Two days ago, some Mormon women (and men) participated in “Wear Pants to Church Day.” Participating women wore nice pants to their church meetings, while supportive men wore purple shirts and/or ties. If you’re Mormon and somehow don’t know what I’m talking about, “Wear Pants to Church Day” was organized by some faithful Mormon women who wished to invoke a sense of solidarity among those who feel that non-doctrinal, gender-based stereotypes are needlessly hindering love and unity within the LDS Church (e.g. when someone doesn’t fit a given stereotype, for whatever reason). More generally, the event sought to expose—and begin chipping away at—our tendency as Mormons to latch onto things that aren’t official doctrines or policies of the Church and herald them as inviolable measuring sticks of personal righteousness. That’s my understanding of the event, anyway. For a more official explanation of the event, you can find several blog posts about “Wear Pants to Church Day” at Feminist Mormon Housewives. If you’re so inclined, the one-hour podcast posted here includes an interview with those who started the event. It’s a worthwhile listen.
If you don’t know, there was quite a backlash against this event. Some Mormons vehemently attacked those expressing a desire to participate in “Wear Pants to Church Day,” enough so that the event’s official Facebook page was closed. While some who opposed the event treated it as silly (“I’m a Mormon woman and I like wearing a dress! It doesn’t make me feel oppressed!”) or pointless (“There’s not a rule that says you can’t wear pants to church, you idiots! You’re not even rebelling like you think you are!”), some were much more drastic in their responses. Presumably, more than a couple of death threats were issued against the organizers of the event. I find this baffling, of course. But even the most flippant dismissals seemed to miss the point of “Wear Pants to Church Day.” In my eyes, at least, the event was not meant to “protest” anything. It was more of a reaching out to those who have, at some time or another, felt outcast due to not fitting into the standard Mormon mold. If we’re honest, that would include just about any of us.
Melanie couldn’t decide whether or not she wanted to wear pants. Quite rightly, she worried that people would not understand her motives in wearing pants. The point of wearing pants was not to say that dresses are oppressive. The point of wearing pants was not to break the rules. But that’s what all the naysayers presumed the event was about. Melanie’s choice was not as simple as I’ve probably made it sound, and I’ll leave it to her to discuss her thought process in more detail if she so chooses, but she did not wear pants. And I, for a very lame and OCD-ish reason, did not wear any purple. (I wear purple to church quite frequently, but on this day, I felt that my blue suit would better compliment Melanie’s attire.) In hindsight, as I continue to hear the closed-minded rhetoric being spouted by those who cannot wrap their minds around the purpose of “Wear Pants to Church Day,” I regret my choice. A little bit, at least. I don’t know that my purple shirt and tie would have meant anything to anyone, but I did see one woman—a friend of Melanie’s—who was wearing pants. As far as I could tell, she was the only one. Neither I nor Melanie got a chance to speak to her, but it breaks my heart to think she felt alone. Maybe she didn’t. But I can imagine it took courage on her part, and if absolutely nobody else participated, she very well may have felt stupid. And now I realize even more so that participating in “Wear Pants to Church Day” was as much an opportunity to show love as it was to make any kind of political statement. I guess that should have been obvious—the political statement, if we should even call it that, was about love to begin with.
If I were a woman, I’d wear pants to church next Sunday. “Wear Pants to Church Day” is over, but its purpose wasn’t to change our mindsets for three hours on December 16th. It was, in part, to remind us that God isn’t nearly as closed-minded as we are, that he maketh his sun to rise on the women in dresses and on the women in pants. My wearing a purple tie in the future won’t convey much, but for any of you Mormon women out there, it’s never too late to wear pants as a sign that you strive to follow Christ’s admonition to love people unconditionally.
Kinda makes me wish I had a vagina.