I'm bringing pants to church. I have no idea if I'm putting them on or not, but I'm bringing them.
Here's why, not that you asked.
Traditionally, culturally, women have worn dresses to LDS church services. As Mormons, we believe in wearing our Sunday best to worship God, and dressing up on Sundays is a way to show we care and to mark the day as different from the rest of the week. It's the same reason the men wear suits and not jeans and polos. It's not a rule. It's just the shape our Sunday worship has taken in the years since our church was established.
Recently, a group of LDS feminists announced an event to encourage women to wear pants to church today, Sunday, in the hopes of making a quiet statement that some women in the church don't feel they're well represented in leadership and decision-making processes.
My first thought was, "Absolutely not. I refuse to wear pants." This is because for one thing--and it's the far lesser reason--I don't feel--and never have felt--unequal in this church or in my home. I feel respected and valued. I feel like my opinions are often requested and have been given due weight when I've offered them. I feel free to offer opinions whether they're requested or not. I'm granted, or often just take, opportunities to serve and lead others as much and often far more than the men around me.
There are little things that bother me sometimes, yes. I do think our young women should have a female leader present with them in interviews with their bishops (for a lot of reasons that have nothing to do with a bishop's integrity). I find it odd that some stakes cling to the cultural practice that women don't give the opening prayers, only the closing one. Or give the concluding talk in sacrament meeting, our weekly worship service. My ward isn't like that. But some wards are.
But like I said, these are little things that do nothing to interfere with my ability to be spiritually filled and renewed each Sunday. I have never walked the halls of any of the many chapels I've attended and felt second-rate to the men in any way. If anything, I think the men in our church are keenly aware that the whole thing would fall apart without the women doing the heavy lifting.
So I'm not putting on pants for church today because I don't feel a need to protest, however quietly.
There's a far more important reason I'm not doing it, though. I refuse to participate in a symbolic protest that interrupts the much greater symbol at the heart of our Sabbath worship. Sundays are ALWAYS about participating in the ordinance of the sacrament and renewing our covenants with our God, not making political statements to each other. I cannot bring myself to disrupt that by being more focused on something else, like which women are wearing pants, or why they are. In the end, those things don't matter. Being there, wearing my best to show my Heavenly Father that I respect the Sabbath and the sacrament as a day apart, matters. That's it.
I've been reading up on this quite a bit. This interview with the founder's of this event really gave me some insight into their motives. The more I've read, the more compassion I feel toward women who sometimes don't feel their place in our halls, who are hungry and searching for something. Whether I agree or not, their hurt is real. I have been so disappointed in their treatment by others in comment trails and on Facebook. I think there are a lot of people who need to feel ashamed of themselves and it's not the protestors. I understand the discomfort and the anger engendered by some people's fear of this, but I don't think the ugliness, which I won't repeat here, is helping anything. In fact, I actually think it underscores what the pants-wearing women today are trying to express.
I won't do anything that detracts from the worship of my Heavenly Father for that precious hour at the start of our Sabbath services.
I do, however, feel a tenderness for those sisters who do struggle to understand their role in this church. And I speak of the church and it's culture and programs as separate from the GOSPEL here. The gospel is perfect. The institutions we've engineered to help us in the practice of it are not always perfect. And I don't want these sisters to feel any more disenfranchised than they already do. So along side my big old binder full of agendas and activity ideas, and my old-school actual scriptures (I still navigate those faster than the digital ones), and my tissues for the kids, and my scratch paper for them to draw on, I will pack a pair of pants. Very nice pants, but pants. And if any one of my sisters is wearing pants in an effort to say, "Sometimes I come here and don't feel like I fit," I will slip into the restroom after sacrament meeting and put my pants on for the rest of church so they will know that I want them to feel connected. Because I love them. And I will feel like an idiot, but if they need me to, I'm putting on my pants.