Sunday, December 16, 2012

Pants to church?

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.

But.

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.

But.

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.

18 comments:

J Scott Savage said...

You are awesome, Melanie.

J Scott Savage said...

You are awesome, Melanie.

Kimberly Vanderhorst said...

Love this. I love how you see what matters most, but in seeing that can still see what ALSO matters. We are too quick to condemn. Too quick to choose judgment over compassion. This blog post is so beautifully articulated - I wish more could read it.

Bonnie R. Paulson said...

Melanie, I thank you for saying what I've been trying to explain to my non-member family. I must say though that I am one who would wear pants before because pant suits were the best I had, but I was refused callings because of it. The Church is true and perfect, sometimes the people are not.

Abel Keogh said...

I'm wearing pants to church.

Susan said...

I totally forgot about this going on, with the Ct shooting. But there was a lady at church in pants today. Hmmm. I wonder...

I love that you took pants with you to possibly help someone else out. You are such a good person.

Erin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jenny P. said...

You have perfectly articulated my feelings on this entire subject. And since you did, I won't say anything more.

Rachel Ward said...

I love this. Love it. Love it. I feel so much the same way. These issues need to be validated, but the whole sacrament thing didn't sit well with me either. Thank you for posting this. Really. Thank you.

Donna K. Weaver said...

Very well said. As a convert and not feeling like I felt a part of the "family" environment, I sometimes didn't feel a part of what was going on.

"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."

This is the only issue I had with the effort. I wasn't sure Sacrament meeting was the place for it.

I don't think wearing dresses to Sacrament meeting is really the issue. It's how these sisters feel about their role in the Church.

Marcia Mickelson said...

Excellent post. I love how you were so willing to help someone who needed your support today.

L.T. Elliot said...

There's so much I identify with in this post. Most of all, I'm just glad to know that a person I've always suspected of deep understanding, tolerance, and love is exactly who I've always thought she is.

Josi said...

Beautifully said, Melanie. I love your heart, your confidence, your compassion, and your faith. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. They echo so many of my own.

Jolene Perry said...

Love what Bonnie said - the gospel is true and perfect, but people aren't.
I know people sometimes feel left out or looked over, but it happens to EVERYONE, not just women.
Some of the things people talk about, I've never experienced. Every time I've given a talk, I've been the first speaker. I've had more women Sunday school teachers than not. I've opened many meetings w/ a prayer. I'm in AK, so wearing pants to church is not uncommon at ALL.
I don't know...
You get out of it what you take. If I went to church and looked for how people might be "putting me down" or "setting me aside" I have no doubt I'd find it. I don't want to say this to take away from the validity of how other people have felt.
My husband works in the primary now and the primary presidency that he "reports" to is all women...
I joined the church b/c I've never seen womanhood so revered and respected my whole life.
I know this is not always the case, and I'm glad people recognize that it's the shortcomings of members of the church and not the church itself.
This is a FABULOUS post and one I read Sunday morning, but wasn't sure HOW to respond, only that I wanted to. And now I've just left you a blog-post length comment ;-)

Sheila said...

Melanie, the only times I have been made to feel not matching up to others,is by other women in the church, not the men. This happened after my divorce. I was made to feel that I didn't measure up to them now that I was a divorced woman, working full time out of the house. I also clearly got the impression that I was NOT to talk to their man, that now I was flirting if I talked to their husband. Seriously that is the last thing I want from any of them. So maybe I should start a protest from for all of the divorced/single women in the church. I feel like we feel this way more often than "normal" women in the church. I have heard the same thing from other women in the same position as me. I keep going to church because I love my Heavenly Father and my Savior and know I can feel closer to them there. I want to take the Sacrament. So, truly, the whole pants vs. dress thing is so small compared to what I have felt the past 4 years since my divorce. I guess it all comes down to our own perspective and experiences. I love your blog Melanie!!

Enjoy Birth said...

So did you end up putting your pants on? I wore them as you know. And not because I don't feel accepted/appreciated. More out of love for those who don't. It was interesting and positive experience. Most had no idea why I was wearing pants and didn't care. Got lots of positive feedback on my pants. I just wish all women lived in wards where they did feel accepted. Part of what motivated me to wear the pants were the hateful comments people posted about it. Come on, the Gospel is about LOVE and ACCEPTANCE. It was horrible how people responded.

Jami said...

What a compassionate middle of the road choice!

How'd it turn out? I wore purple in support, but there were no other purples or pants wearers. (Other than the sister who always wears pants because of her gang tattoos from her former life.)

Valerie Ipson said...

I'm late reading this, but I love your perspective. I like the idea of changing into pants after Sacrament Meeting. I wonder if the leaders of the movement considered that, I'm sure it would have been more palatable to many.

Wards are different...women always give the benediction in my ward, though last week we had women giving both prayers and no one blinked. I've been the final speaker before, but that's an exception.