45 A Mormon in the Cheap Seats: Pants-Wearing Women Running Wild

pants_450Pants-wearing women running wild?

A group of women have decided they want to be able to dress themselves on Sunday.  The reaction (see the comments below) are what happens when LDS women challenge the patriarchal order of things by a) wearing pants, and b) organizing something without the “blessing” of “priesthood.”

The comments below are ACTUAL comments from a public Facebook event page (since removed by FB, new page here) that invites women to wear pants suits to church on Sunday, December 16, 2012.

I did not make any of these comments up.  In fact, I restricted myself to only grabbing the latest comments (out of hundreds), and I only copied new posts (not comments on posts, which, in many cases, were even more batshit crazy than the initial comments).

These comments demonstrate how deep sexism runs in the church.  It’s like groundwater.  It seeps into everyting.  Those who think the “pants” issue doesn’t matter are dead wrong. It is a HUGE deal, because it taps into the legitimacy of the gender roles that the Church has promoted for decades. The church has told women, millions of them, that the path to happiness is to surrender themselves to the larger purposes of bearing children and supporting the priesthood.  Women with careers, in positions of authority and responsiblity, running around wild in pants suits, is a challenge to the cultural infrastructure that the church, as an institution, has spent years putting in place.

On one hand, the church is smart enough to know that it has to APPEAR neutral on this.  That is why there are public pronouncements about women being “allowed” to wear whatever they feel is most appropriate (as long as it is their Sunday “best”).  The church IS NOT neutral, however.  It goes to great lengths to make sure that the norms against pants suits (and women running wild in general) are maintained.  The wives of GAs, for example, are instructed to wear skirts and dresses.  So are the wives of mission presidents and other leaders.  What sister missionaries wear is carefully controlled.  Basically, care is taken to make sure that no woman in any visible position wears anything but a skirt or a dress.  That, my friends, is how you maintain a cultural norm, and in that context, press releases telling women they can decide for themselves what to wear are meaningless.

Doves and Serpents has covered this ground before (see this post, and this post).

Now, on to a public airing of the ongoing parade of sexism, ignorance, and slavish devotion to imaginary religious imperatives taking place right now on the Wear Pants to Church Day Facebook page.  Hopefully, shining some additional light on this kind of craziness will have a salutory effect:

The beauty of an event like this is that it EXPOSES the most angry, prideful women in the church.  The types that are SO selfish and arrogant that they’ll destroy marriages and families and harm innocent children by demanding divorce.  It’s best for men to identify who those women are BEFORE they might marry them and offer them a chance to destroy their own innocent children’s family with their angry, prideful liberal views.  Great job ladies!  Voice WHO/WHAT you are LOUD and CLEARLY!  ;-)  FAIR WARNING:  The SAME ‘SPIRIT’ that tells you to wear PANTS to church in OPEN REBELLION against the encouragement of God’s appointed leaders will NEXT tell you to STOP going to church…then FIGHT AGAINST the church!  [Bret Bowman]

This is pathetic, i seriously thought this was a joke. I think it’s funny how all of you guys are protesting against the church. If you don’t like how things are, don’t go. It’s simple as that. If you dont agree with the doctrine or what we do as latter day saints then find a different religion. You can tell we live in the last days when people start doing this.  [Jenny Lynne]

Its groups like this that are a complete disgrace to the LDS religion. People like you are contributing to the false teachings and rumors that women aren’t equal in the church. Any woman can wear a pants suit to church if that’s what she feels comfortable with, the Bishop only asks to wear your best out of respect to Heavenly Father. If you feel like that’s your best, then do it. Nobody would ridicule you for it. We don’t go to church to compare ourselves, testimonies, outfits or personal worth with anybody. We go to become closer with God. The fact that you identify wearing PANTS to church as being an equal, and disregard the fact that we are able to create life inside of us, that Heavenly Father gave us the PRIVILEGE have children, which is something men CAN’T, then that is such a slap in the face to mothers and future mothers everywhere. It really shows who you are, where your mind is at and most importantly where your heart is at. Pathetic.  [Darla Thomas Allen]

I think this is a rediculous page like really what’s next? U will be saying believing in Jesus is wrong because he is male, will you be questioning why we had a male as the savior of the world. Becareful what you bring upon yourself, this is the Lord’s church and the church of order we should not seek to grow our political ambitions using the church. Visitors may wear what they feel comfortable and the bishop should speak to them about that. Women are precious and valuable and loved in the church it is discipline and reverence that male put on ties and pants, and sister wearing dresses. I seriously think whoever created this page is inactive and probably angry at the church so they trying to create some controvesy, and if you are active but embarking in this inappropriate association you might as well stay home, the Lord’s church will go on with or without any of us regardless of who you are. God bless.  [Tony Mathe]

This is really ridiculous. I question the testimonies of those that created this event. I have no doubts that my Heavenly Father and my ward members would love me the same no matter what I wear. I am proud to wear my Sunday best to church out of respect for my Heavenly Father.  [Aryn Hinton]

Why does this protest against modern shovenistic culture need to be involved with church attendance & worship? I’m not saying I disagree with the movement against the culture in the world today and inequalities against women, but I disagree with how this is being conducted. Are you going to contend next that women should also wear pants in the temple? This is not something that should involve church worship regardless of your faith. No prophet or church leader has told you not to wear pants and you certainly would still be welcome if you did. What is the reason behind trying to dress up? I think people have lost sight of what is really important. I will be very disappointed if this disrupts the reverence of church service and focusing on our savior, Jesus Christ. THIS TAKES THE FOCUS AWAY FROM HIM.  [Eric Carl Schultz]

Think of your purpose of going to church. Isn’t it to serve the Lord and to serve others? Now think of what you covenant to do. Isn’t to keep His commandments? We also know that our present-day prophet speaks for the Lord. Then why would you, by your actions, arm-twist our church leaders into conforming to your wants and needs? You say you are doing this in the name of equality for all. Can you imagine a church where the members can decide to call for groups of people to do whatsoever they want in the name of equality? Supporting this group would be a step towards it being a church of man instead of a church of our Savior. So, please just stop this!  [Laura Ong]

What a waste of time and energy. Wear whatever the hell you want to church. No one cares but you. [Lance Teeples] This is just Stupid! Waste of thought and too much Drama…. next thing you know it it will be MEN WEAR SKIRTS TO CHURCH SUNDAY… due to the inequality of not allowed to birth children…  [Betsea Ralph]

So the Devil already wears Prada, now she want women to wear pants to Church? Doesn’t the Church have enough problems without this moron stirring up more?  [Steve Green]

So when men decide they need some equality and start wearing dresses and lipstick to church I hope none of you mind and are willing to explain to your children that it’s because we should all be the same. [Darleen Yoblonovsky]

[and there's plenty more where that came from on the Facebook event page, since removed by FB; new page here]

All this makes me think of Caitlin Moran’s book How to Be a Woman.  As Emma Brockes writes in her New York Times review, Moran’s book “is a glorious, timely stand against sexism so ingrained we barely even notice it. It is, in the dour language she militates so brilliantly against, a book that needed to be written.”  On page 13, Moran writes this: ”When Rudy Giuliani became mayor of New York in 1993, his belief in the Broken Windows theory led him to implement the ‘Zero Tolerance’ policy. . . I feel the time has come for women to introduce their own Zero Tolerance policy on the Broken Window issues in our lives—I want a Zero Tolerance policy on ‘All the Patriarchal Bullshit.’”

I say we apply this standard everywhere, including our religious institutions.