How Every Mormon Leader Should React to Pants Wearing Women

The word on the street is that some bishops have learned about Wear Pants to Church Day and are scrambling to deal with the situation. Some are coming up with plans like taking down the names of women who wear pants in order to call them in later for personal worthiness interviews.

Mormon leaders, if you are reading this, pay attention. Please do not do this. Do not call these women in and question their righteousness. Do not give them the stink eye. Do not treat their pants as a personal attack on your ward.  Do not insist to them that the Church really does treat women as equals.

Instead, this is a golden opportunity to show these women that they are loved. When you see a woman wearing pants this Sunday, and particularly if you suspect the woman is wearing pants because of Pants Day, consider doing some of the following:

  • Diffuse with humor and love: Go up to her and give her a hug or a handshake and a smile. Say, “Wow, you’re wearing pants! Is it because of Pants Day? I didn’t know our ward was this interesting!”
  • Show sincere interest and sympathy: Tell her, “I understand that some women are wearing pants today because they are concerned with gender inequities at church. I don’t know if that’s why you are doing it, but if you are, I would love to talk to you sometime about this. I can’t promise I can do anything — my hands are tied in a lot of ways —  but maybe there is something I could do. And anyway, I’d be grateful to learn more about these issues.”
  • React with pure love: Tell her, “I am so glad you came today. I’m glad you came wearing pants. Come every week wearing pants.  You are loved and you are wanted.”
  • Be Practical And Affirmative: “I like your pants. I don’t know why more women don’t wear pants to church, particularly in the winter when it’s cold. And besides, it’s great for investigators to see women here wearing pants. Then they won’t feel out of place if they are wearing them.”

What are some other good ways leaders or just regular ward members might react? What should they definitely not do?



Caroline has a PhD in religion and studies Mormon women.

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9 Responses

  1. EM says:

    Good grief why would they need to do anything at all?! Just ignore the fact that some women are wearing pants. So what. There was a young man who wouldn’t come to church because all he had were jeans, so Elder N. E. Tanner told him to come anyway. N. E. Tanner showed up that Sunday wearing jeans – how do you think that young man felt? I just don’t get it. Why is it that people are so judgey. What I presentably wear to church is no business of anyone. I’ve worn pants to church and yes I get the stink eye from some older women – never have from men. For me it’s not about the equality thing, it’s about warmth and comfort. You go girls! wear your pants and be happy!! I’m supportive of the cause.

    • Shelley says:

      But for a lot of women is it about the bigger picture of gender equality in the Church and perhaps they would appreciate some validation from local leadership.

  2. Katie says:

    And some bishops are wearing purple ties. I like the handshake and “I’m so glad you are here today” approach personally.

  3. Since I live in the Marshall Islands, the first time zone west of the International Date Line, I was the first LDS woman to wear pants to church on December 16. I wrote about my experience and how my bishop treated me. (I didn’t write that he said, “I think those pants look great! I think you look great!” but he did say that, as well as some poignant other things.)

  4. Rachel says:

    I’ve asked two bishops what they plan to do this Sunday if women in their wards wear pants, and have been pleased with both of their responses. The first (a friend) said he would say what he would say to anyone dressed in street clothes or church clothes, “Hi. I’m so glad you’re here.” This was particularly pleasing because he subsequently made clear that he is among those who think “Sunday services are not appropriate venues for protests,” but clarified after that first clarification that it won’t change how he responds to them. The second bishop (a family member) was quite sympathetic to the cause. He asked me about the solidarity aspects, and we talked about how some people might not feel welcome at church for various reasons–whether for gender equity reasons, or because they cannot afford a skirt or dress. He told me the thought it is really important, and I felt glad.

  5. Becca says:

    Thank you for this great post!

  6. Naismith says:

    I think this is a valuable contribution to the discussion, that adds an important dimension to the issue. I am less thrilled with the title. Why not just entitle this something like “Suggestions for leaders” rather than claiming to know how every one of them should react? After all, if we believe it is Christ’s church and all is to be done through divine revelation, then those of us without the stewardship, whether we happen to have a penis or not, should feel free to state our opinions but also respect that the ultimate decision is up to those with stewardship. And that would be true even if women served as bishops.

    I happened to talk with a former bishop about this last night, and he wasn’t aware of the event and was befuddled about why it mattered. He had a vague notion that some women wear pants to church sometimes. He couldn’t name any one particular woman who did, so he certainly had not been taking names or excluding them from callings.

    So his reaction would likely have been to do nothing, as he had done before. That is not on the acceptable list, but in some ways shows more acceptance than anything that draws attention to the woman. As for giving them a hug, maybe it is our part of the country, but male leaders are discouraged from hugging women. Handshakes and touching on the arm below the elbow are deemed fine. (I can kind of see the reasoning–we carry insurance that will provide for legal defense if either of us is accused of anything untoward while doing our volunteer work.)

    No women wore pants to our ward today, even those who sometimes do wear pants. Earlier this month, an African American couple both wore holiday caftans to church, so I guess technically we did have a guy wearing a dress. Also a non-issue.

  1. December 16, 2012

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