Ask Mormon Girl: Pants-to-Church Sunday left me a bit bruised. Help?

Merry Christmas, AMG family.  And profound thank yous to the AMG readers including Carole, Dan, Kim, and others who have supported the Family Acceptance Project this holiday season!

This week’s question grows out of last week’s Pants to Church Sunday, a grassroots-organized event that united Mormon feminists and their allies in a quiet demonstration of visibility and hope for renewed conversation about traditional gender inequalities in the LDS Church.  If you read some of the coverage (like this New York Times piece), you may also know that a modest gesture like wearing pants to church engendered a fierce backlash from some quarters.  And this week, we’re going to speak to it.  Here’s a letter from a sweet sister pants warrior:

I stopped going to church about six years ago, and my separation from

the community and tradition I grew up in was painful for years. After

finding your blog and going to the Sunstone conference this year,

however, I have felt an incredible amount of peace and hope—I felt I

could belong in a progressive Mormon community, and my feminist voice

could be heard and valued.

Because of this recent reconciliation, the online backlash to Wear

Pants to Church Day was especially discouraging. Even though I have

separated myself from mainstream Mormonism and didn’t encounter

face-to-face antagonism, it was hurtful to read comments from people I

grew up with telling Mormon feminists to get out. Like others who

followed the discussions, I read that I don’t belong, that my

experiences with inequality are based on personal weakness, and that

God’s word on gender will never change.

I love the faith I grew up in and want a place somewhere inside, but

after last week I have the old sense that I am not welcome–that my

experiences can’t fit within the Mormon framework. I want to be part

of the change for greater acceptance within the church, but I also

want to be part of a community where my voice is valued.

Did you feel any of this? Do you have any advice/encouragement for

fellow Mormon feminists who took an online beating?

Oh, beloved pants warriors.  I know it’s time for egg nog and sugar cookies, but let’s take a collective assessment of our post-pants-to-church-Sunday selves.

Y’all doing okay out there?

What a wild week that was.  And mind you, I wasn’t even an organizer!  Nor a Facebook pants warrior engaged in one-on-one combat with the pants-haters!  But after hours, on the Facebook, oh yes, I tried to help bandage the poor pants warriors who came back night after night rhetorically bloodied and bruised.

And yes, it was daunting.  To be out there and berated by Facebook’s Mormon posse comitatus, those self-selected defenders of “the faith” who assume the right to revoke the baptismal certificates of anyone who doesn’t worship their way.  Plenty of them out there.  Men as well as women.  And guess what? Though they be numerous, none of them are the boss of the great Mormon movement.  This is a movement made up of millions upon millions of us who have loved the faith, and each of us has a say in shaping its future.

So, yes, we took some heat from random jerks on Facebook.

Did anyone take a physical beating?

Did anyone go to jail?

Did anyone lose a job?

Did anyone lose a home?

Did anyone lose a life?

Because that’s what feminists around the world face and have faced.  Across time.  And all the time.  From the iron-jawed angel suffragettes who were beaten for demanding the vote early last century.  To the men and women in India this weekend protesting the government’s lax prosecution of rape, who were struck with batons and fired upon by water cannons, and the young Pakistani girls disfigured by Taliban acid attacks because they wanted an education.

None of this, sister pants warrior, is to say that what you faced didn’t hurt. I do remember my first in-box full of mean mail.  And my second.  And my third.  And how I learned.  I learned to set my Facebook privacy settings high, to bounce messages from people who reeked mean, and also to listen to people I disagreed with who may have had a point, even when it was uncomfortable. And not to take it personally.

And most of all, I learned not to let people get into my head.  After all, would you let a threatening stranger get past the front door of your house?  No? Then, why let them in your head? To take up residence in the living room of your brain and tell you that you don’t deserve to live? That you don’t deserve your own faith?  That you don’t deserve to claim Mormonism—a religion so many would write off as ridiculous and incredible, but which you, mighty heart, have found reason to love?

Yes.  You can choose not to let them in.  You can choose not to engage every random self-appointed meanie who gets up on your Facebook wall, or inbox, or Twitter feed.  You can choose not to read the on-line comments, which will be predictably cruel, semi-literate, and marginally insane.  You can save your breath and energy.  There’s plenty to spend it on.

As Mormon feminists, we’ve just witnessed the largest concerted Mormon feminist effort in history.  After three decades of having the dominant message in our culture being “feminism = excommunication,” a message that has made us afraid to be in our own church, grassroots Mormon feminists found a way to renew our courage, find allies, and wordlessly but firmly insist we have a place here too.  Not so easy to get rid of us.  Not so easy to write us off.  We claim this faith too, in its difficulty and its beauty.

Did it hurt, the cruel reaction?  You bet.  Was it productive, the restarting of a frozen conversation? You bet.  Did we confront our own fear?  Yes.  Does one feel a bit tired and even perhaps exposed after confronting one’s own fear, so publicly?  Yes.  And did Pants Sunday reveal we have so much work to do? Yes.

We’ve got to keep being public.  We’ve got to keep the conversation going.  Most LDS people—including many, many Mormon feminists—just don’t know Mormon women’s history like we should.  We’ve got to teach ourselves (start with the links embedded here) and build the resources to educate the younger ones coming up.  We’ve got to build scholarship funds for Mormon feminist single mothers. We’ve got to fund publications like Exponent. We’ve got to write books on Mormon feminist thought, experience, and theory.  We’ve got to finish our college educations.  We’ve got to spend less time in private Facebook groups, and more time on public blogs like Feminist Mormon Housewives where our conversations are recorded for history, because Mormon women’s history matters.  Less time fighting with strangers and more time talking with men and women who want to learn.  Less time worrying about what others think and more time knowing our truths and living our lives.

Sister Pantswarrior, we Mormon women are raised to crave approval.  But this world needs leadership, and leaders by definition can’t wait for others to approve before they identify and act to meet needs. Think of our Mother Eve.  Don’t crave approval. Know who you can get some nurturing from when you need it, because we all need it sometimes.  But more than approval crave knowledge.  Crave wisdom.  Crave courage. Crave oxygen.  Crave humor. Crave solidarity.  Crave community. All of these make the lumps that come with Mormon feminism—and you can certainly handle them–so much easier to take.

Send your query to askmormongirl@gmail.com, or follow @askmormongirl on Twitter.

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67 Comments

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67 responses to “Ask Mormon Girl: Pants-to-Church Sunday left me a bit bruised. Help?

  1. Joanna, you are really neat and I’m glad to know you. But I’m sure you hear this all the time. <3

  2. Dolly

    Interesting that we were trained to crave approval. I suspect that goes for the men folk as well, because I see it among them. Why is it part of our upbringing? It’s not intentional or meant to be transparent, but as you wrote it, I can relate to it. It is there. But why? Is it circumstantial? Is it a protective shield so that the tender parts of our lives will not be bruised? Is it because our collective pioneer ancestors were persecuted in horrific ways? Or is it merely statistically relevant because of how we are found among the various love languages?

    Whatever the reason/s.. I’m glad your writing is solution based and not whiny, descriptions of issues without appropriate responses. No hand wringing… just leadership. Sounds like a good place to channel some energy.

    • Cylon

      It’s not just part of our upbringing, it’s part of our genetic code. We evolved to crave approval, because for most of human history being outcast from your social group meant literal, physical death. It’s certainly not unique to Mormons.

      • Of course it’s genetical. It’s genetical in every human being, of every gender. But the reason why it’s so much more pronounced on females, lays solely on upbringing. Girls are grown up differently than boys: Studies have proved, that when 4-year old boy is petted on the head after a screaming tantrum, girls of the same age are chastised. When female and male children are put in the same room, female are being encouraged to survey the feelings of male, and male is encouraged to explore the room. This way, from the very childhood women are taught to ignore their own feelings in favor of others, both voiced and silent, needs. And if this happens in Nordic countries, the models of equality, I dread to think what happens on countries and areas of more tight and unforgiving gender-roles.
        So ladies, please remember to encourage your girls to do things you view as boyish. Listen them, let them laugh aloud, to tear their shirts and climb the trees, so they can become brave and strong, and able to finish the change you have started in society, not to cower in front the challenge.

  3. John S. Harvey

    Well said. Change (hopefully for the better) is a process, but I really do think it can be accomplished in the Church. I think overall the situation continues to improve.

    Thank you for providing a such a great blog/site, and letting the community of similar minded folk grow.

  4. JakeT

    As evidenced by the message above, I think sometimes protests like this can do more harm than good for the feminist movement

  5. Michele

    I appreciate your comments and respect your dedication. I don’t always agree with your opinion, but you are very knowledgeable and make valid, thought provoking points. But I have to admit that I don’t understand what the “Pants-to-Church” was supposed to do. What inequalities are you fighting against?

    I have lived many places in the US and around the world. I have attended church and been a member of wards/branches in many places both around the US and around the world. I have worn pants to church several times. I have never once been criticized in regard to the wearing of pants. In fact, the First Presidency issued a statement a number of years ago that said that no one should be turned away from ANY type of worship, regardless of their dress. I don’t doubt that there are some idiots out there that would criticize some for wearing pants; but do the opinions of a few idiots really matter?

    I have heard some suggest that Mormon women should have the priesthood and I wonder why? The priesthood is something that helps men develop qualities that women already possess naturally. Here’s an example: You learn your neighbor is very sick. What do you do? You call them and ask “What can I do?” They tell you “Nothing, we’re doing ok,” So you make them dinner. You take it over and notice their yard is in need of some cleanup. So you send your kids over to rake up some leaves. You check on them every day and make sure they have dinner and a few days later, you learn the mom is worse and may need to go to the hospital. You call the Relief-Society president and find out who their home teachers are. You then call their home teachers and they learn from you for the first time that their family is sick. The home teachers show up and give her a blessing. Without the need for the priesthood, the loving, caring, nurturing women of the church would do everything themselves. Instead of calling for their home teachers, your husband, the bishop etc; the sisters would have handle the all the needs of the fellow members and non-members alike; and the men would miss out on the opportunity to help another person and learn some compassion. Think all of the duties of the priesthood; collecting fast offerings, passing the sacrament, giving blessings, being a home teacher, serving as a bishop etc. EVERY SINGLE duty of the priesthood is, in its simplest form, meant to teach men to become caring, compassionate, nurturing. Most women already possess these qualities. We don’t need the priesthood; we’re already done with that lesson.

    • Michele: To understand what pants to church sunday was about, please read this article:
      http://www.religiondispatches.org/dispatches/joannabrooks/6700/what_was_pants_to_church_sunday_really_about/

      And please read all the links that spell out the basics of Mormon feminism. THe men in my life are already nurturing, compassionate, and caring–and they do not hold the priesthood. I reject the notion that God created our souls with essential gendered differences. It’s demeaning to the men in my life. When gender becomes more important than Christlike love for the individual in all his or her particularity, it’s an obstacle.

      • There are a lot of shades of feminism. There are a lot of different ways to define and experience equality.

      • I understand Michele’s point, I think she could have stated it more eloquently, but still I understand. What I don’t understand is the harsh reaction. “It’s demeaning to the men in my life” “This is one of the most negative depictions of men that I’ve read” Wow ! Seriously??? I think you’re exaggerating a bit, don’t you?
        I don’t consider myself a ‘feminist’ just strongly ‘pro-girl’ I have a large family that is primarily girls. I have always felt that girls are discriminated against by society, governments, and many men in general. But I don’t feel that way about the LDS church. Although I have met men that are members of the LDS church that are discriminatory, I have never felt suppressed or discriminated against by a church doctrine or teaching. Quite the contrary, I feel that the church doctrines and teachings promote the importance and necessity of strong woman in a confused world.
        Additionally, I agree that, although Michele could have made her point with more tact, the duties of the priesthood teach men to be more caring and compassionate. Nearly everyone needs to learn more compassion – women included.

    • Howarthe

      I would also disagree that our gender endows us with certain virtues, such would be contrary to the plan of salvation. We are all here to learn to choose the right. No one is genetically disposed toward virtue or vice. However former generations and some foreign cultures are of the opposite opinion: women are far more prone to all manner of vice including infidelity, vanity and witchcraft. It’s a mad, mad world.

    • gina

      Michele: I can resonate with your thinking; my mother (God bless her good intentions) raised me agreeing with the “essential gendered differences” argument, but I agree with AMG on this and invite your to consider an alternative perspective. Consider the narrowness and “inequality” embodied in the notion that women are inherently more spiritually mature than men. It is upon this kind of thinking that the very attitudes feminism fights against are bred. Christ, as a man, led an amazingly thoughtful and nurturing life. Why should we assume that the men in our lives (priesthood holders or not) could do no less? I find it much more empowering and liberating (for both men and women) to follow and understand differences not in the context of gender but in the context of humans. I imagine that if you pause and think, you can generate some past experiences that you’ve had that point to the variation among men and among women (rather than between men and women) that obscure this rigid line between men and women that we, for so long, have felt pressed to hold.

    • Laura

      This is one of the most negative depictions of men that I’ve read. I suppose I’m fortunate to come from a family whose men are loving, generous and compassionate even when it’s not their “job” to be so. For men who aren’t this way, I don’t see how the priesthood would magically turn them around. There are members of the priesthood who are arrogant, judgmental and insensitive to others. Collecting a fast offering or passing the sacrament doesn’t give you a heart.

  6. Linda Batchelor

    I sure am glad I dont lilve where some of you live….we have sisters ( a few) who wear pants to sacrament meeting and I would rather have them there than staying at home because they did not have a skirt to wear. Where is your Christ-like love? Can you just not accept the things you cannot change, change what you can and courage to know the difference…….I think the Lord accepts us as we are….how about we do the same?

  7. Nancy

    I recognize that I need to familiarize myself a bit more with the “Mormon Feminist” movement, but have found this most recent internet media ‘conversation’ unfounded. If we were all talking face to face and with people in the Church, I believe feminists would have found there is nothing to protest.

    • It is our face-to-face experiences that made Mormon feminism an underground movement in the first place. If finding equality in the church was as simple as asking for it, there wouldn’t be an issue. Take a look at http://nickelonthenacle.blogspot.com/2012/12/post-of-week-feeling-equal.html and also http://zelophehadsdaughters.com/2012/12/13/feeling-equal/ about feeling equal in the church.

    • Nancy,
      For 20 years, I would have personal group conversations with women in the church, at lunch or informal group activities, where discussed our frustration with the inequity within the confines of the church. We wanted to feel as though we had a variety of options for clothes to wear on Sunday, to have autonomy over making church callings instead of men having veto power, of having autonomy of the RS budget or YW’s budget, or even the activities freely allowed to the young men, but denied the young women (basketball, camping, water skiing, etc.).

      Yet, once we crossed the threshold of the church steps, these discussions came to a stop because ‘no questioning the leaders was allowed’. If there is never any discussion, if our concerns are never addressed within the walls of the church, then where are we left?

      Like thousands of women like me and all my daughters, we are leaving the church rather than continue in inequality. If the church wants to retain the young generation, change is necessary.

      • Katrina

        Kaylaylale,
        I just wanted to say I was surprised by what you are describing as “inequalities.” Your group wants to have a variety of options for clothes to wear on Sunday? All you have to do is look around on Sundays to see that the women have more choices. Men are strongly encouraged to wear only black pants and a nice white shirt, while you’ll never see two women dressed identical. Even if women are encouraged not to wear pants, when you compare it to men’s dress code, I would hardly care it worse.

        And when it comes to budgets, I thought the bishop and ward clerk were the ones in charge. At the very least, I know you’re wrong with the statement that YM can do activities that YW can’t. Both have basketball teams, the YW have Girl’s Camp, and as long as the YW have permission slips, they can go water skiing (or, in my personal experience, boating). I think what you’re thinking of are activities that require insurance. The YM have Boy’s Scout that covers it, while the YW don’t.

        I’m sorry you left the church because of hard feelings, but to say that it is the church’s fault just isn’t true. I’m seventeen, and I don’t know anyone my age that left the church. But I can tell you that if you pray, you will feel God’s love for you.

  8. JakeT – then how can we ever let our voices be heard? It is fine if we have our opinions, but we must never voice them or organize? I think that Pants Sunday was the mildest most appropriate way to do that. If we have problems with the church, we should make that known at church. Some may argue that church is an inappropriate venue for this sort of protest, but I, and many others, argue that it is the most appropriate venue. I think that Pants Sunday did a lot of good – go and read the many personal accounts on blogs and facebook. I’m glad that Mormon feminism is finally starting to take action.

  9. Meidi

    I heard a little about the wear-pants-to-church idea, but honestly I find it to be a manufactured problem. This is such a silly little first world problem to fuss about at a time when there are much more pressing issues to worry about. Women wearing pants to church is actually not new and not a big deal at all. When I was growing up I knew two wonderful women originally from New Zealand who often wore pants to church, either nice pant suits or these long swishy pants which looked kind of like long skirts until they walked. No one in my branch chastised them, they were both given callings (one to young women’s where she taught me) they were both active. More recently I knew a few very poor women in my old ward in Idaho who often wore pants to church; no one said a word to them about it either. We did however give them new clothes along with the food and babysitting that the relief society gave them. One of the women was delighted to own a dress for church, the other still wore pants, and no one cared! If any particular woman decides to wear pants to church I really don’t think that anyone (outside of Utah) will bat an eye. What has causes the controversy is building up hoopla and making wearing pants to church an event. I suppose raising awareness is the goal, and I do not condone bullying by anyone in the church, but as I said, there are far greater problems that I prefer to expend my energies on. Best of luck wearing pants.

    • Meidi–It was a symbolic action. To start a conversation in a place dominated by fear. It’s not about the pants. Peace.

      • Meidi

        I guess the reason I find this idea silly is that I attend church with different goals in mind. I am not there to make a statement; I have never felt fear of or from the church either. For the past two Sundays I have been crying and praying for the families who have lost their precious children right before Christmas. I have also been praying for a micro-preemie baby born into my family recently. I have been trying to teach lessons to wonderful children in Primary without breaking down part way through. I have not been oppressed or lorded over by any priesthood holders, and when men in the church act badly toward women I recognize that as a failure on their part, not as a failure on the part of the church, and certainly not as a failure of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I just don’t see what the big deal is, I have always been an active member of the church and I have been feminist since I was a teenager. Maybe I am too young to have encountered many conflicts of the two; it’s just not been an issue for me. The members of the church may have vastly different politics from one another (I have certainly experienced that) but I don’t see that as a fundamental problem in the church. We are a diverse group, this is as it should be, but we come together in our love for the gospel and our desire to worship God and serve one another.

    • I absolutely agree with Meidi! I don’t have any idea how old you are. You seemed to indicate that you may be young. Still I believe you are very wise. Your comments seem to indicate your wisdom in being able to distinguish between the actions of an imperfect individual as opposed to the doctrines of the LDS religion. I concur that I have never – not once in my life – felt any sort of fear of or from the church. Quite the opposite, I find it a safe haven of joy and peace in a difficult world. I loved when you said “there are far greater problems that I prefer to expend my energies on” I think you have concerned yourself with things that are most meaningful. Hurrah for wise, perceptive women such as yourself!!!

  10. Vinniecat

    @JakeT
    I’ve had more productive conversations about feminism/gender issues in the LDS church this past month than I probably have had in the last several years combined. Though there were brutal exchanges, there were many productive ones and I’ve found many of my family willing to listen to how I view things without calling my dedication to the faith into question. Overall, I view the pants effort as very productive.

  11. Thanks, Joanna. My wife will probably be in tears as she reads your post. It is a much-needed balm for many of us right now.

    On a related note, it would be great to get some tips for femanists like myself that are passionate about the movement but unsure of our role within it. How can we be most helpful and avoid falling into the same gender traps that this movement is intended to curtail?

  12. Rebellious daughter

    Thanks for this post. It’s nice to hear someone who understands exactly the feelings I’ve had this past week. Overall, the experience with all it’s pain and trouble, was worth it. I had a number of amazing conversations with people who truly wanted to understand and engage in civil communication about the issue. I made new friends with women who, in the past, were too afraid to reach out and discuss matters of the heart for fear no one would understand or treat with the sensitivity they deserved.

    For the most part, by facebook stream – which is only filled with my closest family and friends, had only messages of confusion, not attack. Except for a short “I’m so disappointed in you” message from my mother followed by a long, venom filled, self-righteous, public attack from my mother after I let her know i’d love to talk about it with her in private. It’s hard not to let that one get inside your head.

  13. Scott

    I’d object if it was a mini-skirt Sunday instead.

  14. Samantha

    Awesome post, Joanna. I left the church years ago, but I remember a time when my younger sister, who was a rebel, was going to wear dress pants to church one Sunday. We were both in our teens, and I was totally mortified. I begged and pleaded with her not to do it. It was simply not done, and I knew she’d get dirty looks and lectures for doing it. Now that I’ve gained some perspective, it’s really strange to me how such a massive negative (and violent) reaction is brought about by a woman wearing a pair of slacks to church. Seems silly to me now. I too hope this is the start of a positive change.

  15. I am not a Mormon anymore, I went to Christmas Eve mass tonight wearing sneakers, jeans, turtleneck, and a purple sweater, no one said anything about my dress, In fact, there were many others there who were wearing the same thing, enjoying mass with the kids acting out the manger scene.

    But, I will say this, the priest said something I know you will never ever hear in a Mormon Sacrament meeting and I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing,”In case you had a few beers before coming, your not hallucinating, there really are angels up here tonight.”

  16. Howarthe

    My patriarchal blessing states that I am destined to do a great work with the sisters of the church. Oh, let it be this work…

  17. Stephanie

    During my last pregnancy, I wore pants most of the time to church. I don’t remember people looking at me weirdly, however, that was also 19 1/2 years ago! I have always been a rebel of one. I appreciate what my LDS sister feminists were up against last Sunday, and yet, I have worn pants for years to Sacrament meetings. As a church musician, I have been known to play many spirituals, sacred jazz tunes, and carry LDS hymns with lots of energy, enthusiasm, and multi key changes. My point is this: I don’t think any of us should feel that we need to organize ourselves into one collective voice. The whole point of this Gospel is its free agency. It is a gift we should use mightily. While I admit that some folks in the church have always looked at me with amazement (and probably silent disapproval), I am not selling out on who I am. I guess I don’t personally need a group or movement to make me feel justified in my free agency choices. I believe the church came out with something about women and pants back in the 1970s. Even at that time their response was so long as the pants, shirts, etc. were not inappropriately revealing…the brethren didn’t want to use the terms, “boobs and butts”, wearing pants was OK. So, I guess I didn’t understand what the big deal was? Unfortunately, some of the most imperfect people go to churches, temples, meetinghouses, synagogues, cathedrals, etc. I am more concerned that the church teach its local leaders to speak out and report report report incidences of rape, incest, abuse, instead of worrying about whether somebody has a current temple recommend and is wearing a dress. Merry Christmas to you all!
    Stephanie

  18. What authority do these LDS members site that gives them the power to condemn other member for beliefs or behavior they consider bad? Is there a commandment that declares thou shall not were pants to worship if thou art female? Jesus Christ is the head of this Church and to my knowledge He has not chastised pant wearing feminists. What right do the self appoint judges have to tell anyone they should cease to be followers of Christ and leave the Church.

    Folks are entitled to their opinions but those opinions don’t change the truthfulness of the Gospel. They have no say about the state of anyones salvation and the Savior’s love for us. To allow them to chase you away from Jesus, the fullness of the Gospel and the Church is to short change your self of the rights you have as a child of our Father in Heaven. The Adversary loves these type of events. I hope these members repent fof their arrogance or they may find them self standing before the judgment seat with no pants and their bare butts exposed.

    My mantra is: Keep focused on the Savior and his Gospel. Everything else will take care of itself.

  19. slsdm

    I posted this reply a while back on a post that had a similar topic, but I feel it appropriate to post it to this one as well. As for myself, I’m still trying to sort out how I feel about this subject. I don’t take a firm stand on one side or the other as of yet because I see valid points on both sides, and I want to learn more, ponder more, pray more, etc about it. That being said, I came across this amazing Feminist’s testimony here: http://mormonscholarstestify.org/1718/valerie-hudson-cassler. She explains how she converted to the LDS faith BECAUSE she is a feminist and how this Restored Gospel falls in line with female equality more than any other “Abrahamic faith” (as she puts it). It is excellent imo. She shares insights into the Gosepl she gained from serious and deep study of it, as opposed to the culture (and they can be very different as I know we all know), and from that she came to an understanding I never had until I read it. It didn’t close the book for me on the subject (I still have questions), but it definitely was a wonderful and doctrinally sound perspective that helped me.

  20. Joanna! You wonderful, strong, intelligent, well-spoken woman! Love you! Let’s keep fighting the good fight; our sons and daughters are worth it. Thank you for your words of encouragement. And a very Merry Christmas and late Happy Hanukkah to you and yours.

  21. Wear Pants to Church Day may have been a rallying point, but it is not a long-term solution. The most important thing anyone who feels themselves outside the “mainstream” can do is Show Up. Wear whatever feels comfortable and Be There week after week, month after month. Serve faithfully in your callings. Love and be loved. Get to know people both at church and in their personal lives. You’ll find you’re not as different as you think. Over time, the mainstream will expand to include everyone who Stays.

  22. Mike

    My wife and I didn’t really understand the concept of wearing pants as a sign of protest. She has worn pants to church on a number of occasions over the years without any problem. When we first heard of the event, she pointed out to me that when our stake performed a large rendition of the Messiah a few weeks ago, a number of women in the choir wore pants, too. I hadn’t noticed at the time, but she was correct. We just have never seen this as any issue, and frankly we don’t understand why some women expressed fear in wearing pants. I have always been taught (including by my local church leaders) that we care more about people joining us at Church rather than concerning ourselves with what others might wear.

    As to the day of the actual event, I didn’t notice any women in our ward wearing pants. The significance of the pants day, however, was lost on me by the end of the meeting. Our bishop spoke for a few minutes at the end, impromptu, concerning the school shooting. It was inspired and everyone had tears in their eyes. Suddenly the idea of wearing pants to Church didn’t seem very relevant or dire.

    It also caused me to consider the concept of protest at a sacrament meeting. Even if there is validity to a protest, should it occur during sacrament? I understand this meeting is not always smooth or run perfectly, but the ordinance of the sacrament is a saving ordinance that should be accorded the highest reverence. Partaking of the sacrament is akin to being in the temple and participating in the Lord’s most sacred rites (even if we may not always accord it that sanctity). I just wonder whether sacrament meeting is the right place to protest certain issues.

    • Meidi

      I too do not find it appropriate to engage in protest in sacrament meeting. If there are issues that need to be addressed than why not speak to individual church leaders rather than make a meaningless display to prove a somewhat muddled point?

  23. why me

    I also found the pants movement unfounded. I have also found that the lds modest dress code is basically not in force anymore. In my ward, we have young women wearing short skirts or dresses, tight dresses and blouses that are far from modest. And the young men tend to dress less conservative too. I call it the H&M effect. Many lds girls shop at H&M and wear clothing that resembles the mainstream of fashion. They then bring this fashion to church. I would think that if the situation continues, wearing pants would be an act of modest, conservative dress and I am sure that many bishops would love their young ladies to wear pants instead of a short tight dress as is now worn my many lds teens at church.

  24. Neil

    I have considerable sympathy for all of the comments above. However, I would like to make this related observation: Mormon women may or may not be suppressed in what they feel they can wear to Church on Sundays, but they are certainly not suppressed in what they wear in temples. Go to any commercial temple clothing store. What do you see? Racks and racks of white options for women–plain, pleated, ruffles, quilted, lacey, frilly–a dozen or more different styles. And what do you see for men? White slacks and ties, mostly. The white shirts they can buy at any department store. This issue of “clothing freedom” seems to catch the attention of women more than men. By comparison, men just don’t seem to care.

  25. You, dear lady, are commendable – and part of what I believe is a quietly growing number of younger people of all faiths and denominations; a gentle voice of reason amidst the fervour and hatred of fanaticism, who will bring reason to a world tearing itself apart with madness.

    I’m not a Christian (though I was raised in a Christian cult), but I believe that individuals of all religious walks of life can live side by side in peace and harmony, which is what I always thought was rather the purpose of religion to begin with.

    I applaud you and those who join you, in your efforts.

    • I agree that we need to set aside the extremism and view the world with a more moderate approach. Beyond carne asada burritos, I’m not a fanatic over anything.

  26. Tina

    Even though I can’t stand how women are treated by some folks in the church (nor do my parents, especially my dad) I decided to wear a dress that day. I wear elegant pants the whole week for university and so I do not consider my work and university clothes as my Sunday best.
    My father wears a suit for work but the one he wears on a Sunday is way more elegant his tie is too etc. Everybody wears something different on a Sunday. If a girl wants to wear pants, she can. That definitely shouldn’t be an issue. But I love my collection of dresses. I like to wear a skirt because I can’t do that during the week.
    Wearing pants is no protest. We don’t change anything with it. I think nobody would have been offended if it wasn’t “planned”, if the media wouldn’t have talked about it that much. Even the community in Switzerland learned about it. And if we think that a “skirt” destroys our “feminism”, then the tie destroys my brothers’ “teenagerhood”.

  27. I thought this was an awesome idea, but my wife wasn’t too excited by it. I think I’m more of a feminist than she is. :]

  28. Anonymous

    As a long time lurker I am always a bit amazed at what comes out of the church in the inter-mountain west primarily. The church is so entrenched that lines between culture and religion are usually blurred.

    The farther you move from the center of the church the less complicated things get. In most other countries wearing pants or dresses to church is not as vital as owning a nice pair of pants or a dress.

  29. I don’t get it. As members of the church, we are encouraged to wear our Sunday best, which for men, is generally a suit and tie, and for women, it is generally some sort of nice dress or skirt and blouse. What is wrong with that? Quite frankly I think wearing a dress looks more comfortable than wearing a suit and tie! Do you have any idea how hot a suit and tie can get when it’s 100+ degrees outside? And yet, we men are still expected to wear them. You women have it easy on this regard, why campaign to change it?

    • Although, as it’s been explained, PCS was supposed to be about more than clothing, I think Mike has a point, but not necessarily the one he’s making. :) Culturally, we focus too much on outward appearances, and push clothing to the point of silliness. A man in a white shirt, jacket and tie is no more worthy than a man in a coloured dress shirt with an open collar. A woman in a skirt is no more modest than a woman in slacks. Righteousness lives in your heart, not on your sleeve. I’ve been present as an older member chastised a younger Branch President’s wife for wearing cords to church in a country branch when the temperature was below -20 and the roads were treacherous. I’ve shivered through many Sacrament meetings in my knee length skirt and thin, dressy sweater while men wearing jackets set the thermostat. And unfortunately, I know of a young man who changed his mind about returning to Church when someone made a comment about the colour of his shirt on his first day back. Dressing nicely for Church is important: it sets a more formal tone for an important event. We need to relax, be adaptable, and remember Captain Barbossa’s comment in Pirates of the Caribbean, “The Code is more what you call Guidelines than actual rules.” If we can do this, and open our minds to apply it to more than just clothing, there will be room in the Church for all of God’s children.

  30. Becca

    I don’t usually comment, but I, too, felt brutally battered by the end of Wear Pants to Church Week. I spent some time praying and thinking about the movement, and if I should participate. Because this wasn’t about wearing pants. I knew that. It was a personal declaration–a badge, maybe–declaring that “Yes, I’m a feminist. I am here. See me.” And I was frightened of the consequences that I might face if I did that. And to some of the commenters here who seem to be confused: No. No one would say anything about my wearing pants. But the possibility of my being treated differently afterwards is quite probable: quiet release from a calling, not being called on to teach or share in a class, children who suddenly wouldn’t be able to play with my children anymore, and an appointment to meet with the bishop. If you do not understand the fear of those consequences then, I would say, you are blind to the way things are for many women in the church. So I prayed. And I had decided to take a leap of faith and participate. To those who are angry at us or don’t understand, I would just say this: Do you know what it meant to me to see one of the women in my ward wearing pants?? It meant I had someone who understood my heart, in a way that I didn’t know. It meant that I wasn’t so awfully, totally alone. It was a gift for me. And it made me feel more determined than ever to stand up for myself and my sisters everywhere.

    • John S. Harvey

      RE Becca
      Wonderful summary of the emotions and motives. Thank you for posting.

    • PDXMom

      You are entirely right! That silent, friendly shunning that church women are so good at is VERY real and VERY alive in the church. I’ve felt it. I have a ‘Mormons for Obama’ bumper sticker on my car and even though I’ve only gotten a couple direct comments, and a few good natured jibes from my friends, I’ve also noticed the subtle shift in people’s behavior toward me. It’s depressing. But, I did have one woman who came up to me in the hall and *whispered* that she voted for Obama too. lol! We’re so funny as a people! Thanks for sharing your story!

  31. I think this easily illustrates that Mormonism just doesn’t work for many people, and those of us for whom it does not work just need to move on and focus on efforts that will be more edifying. One can quite easily see that this is true for some 2/3 of all LDS people carried in the membership file. To me, the fact that the 2/3 of all Mormons either leave the church or do not attend should be some sort of indictment, something that should make an LDS leader or two perk up and do something. Sadly, it does not. I hope that those who are seeking something more edifying and valuable than Mormonism will have the courage to go find it.

  32. natalieportugal

    This is all silly! LDS women wear pants to church all the time! I live in Texas and there are women that wear pants to church every Sunday. I grew up in Belgium and traveled all over Europe and I can guarantee that there are LDS women who don’t even own a skirt. No one cares what you are wearing!

  33. MM

    Quote honestly, I find this completely offensive.

    Joanna states “Because that’s what feminists around the world face and have faced. Across time. And all the time. From the iron-jawed angel suffragettes who were beaten for demanding the vote early last century. To the men and women in India this weekend protesting the government’s lax prosecution of rape, who were struck with batons and fired upon by water cannons, and the young Pakistani girls disfigured by Taliban acid attacks because they wanted an education.”

    I, and every single decent man and woman in the church should unequivocally condemn the kind of discrimination described above. It is horrific, unacceptable, barbarian and needs eliminating.

    But to even start to compare that with what little, if any, discrimination there is within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is simply absurd, and IMO is highly offensive to those that you reference who truly have suffered terrible abuse.

    Yes, we as men and women, and as members of the church should stand side by side to eradicate that kind of discrimination. But Joanna, your writings (not just on this subject) are divisive. The ‘Wear Pants to Church’ movement does nothing to promote equality, it simply reinforces divisiveness between the genders.

    Within the church that I belong to (I suppose it could be different in your ward) , women are honored, valued, respected. They are every bit equal to the men. We are different; physically, emotionally, in our talents and responses, and I for one find that difference wonderful. But that doesn’t make us any less equal.

    • Larry Ogan

      Thank you for your righteous indignation You are absolutely correct, no one in the Church, as far as I know, is throwing acid in women’s faces. All the women who replied to this blog should thank their lucky stars for the respect and equality they have today. They finally got to vote and can now own property. What more do they want, positions of leadership?. As a Bishop told my sister in an interview about her impending divorce, “Now sister don’t forget about the sins of Eve, remember to honor your husband”. Your offended…..!

      • And here we thought we were in the 21st Century. Yes my seldom dear, we do want positions of leadership. Other religions have realized that including women in positions of leadership leads to a richer, more meaningful spiritual experience for all their congregants. As for the Bishop’s comment, it’s wrong on so many levels it’s hard to know where to start. Honor the husband she’s divorcing?

  34. StacyMRA

    I’m all for rebelling against mormon culture and making distinctions between doctrine and tradition.
    The issue I take with feminism is the gynocentric society it has created. My question is, why don’t we ever discuss men’s issues? Men make up 90% of the homeless, 80% of all suicides, 95% of all workplace deaths, and 97% of combat deaths. We often talk disparities and how they effect women, but what about men? The average sentencing between women and men for the same crime is 18.51 months to 51.52 months. Or how about the fact that women win over 80% of custody battles even though 70% of all divorces are initiated by women. And despite the fact that men die 6 years younger than women, women still get the lion’s share of gender specific medical research. I could keep listing stats but I think I’ve made my point.
    I fear that we have become a society so focused on “women’s issues” that we have neglected men in the process.

  35. This is directed to people who have excoriated Mormon women for wearing pants to church: It’s fashion. It’s not the AIDS crisis. It’s not children living in poverty. It’s not the elderly having to choose between paying for their meds or the roof over their heads. It’s not mass drought and starvation. IT’S FASHION. Grow. up.

  36. Lift where you stand

    Dear Joanna Brooks,

    Let us remember Joseph Smith’s words: “I will give you one of the Keys of the mysteries of the Kingdom. It is an eternal principle, that has existed with God from all eternity: That (wo)man who rises up to condemn others, finding fault with the Church, saying that they are out of the way, while (s)he (her)self is righteous, then know assuredly, that that (wo)man is in the high road to apostasy; and if (s)he does not repent, will apostatize, as God lives.”

  37. Kevin

    Having just listened to John Dehlin’s interview with Ralph Hancock this post is priceless. Hancock bemoans a perceived growing threat from progressive liberal Mormon intellectuals, gays and feminists. What the heck? Is he trying to channel Bruce R. McConkie from 20 years ago? I wish Hancock well but he reminds me of the Greeks that Paul accused of being to smart for their own good or the Sadduccees with their fixation on patriarchy and displays of public devotion. It bugged me that Hancock criticized your book, Joanna.

    Towards the end of the fourth interview Dehlin makes an impassioned plea for embracing our gay brothers and sisters–as our brothers and sisters. I hear a companion call to embrace the ideals of feminism here. In a world of choice I chose your approach over Hancock’s. I believe you’re on the right of history here.

  38. Anonymous

    I have to admit, the whole thing has me a little confused. I have always tried to be super inclusive in the church, especially when I’ve noticed someone felt out of place. In some ways, seeing someone (in the past) in pants was a call, to me, to be extra nice. :)

    But what if I do believe in the gender differences? What if I feel it is something to celebrate? If someone tells me I am just like a man, that also tells me I am not “special.” Does that make sense? :) Now I’m not saying men can’t be nurturers, my dad was amazingly gentle and kind, way more so than my mother. But I do agree with church doctrine that women and men are different. And I think its something to be celebrated. For me, if I have to do all these “man” things to “prove” I’m as good as a man, then I’ve already lost (shouldn’t he be trying to “prove” he is as good as me?). I don’t buy the larger cultural message that doing typically “woman” things is degrading. I used to. There is nothing inherently degrading in washing dishes, caring for babies, those kind of things. Now, I get it if a woman doesn’t want to do those things, then that is okay, I’m not suggesting my formula for everyone. To each her own.

    So my big question is, how to co-exist? I want to be compassionate and inclusive, but I personally don’t want some things to change. How to help you dear women feel more equal, while retaining the things those of us who really like in the current system? I, for one, do not want an increase in leadership roles for women. I spend so much physical and emotional energy trying to be the best mother I can be. I just don’t want extra responsiblity, it would kill me off. And I don’t want to be absent more than I have to be from my kids, or miss this sweet, fleeting time. I realize I am giving all the pat answers, but my heart really lies there. I get that not everyone has kids, or wants to be this way, but how to make it work for both?

    And the pants thing, I have no problem with women wearing pants to church. My only concern is, I don’t want to see an overall cultural shift that goes to really casual attire. I already feel sad some days that our culture has gotten away from nicer clothes and into the super-casual, to the point of holey clothes. It is my one day in the week to really be feminine and pretty (dresses and nice clothes just not practical on a normal day), but if the overall cultural shifted then there would be too much pressure the other way.

    I don’t know. Just something to think about.

    • Orthodox Judaism justifies not allowing women to have certain synagogue privileges (i.e., being called to read from the Torah) by saying that because of their housewifely chores–tending to the children is the usual example–they don’t have the time to prepare for things outside the home. But this inevitably means that high-status activities, like reading from the Torah, are denied to women, who then don’t get the accolades men get from these activities. It’s a bit like women not being allowed in combat (although they were losing life and limb just like the men). You might say they were being “protected,” but it also cut them off from benefits like promotion. In the same way women who have to follow gender rules in church, or synagogue, are cut off from the benefits of participating fully in the practice of their religion. At least women should be allowed to CHOOSE what they want to do, whether it’s wear fight in combat, wear pants (really, in 2013?), take the extra responsibliity in the Mormon church, or take on out-of-home privileges in Judaism. It’s the lack of choice that is the problem.

    • I think the differences between men and women in equal leadership roles is exactly what the Church needs as it continues to moves into the 21st Century. Elevating women into higher leadership positions increases feminine input and points of view which need to be embraced and utilized Of course your work with your family is your first priority and remember agency is still the rule. Your choices should not be compromised. In my opinion equality of the sexes will help to heal the fallen state of humanity and the world. Its not about pants. It is about the plan of salvation and eternal progression. Heavenly Father and his son Jesus Christ loves us all equally.

      • I agree with what you say, but I’m a bit confused. I thought LDS had a feminine/masculine duality. In Mormonism doesn’t God have a wife? Can someone clarify? Thanx.

      • In 1845, after the murder of Joseph Smith, the poet Eliza Roxcy Snow, published a poem entitled My Father in Heaven, (later titled Invocation, or the Eternal Father and Mother, now used as the lyrics in the popular Latter-day Saint hymn O My Father), acknowledging the existence of a Heavenly Mother.[9] This hymn contained the following language:

        In the heavens are parents single?
        No, the thought makes reason stare.
        Truth is reason: truth eternal
        tells me I’ve a mother there.

        When I leave this frail existence,
        When I lay this mortal by,
        Father, Mother, may I meet you
        in your royal courts on high?

        From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

        There are many articles written on this subject. This song comes from an early LDS member and who was one of Joseph Smith’s plural wives. Eliza Snow said that she was told of Heavenly Mother by Joseph. Larry

  39. craftyash

    “…Though they be numerous, none of them are the boss of the great Mormon movement. This is a movement made up of millions upon millions of us who have loved the faith, and each of us has a say in shaping its future….” First sentence – correct, none of them are the boss… Jesus Christ is the ‘boss’. Second sentence – incorrect, I repeat – Jesus Christ is the ‘boss’. Mormonism is not a movement just because someone puts an ism at the end of the word. It is God’s church. Who are we to think we know better then Him? Who are we to protest to our leaders in trying to bring about change when those leaders listen to God? When has there been a time when a petition, protest or demonstration brought about change in God’s church? It all just seems so prideful, as if, ‘we know better, we’re smarter, so let’s educate those clueless leaders!’

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