Of Pants and Dresses

Many friends and family have asked why I would consider wearing pants to church.  As the questions were being asked, a wide variety of assumptions were being made.  Some of the assumptions were about the “cause” and many others were of the kind that sounded like my spirituality and testimony were being judged by those without authority to judge.  To all those who thought those things: Shame on you.

If you missed the actual description, the group All Enlisted, which created yesterday’s Pants to Church event, reads as follows:

 All Enlisted” is composed of faithful Latter-day Saints, their allies, and advocates for social change. It is intended 

to be a place of action where active LDS men and women can engage in acts of peaceful resistance to gender inequality in the LDS church. Drawing inspiration from suffragettes and civil rights leaders, we aim to display a respect for personal revelation and community strength as we seek to build Zion, a place where we fully realize and embrace the truth that all are alike unto God. 

We strive to keep our actions consistent with those of the Savior by showing a commitment to Christ’s injunction to love one another as ourselves. We echo the words of Gordon B. Hinckley when he said, “God will hold us accountable if we neglect his daughters.”

Logically and doctrinally, it stands to reason that women are equal to men in the eyes of our Heavenly Parents. Thus, women’s realm of influence is, and ought to be, much broader than those defined and promulgated by existing church policy.

By preventing women from fully participating in the church, many women who consider themselves Mormon feminists feel forced to choose between their divine nature as women, and the church organization they love. By equalizing the role of women in the church, all members will be edified as members make decisions based on personal revelation instead of rigid gender roles. 

Equality benefits both men and women, allowing us to see our brothers and sisters as the Savior see them: as individuals with unique needs and talents and limitless potential regardless of gender. 
Our group’s name reflects the belief that all members maintain responsibility to enlist in causes dedicated to improving the church. 

We are all enlisted till the conflict is o’er; Happy are we! Happy are we! Soldiers in the army, there’s a bright crown in store; We shall win and wear it by and by. 

 

In an effort to shed some light on my personal reasons for even considering such a thing as supporting a group that uses the words “peaceful resistance” and “gender inequality”, I’ve decided that the best way to do this is to write up a full post about it.

First off, let me just say that my husband was the first person to ever suggest I wear pants to church and that much of the inequality experienced was culturally based and not doctrine.  But back to the pants in general . . .

As I’d stand in my closet lamenting the state of my church wardrobe, my husband would say, “Then just wear pants”.   I try to be budget conscious and let’s face it: flattering outfits can be difficult to find when you lack to time shop and actually try things on.  I’ve had a lot of weight fluctuations in the last 7 years, too, which has only made the wardrobe situation worse.  I don’t like feeling like a slob when I go to church but with so many ill fitting clothes, it’s been tough!  So my precious man has, more than once, reminded me accurately that there is no policy that requires I wear a skirt or dress to church. 

But I’m pretty darn conservative in soooooo many ways and bucking cultural norms really isn’t my style so until today, I have always worn a dress or skirt, even if I felt frumpy.

I first heard about the “wear pants to church event” about a week beforehand and didn’t think much of it other than jealously because I’d never be brave enough to do it because by wearing pants, I would be admitting to all who saw me that I didn’t fit “the mold”.

Very quickly the comments about the event became very difficult to read.  I heard one side saying things I’d heard growing up and the other side saying things that helped calm my cognitive dissonance.
The side I grew up on was saying, “Pants wearers are on the road to apostasy”  while other side was countering with the equally disturbing, “Don’t judge me, you’re the one who thinks blind obedience is right!” There were even death threats that led to police involvement.  It made me want to cry.

This is a lot to take in for a woman who really just wants to do the right thing.  So, with all of the hullabaloo, I decided that as much as I wanted to wear pants to church because they are warm and comfy and dressy and because I do believe in my hearts of hearts that much of the inequality in the church is based on long held societal norms and not because “God wants it this way”, I wanted to make sure I was doing for the right reasons for me.

I know a little of what it is like to not fit in.  It seems I am frequently on the outside of things and I’ve never really had a problem with it.  For years now I’ve felt my divine worth as a daughter of God and the power that came with that knowledge has improved my life in so many ways. However, I know a great many people who have not been blessed with that same understanding and strength; men and women alike who walk into the Chapel and immediately feel unease because they aren’t dressed as others are.  It is a horribly unpleasant feeling.

I decided Wednesday evening, after sitting and reading comments on The Feminist Mormon Housewives blog that I needed to find out what I should do.

There was no way on earth I was going to walk into church, in pants, on December 16th, without doing it for the right reasons for me.

After about 2 days of soul searching and praying I knew that I needed to wear my slacks to church.  It wasn’t for me—I now know that as long as I’m dressed in my best and invite the Spirit to be with me that pants or dress won’t matter—but because someone else needed to see me in pants.  I don’t know who and I probably never will.

Leading up to this decision I knew it would be a lesson to me in just how deep my cultural roots go.  How uncomfortable was I going to feel?  Did it really matter if I was the only one?  What I didn’t anticipate was the lesson I was given on compassion.  The only time I’ve felt truly judged at church was when my husband and I had been married for almost 4 years and still did not have children.  Week after week people would ask about our intent to have children.  Some of it was “good natured ribbing” but some of it was hurtful.  They thought we were putting off our family because my husband was in law school, because I was too busy making a name for myself at my school, etc.  

What none of those people knew was just how hurtful all their comments were.  My husband and I tried to get pregnant for a very long time before our eventual success.  It was so hard to go to church, watching couples who had just been married have children while we sat there, childless, and being informed we weren’t good enough because of it.

I know many people in the church have felt hurt over one thing or another.  The most notable perhaps would be the single mom, those with same-sex attraction, addictions, or divorce in their past, but there are so many other reasons that people sometimes feel unloved.  Empathy is a far more powerful tool than sympathy.

So yesterday, head held high and dressed very nicely, I walked into the chapel in my nicest slacks and had a really wonderful experience.  I was reminded that I am a daughter of God and can impact how others view His gospel.  I really wish I could have stuck around longer to talk to someone, anyone, about “the pants” but I was unable to do so.

If you have time, I highly recommend reading the stories of other women here:

 http://www.feministmormonhousewives.org/2012/12/pantscapades-the-after-party/

 As you read them, whether you are a “pants supporter” or not, you’ll see that something truly amazing happened:  Women attended Sacrament meeting who had not been attending church for quite some time.  This single event helped to bring daughters of God to Christ.  And isn’t that what Sacrament meeting is all about?

 

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