Pants (or, this is why the feminists win)

Recently a group of progressive Mormon women decided to organize a Wear-Pants-to-Church-Day.  Really, it’s hard to believe that in the 21st-century that skirts or dresses are still the mandated attire for Mormon women, but it’s true.  Growing up LDS, I was told my some stalwart church leaders that I should not even enter the Chapel (the meetingroom where Sunday services are held) without wearing a dress or a skirt.  Even on weekdays or to vacuum that room when volunteering for weekly church cleaning.

It’s tough not to be a bit snarky about this issue–as if God cares what kind of clothes you are wearing to worship services.  Because Mormons are picky about their clothes.  Men wear dark suits and white shirts and ties.  Women wear dresses or skirts that cover cleavage and shoulders and knees.  And let’s not even get started talking about the mandated skivvies that all faithful LDS wear (so many people have asked me these past few years if LDS really wear underpants manufactured by their church.  The answer is that Absolutely Yes They Do).

So…back to pants…

The thing that is pure genius about this movement is that the feminists win either way.  Win.  Win-win.  Because the church has been forced to come out and state their position on women and pants, which is:

“Attending church is about worship and learning to be followers of Jesus Christ,” LDS spokesman Scott Trotter said Tuesday in a statement. “Generally church members are encouraged to wear their best clothing as a sign of respect for the Savior, but we don’t counsel people beyond that.”

Huge.  HUGE.  This means that women no longer have to wear skirts or dresses.  They can be counseled to do so, but the official word is that they don’t have to.

But what it really means is HUGE HUGE.  It means that all of that gender folklore about women and dresses and no-pants was just wiped away with that simple statement (a statement which adheres so much more closely to anything godly than the Women-in-skirts rule).

So that is why the feminists win.  They get to wear pants and they’ve also shown that the church will bend in the face of looking foolish in front of mainstream media.

That the church’s statement goes against everything I was taught about “Sunday dress” growing up is…well, it makes me a bit crazy.  There were emphatic lessons given by prophets about “appropriate” women’s Sunday attire as recently as two years ago, such as in THIS TALK that warned about the dangers of mothers wearing flip-flop sandals or THIS TALK that warned against women wearing more than one set of earrings. And of course card-carrying Mormons are told EXACTLY what kind of undies they need to wear to get into heaven, and they are asked regularly by their bishops if they are wearing said skivvies “night and day.”  So it boggles my mind that the LDS church PR department has back-pedaled so quickly by stating that “we don’t counsel people beyond that.”  Honestly, that is a lie.  They have counseled about specific elements of their adherents’ wardrobe over the pulpit.  Repeatedly.  It’s in print.  It’s google-able.  It’s on their website.  It’s a known fact of LDS culture.

2 thoughts on “Pants (or, this is why the feminists win)

  1. amelia

    You’re more optimistic than I about this being any kind of win for feminists. The fact that the church made this statement (which doesn’t explicitly state that it’s okay for women to wear pants to church; though I must say the necessity of them saying that is beyond ridiculous) in spite of the easily google-able evidence to the contrary is why I’m not so hopeful that this will effect any real change. Church leadership is very skilled at just this kind of doublespeak–where they state officially that they don’t do something (mandate members’ attire for church attendance; require members to donate to Prop 8; etc.) knowing full well that while they technically don’t do so, they have created extreme cultural pressures that essentially amounts to that very thing.

    Until the church moves away from the notion that the ultimate indicator of faithfulness is strict obedience to every minutia that escapes a G.A.’s mouth, and instead emphasizes individual autonomy and responsibility, then I don’t think eliciting such a statement can really amount to a victory.

    But maybe I’m just having an especially pessimistic moment. 🙂

  2. sue cannon

    I agree Jana. It is a win-win IF feminists go to church in pants. Media will be watching on PANTS Sunday and if women report shunning or being belittled or hasseled it will be broadcast for all to see much to the church’s dismay.

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