Saturday, December 15, 2012

It's Not About Pants

I'm pretty sure I have lost any blogging audience I may have had, meaning the only people left reading this will be family and possibly a few neighbors. Which also means I will most likely offend everyone reading this, but I have to speak up.

A movement was organized called "Wear Pants to Church on Sunday" for Dec. 16. The organizers are mostly feminist Mormon women who would like to see greater gender equality in the church. (This is a great article specifically outlining some things that could be more equal.) This started out as a small, non-intrusive way for women to express their desires through civil disobedience. They specifically chose wearing pants because they thought it would be non-threatening. They weren't trying to make a political statement, alienate people or do anything that would distract from the spirit of church. But over the last week, this small step meant to encourage thought, kindness and equality has exploded into a big ugly mess. Church members are offended and horrified that women would choose to wear pants to church, despite there being no official church policy on the matter. There have been mean words, accusations and even threats. Yes, threats against those planning to wear pants.

I watched the whole thing unravel for a few days considering what I wanted to do. I wanted to stand with these women but I was scared. Scared of the judgment of others. Scared that my fellow church members would look down on me. Scared that I could be putting my education in jeopardy as I'm attending a church-sponsored school. And that's when it clicked for me. The very fact that I am scared to stand up and share my thoughts is why I should. The fact that I fear the judgment of others is misguided. I should only be concerned with what God thinks of me, and I think God supports equality in all forms; men and women, black and white, bond and free, Christian or Muslim. He loves us all.

I took a deep breath, summoned my courage and took a stand. I posted on my facebook wall that I planned to wear pants on Sunday. I wrote "I will be wearing pants to church on Sunday. I'm not doing it to be disrespectful, rude, or to show off my apostate ways. I'm doing it for solidarity for the many, many people (men and women alike) who feel sad, wronged, or judged for not fitting into the "Mormon Mold". I've felt that way at times and know how difficult it can be. There are lots of ways to be a Mormon, and they don't all include dresses on Sunday. It's ok if you disagree with me, I still love you. And that's the whole point- we can be different and still be ok. We are all children of God, and I don't think he cares one bit what I wear to church."

It seems that many people don't understand that this isn't about pants at all. Not really. Yes, pants are the way we are choosing to show our support, but it goes beyond trousers. It's much deeper than "Sunday best". It's about people like me, who fear retaliation at church for voicing an opinion contrary to culture. It's about supporting those who feel left out, sad, hurt, or wronged by people or polices at church. It's about calling on that Christ-like virtue of mourning with those who mourn, to say "You are not alone."

Some have asked, "Who are these people?" These people are your neighbors, your family, your friends. They are working moms, single parents, those with an inactive spouse or child. They are the infertile, the depressed, the intellectuals, the homosexuals, the feminists. They are the many, many people who don't follow the culturally prescribed life plan (marry young, kids every 2 years, be a SAHM) and feel judgment for it. In short, they are the silent majority and I am one of them. We are people who believe in Christ and want to worship Him, but struggle to attend church because of the dated culture we find. During this week, participants in the movement have been called unfaithful, unworthy, irreverent, apostate, satanic and worse. We only wish to open a constructive dialogue about things that pain us, to try to find a positive solution, but many have literally been to told to leave.  Leave the church because we are voicing a dissenting thought.

Is not Christ's church open to all? I don't recall the scriptural footnote that excludes those groups mentioned above. The second great commandment is to love thy neighbor as thyself. For me, wearing pants is a symbolic way to show my love. To reach out to those who are too afraid to wear pants, but desperately need support. I'm not doing it to set myself apart for those in dresses, but to reach out to those who might be uncomfortable in their symbolic skirt.

If you have never felt the pain I describe, I am genuinely happy for you. I'm glad you find such peace and acceptance at church. I'm glad you feel you can be authentic to yourself without condemnation. But please don't assume that everyone has your life experience. Please don't disbelieve when someone tells you their feelings and experiences are different. Perhaps you have never heard someone speak of discomfort about the church. This doesn't mean it isn't very real. I have never seen France, but others tell me that it is real, they have visited and walked on its soil. And so I trust and believe in their experience.

So really, it's not about pants. It's about reaching out, strengthening, lifting, and comforting those who are afraid to speak out on their own.


tamaraa said...

I'm new to your blog, but I just have to say that you've expressed yourself beautifully and from a place of love, and I appreciate your candor and the sentiment behind your support of misfits everywhere.

Patty O. said...

Love this! I hope you don't mind, but I am going to share this on my FB page. This is spot on!

Casey said...

i've got your blog in my google reader, so i follow it. i appreciate your thoughts. i think one of the problems is that it is difficult for people to separate cultural doctrine from real lds doctrine, and that much of the cultural traditions make people feel left out. if a person doesn't fit that cultural mold, they feel like they are judged by others as a sinner or apostate. i wish we could be more inclusive, empathetic and understanding. i feel like that is how christ would treat people.

Jessica said...

Casey- I absolutely agree. We have a hard time dividing doctrine from culture and members often interpret culture AS doctrine, which can be very harmful and hurtful.

UK Yankee said...

Exactly! Like like like like like! I'm with you all the way!

Heather said...

Jess, I hope you know how much I love you! I feel like you expressed yourself so perfectly, I don't think it could have been said better! To be honest I wore a dress to church, don't judge me ;) I am a little sad though that I didn't get to see your pants!

Mary said...

I guess I had my head in the sand because I had no clue about this! And although I'm not family or a neighbor, I will forever be a kind stalker.
Almost all of my husband's family lives in Utah, which is why he continues to voice his desire to move there once he retires from the Army. My response is always, "but there are too many Mormons there!"
I was raised in a part member family, my dad was Catholic, and I was forever treated differently because of it. My husband and I LOVE our religion, but we do not look forward to going to church.
I am looked down on for choosing to work (which I LOVE), waiting 8 years to have kids (because I wasn't emotionally ready), and not continuing to procreate.
I never feel comfortable voicing an opinion because I feel I will become shunned...which is why my husband only attends sacrament meeting.
The last time I attended church (over a 18 months ago) I was given dirty looks and heard numerous scoffs as I tried to wrangle my 15 month old twins by myself in Sunday School. My husband was gone (as is a common in the Army) and I was able to leave until one of the men came over and sat with me to help me with the boys. Relief Society was a little better but I was so overwhelmed that I cried the whole way home. I've never fit into the Mormon culture, but it will never sway my faith in the LDS Religion.
I LOVE that you wore pants!!