Friday, December 14, 2012

My Feminist Mormon Perspective: Why I will wear pants.....

If you aren't aware of the "Wear Pants to Church Sunday," which is this Sunday on 12/16/2012, here are a few links to posts about it. The actual page announcing the event, and inviting all Mormon women, throughout the world, to wear pants to church, was taken down on Thursday, by Facebook, because there were death threats and threats of violence, against the organizers of the event, by members of the Mormon church, who were opposed to Mormon feminists calling for the event.  

There is a new RSVP page on FaceBook, if you want to officially add your name to those who are planning to attend an LDS church service wearing pants.  Despite the high emotions and attacks from Mormons who believe that wearing pants is an affront to God, their religion, and all that they hold holy, the event is going forward.  The LDS has no official policy against women wearing pants to church, and hasn't since the 70s.  So, if women have been allowed to wear pants for decades, why is this as issue?  There is a great discussion here, but I think this quote, from Joanna Brook's Religious Dispatches article, is important"
"Time and time again, Mormon feminists have been presented with or forced into a false dichotomy—either you are excommunicated or leave the Church or you accept everything in Mormonism as divinely appointed and infallible. This “pants” action carves out a broader middle ground where people who love their Mormon faith can begin to engage more thoughtfully with limiting aspects of the tradition that are traditional rather than doctrinal."

 A lot of the vitriol seems to come down to, "Don't you dare do something I (the commenter) don't want you to do, and that I disagree with."  Those sentiments have come from men and women alike, and while I like FHMLisa's thoughts on most of those comments coming from a place of fear, I also do understand those who say they don't want to wear pants, if they don't understand what wearing pants really means.  After all, this started out as a very small group of people, attempting to get maybe 100 people to commit to wear pants to church.  Without the backlash, it probably wouldn't be very big, or gotten much attention, even from other feminists.  The reaction has rallied those who consider themselves progressives and feminists, and while lots of women are committing to wear pants, men too are committing to wear purple ties or shirts, as a statement of solidarity.  

With each person their experiences, and reasons for participating are different, but I think that when it comes down to it, there are some common themes that come up over and over from the organizers, the group of active supporters at the FB group, All Enlisted, which is the "working group" of people who want to be part of guiding the strategy and tactics of the group that they hope lasts beyond Sunday.  I will try to share what I see as the reason to wear pants, (even though I will be at home and not at church, since I am still not cleared for non-medical outings) and why I will be wearing them on Sunday, even if it is only in my home.  I have always seen wearing pants to church as okay, and have done it before, so for me, wearing them on this day has more meaning, but it is not an act of civil disobedience, since it is not against "the rules" of the LDS church to wear pants.




Wearing pants, on Sunday 12/16/2012, is a way to for me (Julia) to say, 

"I am here, I worship and serve with you every week. I love you, mourn with you, and I am a feminist. I am a safe person to come to when you are hurting or afraid, or if you are scared. I will be  your friend no matter how much you are wondering, struggling, wrestling with angels, and I will help bind up your wounds, while you heal from the fight. No matter how alone you feel as a feminist, single person, married person, daughter, mother, sister, wife or how friendless you feel; you are not alone.
For me, wearing pants should tell everyone that I don't care who you love, what you do with them, how many sins you have committed, whether you are a victim of rape, incest, bullying, or any other kind of abuse; you are not alone.

My legs are ready to walk beside you, pull your spiritual ox out of the mire, hold on to you so that you do not slip down the slope of depression, or look around and see no one else ready to stand beside you when you feel all eyes on you. I have taken on myself the name of Christ, and covenanted to do all of these things, and because I know there are many who are not sure if I consider them worthy of being loved, served, accepted and celebrated because they too are feminists who worry that they are alone, I will let my pants speak for me, but only as the introduction aid, that lets me start talking, and walking, with you!"
If you are wearing pants to church, are your reasons the same as mine?  Have I missed something important?  Please share your thoughts!

12 comments:

  1. Absolutely beautiful Julia....and I do really get it!! Now please forgive my ignorance and deeper understanding of the LDS culture - especially the patriarchal influence. What came to mind was there must also be many men who are sitting in churches feeling bereft of a sense of purpose and connection - and how much the women of the church have to offer them. So many must be wondering, struggling, wrestling with angels.....it is also my great hope that the men will see the enormous contribution the women have to offer them from a 'spiritual' and 'blessing' perspective. However, one must acknowledge the need first and then choose to receive the spiritual gifts that the women in the church have to offer. May the talking and walking become contagious. Blessings. Jeff.

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  2. Thank you Jeff! That is really important. I don't know how much of my blog you have read, but one of the things I have talked about several times is that in my advocacy for rape and incest victims, some of those who are most destroyed by the abuse are the boys and men who are victims. So much of how teenagers are talked to about their sexuality is based on very narrowly directed behavior questions, that further enforce shame, self loathing and misunderstandings, that LDS abuse survivors are often not asked things like, when did you first do that? Was there someone else involved? Did you feel like you had a choice then? Do you feel like you have a choice now? All of those questions would help seperate abuse survivors and get them help before they come to believe that they are sinful and unforgivable.

    I would hope that feminists would see marginalized men as their natural allies, and that those men who are sitting their feeling alone might take the chance to say, "I like your pants, I think you are brave, and I hope we can be friends." I can't make any promises, but most female Mormon feminists recognize that there are many male moon feminists too. For those who want to show solidarity now, or in the future, a bow tie or anything purple would be subtle, but also clear to those you might want to signal your support to. :-)

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  3. I enjoyed your post but all these things can be done in a skirt or a dress. I feel like you can walk a path with anyone & be by their side regardless of the fact if you're wearing a dress, skirt, pants, running clothes, pj's, etc. The focus isn't on what you're wearing but serving. I know many feminists who love skirts & dresses. I just think that the whole wear pants to church is ridiculous. We're asked to dress our Sunday best because it's to show respect for our Heavenly Father & our Savior, Jesus Christ. I don't think that's too much to ask for all they do for each of us.

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  4. I enjoyed your post but all these things can be done in a skirt or a dress. I feel like you can walk a path with anyone & be by their side regardless of the fact if you're wearing a dress, skirt, pants, running clothes, pj's, etc. The focus isn't on what you're wearing but serving. I know many feminists who love skirts & dresses. I just think that the whole wear pants to church is ridiculous. We're asked to dress our Sunday best because it's to show respect for our Heavenly Father & our Savior, Jesus Christ. I don't think that's too much to ask for all they do for each of us.

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  5. (Caveat: This is a mostly copy-paste of a facebook comment) First I want to say that I see nothing wrong with wearing (tasteful, formal) pants to church whether to make a statement or no. Doesn't all clothing make a statement about us? Unfortunately, I feel that a lot of what Stephanie Lauritzen has said about this protest (and the Church in general) whether on her blog or through media interviews is harmful to your group's aims. A self-described doubting 'apostate' who still wants to be in the church and give her family priesthood blessings (see KUTV interview linked) goes contrary to what you just said about not 'going against the authority of the church.' Look at her blog post from December 5: "We need to honor the Mormon tradition of not just asking questions, but starting revolutions. Starting new churches and new traditions that honor our Heavenly Parents even when the establishment condemns us as heretics."

    I would like very much to support your group and its efforts to improve the situation of sisters in the church but if Stephanie is involved with leading your efforts **she at the very least needs to tamp down her blatant apostasy and doublespeak** (and clarify a LOT of what she has said on her blog) and if she is not this group needs to disavow her statements on its page to avoid confusion. I'm sorry that Stephanie has been receiving email threats, etc. about something as silly as pants, but her words and posts are harming your support among active, faithful Latter-Day Saints who may agree with your stated goals and she is portrayed as a leader of your group and will probably continue to do so until her statements are acknowledged and dealt with by herself or the group. You can understand why faithful Church members, even those who support some or most of your views, are skeptical of groups run by self-described apostates or nonbelievers to 'modernize' the church.

    Finally, I have to say that I just now read a couple of your other Mormon-oriented posts and I was really touched by the story about reporting child abuse of the family you visit taught. Like I mentioned we often judge a cause my its most vocal advocates, it was good not just to read your post and see that there are diligent members of the church who will stick their neck out to advocate for the weakest among us and humbly work for good instead of declaring themselves apostate and wanting to 'start a revolution.'

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  6. (Part A, got to long so I had to break up my response)

    R -I don't know Stephanie personally, and while I have read some of the things you mention, I doubt I would be more disturbed by any additional things. I think you are making the classic mistake of thinking that one person who started an idea, speaks for the whole group, or that the thousands of women who already RSVPed to the event, and many others who aren't on Facebook but intend to be part of "Pants Sunday," must all have the same vision. Part of why several of us were asked to write thoughtful explanations, which in my case involved a lot of prayer ahead of time because I wanted the guidance of my Heavenly Parents as I wrote it, is because the event got so big, so fast, that there is the danger (which your comment seems to bear out) that people would see a homogenous group, without multiple clearly stated reasons for our support.

    For the sake of arguement, lets assume that your thoughts and feels about Stephanie, and her aim is to change the church in revolutionary ways, I don't see why, as a group we would not allow her to be part of the organization, and to share her own thoughts and feelings. Part of what being for inclusiveness means tolerating things that are uncomfortable for me. I have lived in wards where church leaders have been the ones saying thins, over the pulpit, that I considered to be outside the scope if their calling, and the gospel as I know and understand it. I have had women whose husbands were in leadership positions say things about incest and rape victims causing circumstances in their lives that made it unsurprising that God would have them humbled through the sexual assault. Those things make me queasy every time it happens. I also don't agree with everything Stephanie says, but there are a lot of things that she has thought deeply about, which are troubling to her on a visceral level. She has the right to her own thoughts and feelings about her own experiences. She has the right to want radical changes, and to find inspiration for that in the practices in the early church.

    Neither you or I have to agree with her on every point, but since neither if us has been called to be her bishop, we don't have the keys or authority to approach her and call her to repentance. As an organic organization, with fluctuating people being more or less involved, who haven't even had time or emotional space to make a basic mission statement, or lay out 1, 2, 5, 10, or 20 year goals, it is way too soon to know what the nebulous blob that will make up whatever happens on Sunday, in a position to ask Stephanie to change her positions, or to know whether our eventual goals will be out of step with things she has written previously.

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  7. (Part B)


    Honestly, I am much more worried about including as many people as possible, especially disaffected members, to feel like this is a safe place for them, within a Mormon culture that has very few safe places for those trying to work through a faith crisis. I have been keeping track and am up to 32 people, in several forums, that report not having been to church in over a year, who plan to attend on Sunday. At least five of them have never attended the ward whose boundaries they are now living in. Those are 30 women and two men who feel hopeful enough about this that they are willing to go to church, participate in services, and in most cases say they will stay all three hours so that no one can accuse them of going to disrupt sacrament meeting. People who would otherwise not be at church, will have the chance to take the sacrament, (if appropriate) sing hymns, listen to talks, have the chance to feel the warmth of the Savior's love, and maybe make a friend or two, who can help them to continue to feel welcome on other Sundays they decide to attend. The five who have never been to their current wards will have a chance to check it out, see if it feels more loving and welcoming than they remember. If nothing else they will meet members of their ward, who will now have a face to go with the name if that person, so that they can more easily recognize them when they meet in the neighborhood or at the store.

    I don't see any advantages to giving ultimatums to Stephanie, or anyone else, regarding their thought, writings, beliefs or goals. I do see a huge benefit to making sure there are multiple voices, strong examples of people who are not in the midst of a faith crisis, who lay claim to their interpretation of what it means to participate in pants wearing in solidarity. This is not, and I doubt it ever will be a group of women that statistically represent the women in the church. There would be no point to the group, and no need for it frankly, it we didn't have so many members who feel disenfranchised, with no way to make their voices heard. Especially former members who left over equality issues are going to be interested to see if there are ways to carve out spots that they could see themselves being a part of the church again. (If they really felt no connection to the church and its members they wouldn't be paying enough attention to want to be part of the movement/protest/social action.

    I am sorry if Stephanie's writing make it harder for you to accept the rest of us, just as I know some things I have said make it harder to know if they can trust the commitment of an organization to fight for the "exact" kind of change they are hoping for. I do hope that the dissonance you feel with Stephanie's thoughts and feelings, at this time in her life, don't make you turn away from a woman who comes to your ward in pants, hopeful but nervous because she doesn't know anyone, but brave enough to show up in solidarity with her sisters in the gospel. You could assume she is a woman you won't like (because she came to church in the same way Stephanie is planning to come) or you could assume that she is like me, newly moved in to your ward or branch, who wants to open conversations and increase the chances for friendship, but who is also worried about being judged by her new ward. Whatever brought her to show the courage and vulnerability to show up, I have no doubt that it tools guts to have read the terrible things said about women who would participate in this event.

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  8. (Part C)

    I am sure Christ would welcome Stephanie, me, you, and every other woman in pants. I can only hope that my prayers for softened hearts and reaching out to those who see themselves as "the least of these," are answered. The potential damage is much greater to the souls of those who would reject someone in pants, than it is to someone wrestling with angels to work out their salvation or exit from the church. I have been there, not in a public forum while it was happening, but wrestling with my own angel/demon, and coming out of it with a much stronger testimony than if I had not asked the questions, gotten the eternal perspective on the foibles of all women and men, no matter what their calling, and an ability to know the voice of The Lord, by way of the Holy Ghost, so that it is now unmistakable when it speaks to me. I would not trade my weak, rooted in the cultural norms and traditions of the church testimony, for the trials and tribulations that left me bloodied and barely breathing (spiritually) but knowing the unmistakable voice of MY Master!

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  9. 5ofus -

    I absolutely agree that all of those things can be done in a skirt, but they can be done equally as well in pants. I am sure that the two of us could sit next to each other in church, you in a beautiful dress, and me in my slacks and sweater, and both be warm, welcoming, inviting, and loving to all those around us!

    I don't have any argument with people wanting to look and feel their best when they come to church. That is the standards that the General Authorities have urged us to follow since 1971, with no proscription of skirts, or prohibition of pants. Personally, I have several pairs of dress slacks from when I was working in the corporate world that are far more expensive than any dress I own. If we are talking about looking and feeling our best, then a pair of dress slacks and a cashmere sweater would be the way I feel I look best.

    I didn't write this post to convince anyone to "join the event," but to give a clear explanation about what I think it means to choose to wear pants to church this Sunday. There were a number of valid critiques of the event, based on the lack of clear statement(s) of intent. I hope that for those who are curious, or confused (and I know lots more people are in those categories than those who are in "attack mode,") I wanted to offer my reason, as a complete thought, and not just a response essentially telling responding that what someone was claiming the event meant, was not what it meant to me. It also gives me a lazy way to not repeat myself over and over, cutting and pasting long comments. Instead I can respond to them, and then urge them to read my entire thoughts here.

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  10. This is beautiful, Julia. I am a frequent reader of fMh and BCC, but I rarely comment. I always appreciate your comments. I followed your link from BCC to this. Thanks for this. You seem like a very Christlike person and I'm glad to know people like you are out there. Your ward is lucky to have you. Gives me hope.

    Oh, I saw you comment on BCC about the BYU student who wrote the death threat on the FB page being investigated (as well as other threats?). I was wondering if there are any published articles (on-line newspapers) about this. I'm not asking b/c I don't believe you, I do, I would just like to link to a source. Thanks.

    Lily

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  11. Lily,
    I saw the screen shots when the were originally captured by the group monitoring the comments, as well as some discussions back and forth about who was going to take care of notifying authorities. There is a group who had been getting full thread screen shots every two hours, and they were double checking that all of the screen shots were together for individual posters.

    This article from the Chicago Tribune has had access to those same screen shots, and the article can be found here:
    http://my.chicagotribune.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-73690672/

    Thank you for your kind words, and I hope to see you here again!

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