I did not grow up in a religious home. My parents would have self-identified as Christians, but not practicing ones. We seldom went to church or talked about God, and I don’t recall ever praying with them or reading the Bible with them. As far as being a woman goes, I was always told that I could do anything that I put my mind to. Nobody ever told me that there would be certain things that I would be unable to do simply because I was a girl.
Until I turned 16 and began studying Mormonism. To be clear, initially I was excited about the structure and ordinances of the LDS church. I liked that there were tangible and distinct offices for deacons, elders, bishops, priests, apostles and prophets. I liked that the giving of the gift of the Holy Spirit was its own ordinance, and that there were blessings for healing. I was excited about the prospect of being a part of all of that. And then I learned that I would never be permitted to participate in any of it because I was a woman. It was kind of like finding out that there really is a Santa Claus, but he only brings presents to boys. Of course, the arguments and justifications for marginalizing women were rolled out to me. I thought all of them were transparently terrible. Still do.
When I received an invite to All Enlisted’s “Wear Pants to Church” event, initially I clicked “maybe.” There were a paltry < 200 “yes” RSVPs to the event at the time, and I did not think it would go far. I even called it a “trivial act of rebellion” on the event page. As time went on and it became clear that the event had made waves and set a number of anti-feminist Mormons into panic, hope swelled up within me. I’ve been waiting 14 years for Mormons to do more than just talk about wanting women to be equal (or worse, make logically abortive assertions that Mormon women already are equal). Finally, someone was organizing a demonstration on the matter, and it was actually getting noticed. So it was that I decided to participate.
Today I attended both my own church and my husband’s LDS ward. Now the truth about me is that I like wearing skirts and dresses just fine. I have quite the collection. And as you’re going to see, my church does not have hang-ups about telling women what to wear. So it was that I donned a black button-down shirt, purple tie, black skirt, purple tights, and black open-toed shoes for my morning at my own church:
I am a member of the Evangelical Covenant Church. My denomination ordains women, and our women do it all: baptize, serve communion, preach, and lead in every capacity. There are certainly a lot of things that we could stand to do better, but we have been progressing in this area for some time. And in case you were wondering: our women still have babies and look feminine, and our men have not stopped coming to church.
The senior pastor of my church is a woman. She preached the sermon today, comparing the sacrifices and experiences of Jochebed (Moses’ mother) to Mary (Jesus’ mother):
Note that my pastor is wearing a not-knee-length skirt over tights. This is perfectly normal at my church, and it passes without comment. When you tell women what they can and cannot wear all the time, all you really accomplish is to fetishize the parts of their bodies that you’re telling them to cover up.
I brought my daughter, Harley, to my church with me. She was sporting a t-shirt with a fake tie printed on it and a fluffy purple skirt over leggings:
All of her pants are either jeans or those tight leggings (even I think tight leggings are too revealing on their own!), so I figured purple skirt + fake tie would represent just as well.
I was surprised when several members of my congregation came up to me to talk about the LDS “Wear Pants to Church” day, having heard about it via blogs or the news. One person whom I had never spoken to about Mormonism before even mentioned knowing that the LDS church recently changed the missionary ages for women to age 19 and thinking this was a good change, but still feeling concerned that sisters only serve for 18 months rather than two years. So, in case my LDS friends were wondering: yes, non-members are paying attention to these things.
Harley and I returned home to eat lunch and pick up Daddy so that we could attend his LDS ward. I took off the skirt and changed into pants, and we were off:
Paul was wearing a bright purple shirt. He’s not really into feminist activism, but he did it out of support for me:
Besides, he knows that when we go to church together, accessorizing me is job one.
I had a pleasant time visiting his ward. I got a lot of compliments on how great our family looked with the coordinated purple. One woman said that she loved my pants and that, if she had my figure, she would wear pants all of the time. (She was wearing a bright purple shawl, and I did wonder if maybe she knew about the event and was supporting it in her own way, but did not say anything.) I only saw two other women in pants at the ward that day, and I’m doubtful that either of these were purposefully wearing pants to participate in the event. I did not see any other men in purple ties or shirts besides my husband.
To be clear, I didn’t expect to get any kind of judgmental comments from my husband’s ward. I’ve worn all manner of clothes that don’t fit the standard LDS dress code to his ward, and never have I received any negative comments because of it. How many people were aware of the pants event and knew I was representing it is anyone’s guess.
Later in the evening, we went to the home of the second counselor in the bishopric for dinner. We had a great time hanging out with them. At some point his wife mentioned the pants event, and I said that I’d been supporting it today. The counselor said he’d been wondering what was up with the purple in our outfits. It didn’t sound like they were big fans of it, but they weren’t too negative about it either, so I guess that could have gone worse.
Thus concludes my pantsimony, and I say these things in the name of Levi Strauss, amen.