dress respectfully when you go to worship at the house of The Lord. If you feel oppressed by wearing a dress or skirt then that says more about your insecurities than anyone else’s.”

 

“It is a rebellion against God like a little immature 2 year old saying “oh yeah well i’ll show you and we are going to get a bunch of people to show you as well” so RME right now at all these poor insecure women who for some reason feel like they have to prove some kind of point as a group. get some confidence stand by yourself and wear what you think is respectful in a church setting. that is it. and those that say they r just doing it only after they saw all the negativity well get a little more confidence as well and be a little more mature and turn away and say so what. grow up and get some confidence already people!”

What I found most distressing were stories of women being turned away from meetings or having other repercussions because they were wearing pants, including these:

“My Grandmother was denied entrance to a sacrament meeting on Easter Sunday cause she wore a paint-suit to Church. Mind you she wore them cause she had two hip surgeries and the paint-suit was more comfortable for her to wear as she sat in a pew. Even as a humble primary kid I knew it was wrong. That awful experience still sickens me years later.”

 

“On my mission, we had an investigator show up to church in pants. She was verbally criticized bythe myopic relief society president in her choice of apparel. didn’t come back. can ya believe it?”

 

“People don’t make that big of a deal of woman wearing pants where I’m from… you may just not be offered certain callings.”

 

“A few weeks after I was baptized at age 19, I was giving my first talk in the Singles Ward, and I wore my favorite dressy outfit: a white pant suit. After Sacrament Meeting, the bishop (great guy, I have few complaints) called me in to his office and gently taught me that women should not wear pants to church. I never did again. And I live in Kansas City, not some podunk backwards town. This was in 1999.”

 

“I remember this one time a woman wore pants to church. She was new at being a mormon. Then everyone looked down and her and judged her for doing so. She was embarrassed and felt shunned. Maybe wearing pants at church will get people to stop being such judgmental jerks at church.”

 

“I got in a fight with a Bishop in a ward in Brasil because they wouldn’t let a sister in the ward pray in church because she was wearing a pants suit. It still bothers me. So if ya’ll want to wear pants to church go for it. I think it ridiculous that this is even an issue.”

I find this policing of women’s clothing disturbing. The idea that women are unworthy, unrighteous, or disrespectful simply because they choose pants over skirts is wrong to me. I realize there are many women who love wearing skirts to church: they are comfortable, they like the chance to dress up, they feel more reverent in a skirt. The same can be said of pants. There are as many legitimate reasons to wear a dress as there are to wear pants to church. And the church does not have a dresses only policy. So why do members care so much? Why do they find it so necessary to attack women for the simple choice of wearing pants? Why do the people who wrote and liked these comments feel so justified in questioning testimonies, calling to repentance and mocking those around them over the simple issue of pants?

I have chosen to attend this event because I believe that women have the right to wear whatever will make them comfortable to a religious service, whatever will help them feel the presence of God (within legal limits of course.) without others inferring things about their testimonies. I am personally more comfortable in pants, and appreciate the gesture of this event to make women who feel they don’t fit the norm feel accepted. I want to stand with them in saying “we’re glad you are here, no matter what.” I want to show that my clothing, and the clothing of the women around me, do not make us righteous or unrighteous, respectful or disrespectful, faithful or unfaithful. It is time that we stop judging the righteous of others based on what they choose wear.

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57 Comments

  1. The first time I went to the temple to do baptisms for the dead, as an utterly clueless 12-year-old, I wore jeans. I figured it wasn’t like church, and I’d be changing my clothes anyway. The fact that no one said anything—not my YW leaders, not the other girls, not anyone in the temple—is one of the reasons I’m still here.

  2. I wore pants all the time when I went to church, mostly, because on a Sunday, especially in the winter time buses are never on time and by the time I get to church (a half an hour early, to make sure I’m there on time)no one said anything, but, I will say, that on those days I was never asked to give a prayer or participate.

    • I like wearing pants in the winter, and when I don’t want to shave my legs. I hate shaving my legs.

      It’s interesting that you had an impact on whether you were asked to participate. That seems rather sad.

      • On not shaving your legs, I’m an Italian girl, I understand completely, in the summer time my legs look the Sherwood forest if I don’t shave.”nuff said.

  3. My thoughts on this event were the same as yours DefyGravity. I thought “Isn’t it ok to wear pants to church? I’ve heard of women wearing pants to church. I certainly wouldn’t wear pants to church but I wouldn’t judge someone else for it”. And then I asked myself why I wouldn’t occasionally wear pants to church. I love wearing dresses. I love being a woman and wearing heels, and church is one of the only places I get the chance to do that…But I’ve definitely considered it on cold days or days when I feel more sensitive to the elements like when I’m sick or on my period. I’ve thought about how nice it might be to wear dress pants to church. Why didn’t I? The answer is: Fear of judgment. I’m actually shaking at the thought of committing to wear pants to church.

    The worst case scenario in my head is social suicide: being labeled as an apostate, feminist (in the negative sense that so many people think the term implies) or other members thinking that by supporting other women’s desires to wear pants to church I’m saying that women who wear dresses or skirts to church are un-conciencious dips (which I wouldn’t be saying). With my tendency towards social anxiety and my appropriately LDS tendency of equating priesthood leadership with Godly authority of which I have none, I think a gentle reprimand from a church leader would even rock me pretty hard. Just the fear of finding out that leaders and members of the church really would judge me based on my wearing of pants to church is disheartening. I’m still not sure if I’d be willing to do it. That’s pretty sad. If I do it, it will be to hopefully prove positive that I’m just being paranoid.

    • Annie B., thanks for sharing your thoughts. It makes me sad that something so simple as pants can be so frightening. The first time I wore pants to church I was terrified; looking back on that it seems so strange. I’ve never been worried about my clothing in any other situation.

      Good luck with whatever you decide, and don’t feel pressured to do something that doesn’t work for you.

  4. Here is a great podcast interview with the women who are leading this movement: http://www.theculturalhallpodcast.com/2012/12/wear-pants-to-church-day-live-interview/

  5. You know I find this conversation a little odd. Mostly, because the standards of dress (as well as polygamy) were introduced my men and yet, the most critical comments about the event are not coming from men, they are coming from other women,

    Not sure what to make about that, other than maybe that’s the way women in the church either subconsciously/consciously get their control, by being both passive aggressive and aggressive in the same breath. One hand trying to advocate for change, while the other questioning the motives by making statements how they don’t see the need, or there’s no room for contention at church. I don’t really know how to verbalize what it is that I find this behavior so disturbing.

  6. One of the most disheartening parts of today was opening Facebook this morning and seeing all the AWFUL comments on my FB wall – one of my friends had posted the link to the story from KSL and then commented that well then, those feminists just want to be men – why don’t they grow beards and sing bass and etc. I was disheartened. That’s NOT what it’s about or what it stands for, she obviously did not read more about the issue or even want to TRY to learn more about the issues – many about policies and NOT doctrine issues. And the comments got worse from there. Right into the judging of people’s testimonies and how any thoughts they have must be from Satan. Sad, sad, sad.

    I was very upset by the “they just want to be men” discussions because that’s been the argument against every feminist movement ever – recently someone even wrote an article about anti-suffragette trading cards/post cards* where one of the main complaints was how women just wanted to be men. sigh. Can’t we be over that argument by now. It’s the 21st century – we’ve had the vote for almost 100 years (so close!)

    I find it completely astounding sometimes, that we are a church that believes in personal relevation, and yet we so often discount other’s experiences by questioning their testimony, making them “the other” just for asking questions or being different or having different viewpoints. I also find it strange that when people question certain aspects of our religion people totally freak out. We are a religion based on one child asking questions. It confuses me sometimes and disheartens me most of the time. sigh …

    *You can see some great images if you google anti-suffragette post cards there are images, but I like the little article that buzzfeed put together.

    • It amazes me that wearing pants means you want to be a man; do none of these women wear jeans?

      I’ve noticed a complete lack of desire to understand in many of the threads, as though anything, even something that is not church policy, must be defended to the death. We seem to have switched from a church that asks questions to one that cannot have any.

  7. When I looked at the page, the only comments I saw were people saying an event about wearing pants to Church was wrong because it was turning Sacrament Meeting into a political event. I’m not sure where you saw the comments you posted here, and I didn’t scour the facebook page looking for examples, but when I was there almost all the events were at least 3/4th’s if not more “This is wrong because it’s political, not because it’s pants.”

    • I’ve noticed that trend, but it was not there when I wrote the original piece. The trends there are changing quickly, but this is what they were when this piece was written.

    • If I participate in this event and wear pants, it will not be as an act of defiance, but because I want to support women who have worn pants to church out of necessity or personal preference and been turned away or barred from participating in opening/closing prayer and such. I hope that is the main reason for others participating but I can’t speak for others on why they are choosing to participate.

      I agree that the event as a political move is off-putting, but women have been speaking up about things like this outside of worship services with little to no acknowledgement. It’s our worship service too. If we have no voice in our place of worship then what is the point?

      • I personally feel that the reasons you mentioned are among the best reasons for those who might be interested in participating.

        I am also quite pleased with my previous ward, which included women giving talks and closing sacrament prayers while wearing pants.

      • Annie B., I totally agree with you. Especially the idea that this is our worship service too, so we have a right to a voice as much as anyone else.

  8. I haven’t posted much on the page, but I had a bad experience wearing pants to church. My bishop’s wife felt it was inappropriate and disrespectful, and I believe how it went down is that she asked her husband to call me in to talk to me about it. Eventually, it led to me being released from my calling, since the bishop was uncomfortable with me being the Primary chorister and wearing pants in front of the children. I wasn’t offended or bitter, but it did make me feel like the church didn’t have a place for me. I will be going to church this Sunday specifically to support this event. I haven’t been in a while, but it’s something that has directly affected my life. Gender roles, equality and LGTB rights make up the majority of my struggles with the church.

    • That story makes me sad, because it didn’t need to happen. A convert I know in Minnesota wears pants each Sunday, including those Sundays she stands in front of the whole ward to (very exceptionally) lead the choir.

      It also reminds me of one of the simultaneously best and worst parts about the church, and that it is led by lay leaders, who for the most part try the best they can, but sometimes make unfortunate (and sometimes hurtful) mistakes. It also reflects how local wards and branches occasionally has more influence than the overall church, which in this case has stated that we are to wear our best, and left it up to us to interpret what that means.

      In the MTC my branch president’s wife told me that my bangs were inappropriate. I smiled as politely as I could, while inside I was slightly burning. I kept my bangs and got out of there (happily) two weeks later.

      • Inappropriate bangs? What does that look like?

        I had an MTC teacher (not mine) call me out for wearing white cotton socks and lace-up brown shoes. I thoroughly enjoyed asking her, “Then how should I treat the athlete’s foot problem I got from the showers?”

    • That makes me sad too. I wore pants when I taught Primary and didn’t hear word one. I got garbage for other things, but not that. I agree it’s a lay leadership problem; each leader will react differently.

      And Libby, bangs? Wow. My husband got crap for wearing an orange tie on his mission. Then an apostle wore one in General Conference so he put his back on. :)

  9. Here’s a new comment on the site that left me slack-jawed (from a man named David Waite):

    “every single person who is a minority activist, should be shot.. in the face… point blank… GET OVER YOURSELVES….”

    • Oh sorry! His name is Travis James Richardson! Not David Waite. (Where did I even get that? Sorry people named David Waite!)

    • I’ve seen other death threats too. Really? It’s that big of a deal? That’s beyond frightening.

  10. It is sad that there are women in this church who feel that they are oppressed because they have been asked to wear dresses to church. I personally would never ask anyone to leave the chapel because of what they are wearing but it is up to the missionaries and church leaders to instruct those who dress inappropriately that this is the way we are asked to dress and leave it at that. When Adam was asked why he gave sacrifices his response was he didn’t know but that he was asked to. He was blessed because he was obedient even though he didn’t understand why. I think that the way we dress is another example of a test of obedience. We may not understand why women are asked to dress in dresses and skirts for church but if we are obedient we will be blessed.

    • That’s the typical response that I’ve been seeing, and here is truth of the matter, Wearing pants is not about how women in the Church feel oppressed. At least, its not for me, its that Men in the church are continuously, trying to tell women How we should dress. I am not an infant, I am not a toddler, I am not a teenager. I am a 47 year old woman, with a fully developed mind, who is fully capable of making my own decisions about how to dress. There are some troubling statements in your response to the event. There is nothing in the Church Handbook of Instructions that says men/missionaries are responsible for teaching women how to dress, absolutely, unequivocally nothing. Missionaries are responsible for teaching about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and converting people to the cause. Not for disciplining peoples children as I have seen in my Branch, and certainly not for telling women how to dress(I would have no problem telling a 18/21 male to go hell if he tried)

      If having the men in the church tell you how to dress appropriately than yea for you( I mean it with all sincerity) but please don’t assume,nor question my righteousness because I not only look better, but, feel better wearing pants.

    • Who has asked us to wear dresses? It’s a Utah cultural thing, nothing official. “Sunday best” can be a lot classier in a pantsuit than a denim or floral skirt.

    • I respectfully disagree with you. I am not an organizer, and may not even be a participator, so cannot speak for those two groups, but one of the many points that I have gathered is that no one HAS asked us to wear skirts or dresses. That is one thing they are calling attention to. It appears to be the command because in many wards/stakes/areas it is so culturally ingrained that that is the area.

      It is the missionaries job to invite their investigators to wear their best, whatever that is, and it is everyone else’s job to love them and welcome them, even if their best is a matching pantsuit. Even if it is a matching sweatsuit.

      I would also agree with this author, that it wasn’t about pants or “women…feeling oppressed because they have been asked to wear dresses,” but that it became about the pants: http://zelophehadsdaughters.com/2012/12/12/it-wasnt-about-pants-but-then-it-became-about-pants-and-thats-why-im-wearing-pants/

    • We are asked to dress in our best. That doesn’t have to mean a skirt. My question is, would you rather someone be in church in whatever they have to wear, or would you rather they not show up because they don’t feel comfortable? Is it more important to you that everyone look the same or that people come to church?

  11. I work with data, and when there is one datapoint that is totally wacky, we might declare it an outlier and delete it from analysis so that it doesn’t skew the average and give a false impression.

    MoFeminists often complain that they don’t want to be judged because of the “fringe” voices that are anti-family, anti-male. So why not extend the same courtesy to others? Sure, there are wacko people complaining. That doesn’t make them typical. That doesn’t provide further justification for the protest.

    My experience in the church is that pants are a non-issue. When we lived in South America, of course 85% of the ward walked to church, some several miles, and when weather turned cold, women wore pants. No big deal. Where I live now, women regularly wear pants.

    I am not saying that there are not problems with sexism in the church. There are. But those problems should be addressed rather than shifting the focus to pants.

    There is a possibility that sisters may think they are accomplishing something when they should be using their efforts on something real that will make a difference, such as asking how Personal Progress can be celebrated as much as Eagle Scout completion, as it is in other wards. Or complaining that a youth leader discouraged a young woman from serving a mission. Or offering to teach a class on breadbaking to the young men.

    And there is no way that those around the pants-wearers can win. If we fail to notice, they will be disappointed. If we do notice and say anything, it will be deemed judgmental since the sisters are making such a big deal about it.

    And in the midst of all this, the women who would have worn pants to church anyway, because it is cold in December after all, will be viewed as part of a movement when they were just trying to make it to church one more week.

    • I don’t think anyone is saying that these comments speak for members at large. If it sounds like I was saying that, I apologize. What is interesting to me is that these reactions exist at all, even if they are a minority. It seems like such a non-issue that this kind of vehemence, even from a small percentage of the Mormon population amazes me.

      Your statement that the women who are involved in this can’t win assumes that the point is to be noticed. For me, that is not the case. For many, it is simply a statement of solidarity. For others, it is claiming the right to choose what to wear. Both can be personal, and have nothing to do with the reaction of others.

      You are also assuming that this is all that Mormon feminists are doing. You are wrong. There are many groups trying to make changes in the church in a variety of ways. See Feminist Mormon Housewives, LDS WAVE for a few examples. This is one event, not the beginning and end of Mormon feminist activism.

      • Actually, I wasn’t assuming either of those things.

        My concerns about no-win were not for the participants themselves but rather for those around them.

      • How would it be a no-win for those around them? That is not clear.

        As far as no-win situations go, here is a comment from Jana “I feel like the church is going to have to make a statement in response to the pants thing. If they say that pants are okay, that’s a huge concession to changing The Way Things Have Been Done. If they say that pants aren’t okay, they are going to look stupid and women will start wearing pants anyways (since they’ve broken down the pants barrier). Either way it’s a win for the feminists.”

      • Thanks for “putting me in my place”, Amelia. Honestly, though, the vast majority of church-goers don’t have an opinion on the pants-wearing thing. Those who are outspoken enough to “attend” and talk about it or vehemently oppose this movement are on the extreme sides of things. Women can wear pants, and have been able to for a very long time. If women are made to feel inferior for wearing skirts, and approached and made to feel “out of place” for wearing pants, and it causes them real pain, then the problem is with those who have confronted them about it, and forced their opinions on them. I support women who want to wear pants, and have worn them myself in the past, but what is this movement going to accomplish? What will change? Are those women looking for some mandate from the higher-ups in the Church (a la, caffeine is now OK) that says pants are ok? Honestly, do we have to be commanded in all things? Does there have to be a guideline for everything? It frustrates me, too, that the GA “prescribe set roles rather than teaching principles and allowing women to exercise their agency in realizing those principles in the best way they can in the particular circumstances of their own lives”. But now that I think about it, they don’t do that. They have their opinions, and so do the local authority, but my individual agency is not at stake- not now, not ever- by some man’s opinion of me and what I wear to Church, what I put in my body, how I raise my children, or what the contents of my purse are. The closest the temple recommend questions come to addressing modesty is is asking if we wear our garments appropriately. I feel ostracized daily by the fact that I am at Church and don’t agree with the speaker 100%. I feel ostracized when the Bishop has to call my husband to get to me. I feel ostracized when people make comments at church as to why I’m not doing my wifely duties of bearing my husband children. I feel out of place in a Church where the Female GAs speak to me like a 3 year-old. I feel angry when GAs lump all women into the same category of happy little homemakers who don’t think for themselves. People suck. But, that has nothing to do with- does not infringe upon- my personal agency. If you want to wear pants to prove the point, awesome. I fail to see, however, what this will change. Women who’ve wanted to wear pants have always worn pants. Their agency is not in question- what’s in question is the unrighteous dominion their leaders are placing upon them.

      • In my opinion when an organization, its members, and leaders systematically ratchet up the cost of exercising agency in certain ways to what amounts to an unbearable burden, then they are infringing on agency.

        The church does this all the time. Yes. I can make my own choices. Can and do and have always done. But I do not make choices in a vacuum. I make choices in a social environment populated by people I care about. I make choices that affect relationships that are important to me. And the church (in my opinion consciously and purposefully) makes some choices nearly impossible to make by demanding a very high price for making them. So there are some choices I did not make, in spite of wanting to, because the cost was too high. There are other choices I delayed making because of the high cost. There are choices I have made that I now pay ridiculously high costs for making. This is most obvious with large scale decisions. Do I live with my partner before marrying him? Do I marry a member of my same sex? etc. But the fact that it’s most obvious with large decisions taken singly, does not mean it doesn’t also play out that way in terms of small decisions taken cumulatively.

        Yes. Many of us make those small decisions over an extended period of time and don’t suffer the consequences. Because the people in our lives are decent people. But that is in spite of the instruction and attitudes fostered at church, as much as because of them. Mormons are trained from a very young age to measure other Mormons’ level of commitment and police their behaviors, exacting a cost for violating boundaries that are really pointless (articles in the Friend about not wearing sleeveless dresses anyone?).

        all you have to do is read the comments here about people being afraid to wear pants to church to see that this is not some thing I’ve come up with in my vivid imagination. Could these people who are afraid choose to wear pants any way? Sure. They could. But their church and its culture and membership has chosen to make sure that they know they could be asked to pay a high price if they do so. If we were talking about the church making such demands for doing things that are significant (abuse, theft, etc.), that’s one thing. But we’re talking about making the cost for non-conformity in small ways unreasonably high. To the point that people feel they cannot choose to do something without having to pay a disproportionately high cost.

        The requirement that I pay a disproportionately high cost–one that is out of balance with the significance of my action–is an infringement on my agency. Which is what the problem with unrighteous dominion is in the first place. Not just that the person is wrongly trying to wield power. But that by doing so, that person is violating others’ right and responsibility to exercise their own agency.

      • Amelia, there is validity to the cost-benefit analysis of the choices we make in the church. I don’t disagree. What I don’t understand is that if you are not going to make choices for yourself, and the culture of the church is dictating your actions more than the weight of an actual eternal consequence, then your priorities are not with the Lord- and your view of agency is wrapped up in the culture of the Church instead of the actual doctrine of Christ. I agree that a lot of women don’t wear pants to church already because it is taboo and there will be judgments coming from all directions. There have been things I haven’t done due to cultural norms and pressures (prayed to Heavenly Mother over the pulpit despite my compulsion to do so or raised my hand to the square during the “objection” part of a calling announcement, to name a couple), but that doesn’t mean my agency is out of my control or at the mercy of my peers. That only proves that I am putting too much clout in their opinions, too much validity to their judgment, and not enough faith in my relationship with the Lord, knowing I am being honest with Him and myself. There will never be a leader that will be perfect. There will never be an organization that will be 100% liberating and egalitarian for all its members. I find it sad that we get stuck in the rut of ALLOWING our leaders to exercise unrighteous dominion over us with their opinions that become cultural doctrine. I hate it when I do it. But, Again: What will wearing pants change? What will wearing pants prove? To me, it only signifies that those who chose to wear pants are somehow more liberated than those who wear skirts, and thus ostracizing those who don’t conform to that new cultural edict. I will be much more in support of a cause that rallies women and men to calling upon the name of our Heavenly Mother in an auxiliary prayer or RS presidents walking up to the stand and taking a seat among the other stake and regional leaders or getting a woman in the SS Presidency or man in Primary Presidency.

    • Amen, NaismithIf we shouldn’t be judging people for what they wear to church, I don’t understand the logic in creating a movement based on our Church apparel. If women want to be treated equally as men in the Church and be recognized as they are for priesthood-office advancement or notable callings, wearing pants is not the way to make that happen. Some women have been wearing pants to church for years. In 2012, are we still equating “power” and “authority” to “wearing the pants”? What a specious argument Let’s shift the focus away, like you said, and start challenging the real issues of sexism in the Church. How can you change something (the idea that we can’t wear pants to church) that was only ever an assumed restriction? Wear pants. Then tell how much more “equal” you feel.

      • How’s this for a “real issue” of sexism in the church:

        There are many women in the church who are not comfortable expressing the pain they feel because of the church’s rhetoric about sex and gender and the kind of limits they experience due to those things. And they are not comfortable doing so because of the very kind of backlash that is happening as a result of this call to action, so to speak. They worry that if they speak up, doing so will be turned back on them in the form of questioning their worthiness, their testimonies, their motivations. It will be used to challenge their commitment to “real” compassion and service.

        And we can see very easily, not only in the grossly vitriolic comments that have happened on the FB event page, but also in some of the milder comments here that such concerns are valid (e.g., saying that these women should stop making specious arguments and focus on “real” issues).

        To me, that is a very real problem of sexism. The silencing of women because their experience is not “real” enough. The confining of women because their desire is not substantial enough.

        What’s at stake here is not wearing pants. Nor is it some ridiculous notion that wearing pants equates to wielding power (I challenge you to find one sponsor of this event who has actually said that in the reductive way you suggest they are saying it). No. What is at stake here is the autonomy of individuals to determine for themselves the best way to fulfill God’s will for them. Church leadership has said, on the issue of Sunday dress, to dress in your best. It is a matter of individual agency to determine what that means. When your community polices your behaviors in the way some elements of the larger Mormon community have attempted to police women’s behaviors in all of this brouhaha, then that is an infringement of agency.

        Is it kind of a small thing, the wearing of pants to church? Yeah. It is. Which is why I kind of shrugged my shoulders and dismissed the whole thing when I first heard about it. It wasn’t even a big enough thing for me to bother commenting on when it arose in our Exponent permablogger email list. But you know what *isn’t* a small thing? Extreme policing of the boundaries of femininity and womanhood (or any other identity marker, frankly), whether we are talking about the policing that community members are attempting to do by lashing out, or the policing that the church leadership does by prescribing set roles rather than teaching principles and allowing women to exercise their agency in realizing those principles in the best way they can in the particular circumstances of their own lives. That is not a small thing. That is a very serious, very real, egregious violation of agency because it attempts to substitute the opinions of some people about what is right for everyone, for the opportunity of each person to make right decisions based on their personal circumstances.

        That is a “real” form of sexism in the church. And while wearing pants is not a large thing in and of itself, it apparently has enough power to reveal this very real form of sexism in the church for what it is–fear-driven misogyny. Because if there wasn’t a core of misogyny and fear underlying all the efforts to police women’s behavior and make sure they enact their gender (that allegedly eternal unchanging trait) properly (and I’m talking about both the grass-roots policing of FB comments *and* the overt policing of General Conference instruction re: minutia of performing womanhood), then no one would be responding with animosity and venom to the idea that a bunch of women would collectively decide to wear pants on the same day in an effort to silently make clear that they feel some pain about the church’s treatment of issues around sex and gender.

    • I’m on the fence about whether to wear pants or not. A lot depends on how my old velvet pantsuit fits. I’m not going with my thighs sausaged into tight pants, that’s for sure. However, regardless of what I end up wearing, I have already decided that if I see another sister in pants, I’m going to put my arm around her and tell her how terrific she looks to me. I think that would be a win-win.

      • I replied in the wrong place… oops. so I’m reposting.

        Thanks for “putting me in my place”, Amelia. Honestly, though, the vast majority of church-goers don’t have an opinion on the pants-wearing thing. Those who are outspoken enough to “attend” and talk about it or vehemently oppose this movement are on the extreme sides of things. Women can wear pants, and have been able to for a very long time. If women are made to feel inferior for wearing skirts, and approached and made to feel “out of place” for wearing pants, and it causes them real pain, then the problem is with those who have confronted them about it, and forced their opinions on them. I support women who want to wear pants, and have worn them myself in the past, but what is this movement going to accomplish? What will change? Are those women looking for some mandate from the higher-ups in the Church (a la, caffeine is now OK) that says pants are ok? Honestly, do we have to be commanded in all things? Does there have to be a guideline for everything? It frustrates me, too, that the GA “prescribe set roles rather than teaching principles and allowing women to exercise their agency in realizing those principles in the best way they can in the particular circumstances of their own lives”. But now that I think about it, they don’t do that. They have their opinions, and so do the local authority, but my individual agency is not at stake- not now, not ever- by some man’s opinion of me and what I wear to Church, what I put in my body, how I raise my children, or what the contents of my purse are. The closest the temple recommend questions come to addressing modesty is is asking if we wear our garments appropriately. I feel ostracized daily by the fact that I am at Church and don’t agree with the speaker 100%. I feel ostracized when the Bishop has to call my husband to get to me. I feel ostracized when people make comments at church as to why I’m not doing my wifely duties of bearing my husband children. I feel out of place in a Church where the Female GAs speak to me like a 3 year-old. I feel angry when GAs lump all women into the same category of happy little homemakers who don’t think for themselves. People suck. But, that has nothing to do with- does not infringe upon- my personal agency. If you want to wear pants to prove the point, awesome. I fail to see, however, what this will change. Women who’ve wanted to wear pants have always worn pants. Their agency is not in question- what’s in question is the unrighteous dominion their leaders are placing upon them.

  12. Thanks for the summary and analysis, DefyGravity. I haven’t been following this closely and am having a hard time getting excited about it either way. I really sympathize with this group’s sentiment, but am not so excited about wearing pants as some form of protest because

    a) It focuses on women’s appearance. There’s already way too much of that.
    b) It plays into stereotypes of feminists wanting to be men
    c) It’s an easy target for the small-minded critical voices, although I suppose they’d criticize anything…

    However, one comment I saw on FB was that the backlash against this demonstrates its need. Maybe that’s true. I do hope All Enlisted will continue agitating for improvements in women’s visibility and opportunities to serve in the church.

    • I agree that this would not have been my first choice for activism. But I am one who thinks that the backlash does demonstrate the need. I don’t know that this plays into the stereotype of women wanting to be men, as most LDS women wear pants in everyday life… Can you elaborate on that?

      • I guess I’m just thinking that the tacit uniform for men at church is pants, so to some people women wearing them to church is taking on a male pattern of dress. I think it’s a ridiculous thing to think, but it’s such an easy target for the anti-feminist.

        Anyway, the more I think about this the more I’m fine with joining in. Especially after thinking of it in terms of solidarity with others in their pain at the gender divisions at church. My only hangup is that I’m substitute teaching RS this Sunday and I really don’t want my clothes to speak louder than my words. So I’m torn. On any other Sunday I’d have no reservations!

    • Emily U, I’m still not sure if I’m going to participate. Like you, I’m worried about the judgment from small-minded critical voices. I fear that the majority of people see it as an act of defiance, women wanting to do whatever men do, and don’t get that this event is to reach out sympathize with those that have been treated badly. But then I realized, I would not be doing it for those small-minded people, I would be doing it to show love for and give hope to people just like me who might be too afraid to speak up, but want to know that there are others out there like them. On my journey it has been really scary at times to put my beliefs out there, but finding one or two people who believe the same has made it worth it so far. So I’m still trying to get up the courage.

      • Emily U – May I suggest that if you feel so torn about wearing them this Sunday because you will be teaching RS, that you don’t. But maybe that next week, when you aren’t teaching you do it. No, it won’t be on the same day as this event, but if the purpose is solidarity then it shouldn’t matter which Sunday you do it on. Personally, I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’m going to talk with my husband and see if he has any strong opinions either way before I make MY choice. Either way, good luck to you!

    • What exactly do you mean by this? “I do hope All Enlisted will continue agitating for improvements in women’s visibility and opportunities to serve in the church.” What are you hoping to see? Women apostles? Women with the priesthood? What is the end goal?

      • You’ll need to talk to the organizers of All Enlisted about that. They are seeking for greater gender equality in many forms; if you want specifics, go to them directly.

  13. As a female member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Later-day Saints I would like to express that I personally do not feel inferior or unequal since I am a woman & I feel a responsibility to reach out with love, understanding and empathy to those that may. There has been a lot of attention recently on the “Wear Pants to Church” campaign. I know that it isn’t a rule that I have to wear a dress to church. It is a personal choice I make to do so because I feel it is an expression to the Lord of what my personal “Sunday best dressed” is. I wear pants every other day of the week out of convenience & comfort. Sundays are a special day for me when I renew my covenants with Heavenly Father by choosing to partake in the sacramental ordinance. I would feel like it wasn’t special if I wore what I did every other day of the week. It is an extraordinary opportunity that I would feel uncomfortable to participate in wearing ordinary clothes. Personal feelings & choices aside however, I extend love and acceptance to all and welcome any who would like to worship with us regardless of what they choose to wear. We must remember that “God looketh on the heart” & we must not judge others but invite, welcome & love

    • I appreciate your comment. i realize that many women don’t feel unequal in the church; thank you for realizing that some do and for loving rather than judging them.

    • Thanks Lindsey! I love wearing dresses and skirts to church too, and heels. I feel like putting that little extra effort makes it special for me, and I believe God wishes me to wear what feels best for me. I have on occasion, when it’s been very cold or I don’t feel well, felt as though nice pants would have been my best and most special and comfortable, but did not wear pants because of fear of judgment. There are women who regularly wear pants to church out of necessity or personal preference and some of them have been judged negatively because of their clothing choice. So while I love my skirts and dresses, I’m seriously considering wearing pants this week. Not to say to women like you and me who wear dresses that they are lesser, but to show those that have had bad experiences wearing pants that they are no less for their clothing choice.

  14. http://heidisommerfeldstevenson.blogspot.com/2012/12/wearing-pants-really.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Delicious%2Fmillennialstar+%28mstar-worth-reading%29

    “I find it highly disturbing that during a month when we should be focusing on the birth of the Savior and all the wonderful things He has done for us, there are those who think that it is more important to bring division and politics into our Sunday worship, taking the focus off of Him and putting it onto themselves.”

    • I would argue that I’ve been to LDS meetings where Christ was not mentioned once, and politics was taught over the pulpit. We will not be teaching against Christ, nor discussing our reasons over the pulpit.

      Christ came to earth to atone for the pain of the world. Many Mormon feminists are in very real pain when they consider their position in the church. Christ understands that pain. And these women are trying to show the love Christ did by standing with those in pain, those who feel different, those who feel unloved by their church and/or it’s members.

      • And this is supposed to do this how? Have you talked to someone in real pain? Have you gone to their house and comforted them in need? What have you done other than decided to wear pants that many women wear anyway? Nice try, but if your argument holds water then you should mention Christ when He isn’t mentioned or walk over and comfort those who you see in distress, rather than shut your mouth and wear pants. The great thing this will do is marginalize those women who wear pants normally or make others question why a woman isn’t wearing pants. Its division of the highest fashion and the Scriptures continually say negative things about creating division.

      • You’r making some major assumptions about what people are and aren’t doing. As I have said in other comments, this is not the only thing Mormon feminist are doing. We share pain and comfort in many ways. Your assumption that we don’t is pretty nasty.

        This event is a public display of what is normally private. Often we comfort in private but do not show solidarity in public. This is an opportunity to show, publicly, that we stand with each other. I have felt very alone at church; I have spoken out about being different and had people thank me afterward. I appreciated that. I would also have appreciated it if they stood with my publicly as well as privately. That is part of what this event is trying to do.

    • Mystery, many of the women that post here do so because they are in real pain, or because they care about those that are. If you really want to know you can stick around, do the work, read through personal experiences and gain some insight.

      I’m a nursery leader in my ward but I can guarantee you that I would not be even attending church at all if it were not for the Exponent Blog giving me hope that I still belong, that there are people there that understand what I’m going through, and care enough to engage with me.

      I find it highly disturbing that during a month when we should be focusing on the savior and reaching out to our fellowman with love as Christ taught us to do, that there is such vitriol and backlash towards an event that was organized to do just that.

      • And Mystery, can you explain why this event would create division? The purpose of the event has been clear that it is not saying that women who wear dresses are lesser, but saying that women who choose to wear pants are no less than those who choose to wear dresses.

        In other words the event is expressing inclusion rather than exclusion, as opposed to what I’m seeing many lay-members express, which is that pants are not acceptable church attire for women, and that women who wear them are rightfully judged negatively for it.

  15. I am curious to see how many women will actually wear pants to Church AFTER the 16th.

    • I kind of am too. I’m mostly curious to see if I’ll actually wear pants on the 16th, and to see if I’ll see anyone else wearing pants. And I’m curious to see if wearing pants will bust me through my fear barrier and if I’ll wear them anytime thereafter when it’s especially cold or I’m especially feeling pantsy.

    • It will be interesting to see. I know I will be, but that’s because I do anyway. Guess we’ll find out.

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