There’s been much ado lately in the media, Bloggernacle, (also here here, here, here and a whole bunch of other places as well) and even Facebook about Mormon Feminists calling for women to wear pants to Church on Sunday, 12/16/12, (hereinafter Pants’ Sunday). Now, in the Mormon tradition and culture, women traditionally have worn dresses or skirts to Church on Sundays; however, there is no formal dress code in place, and the institutional Church does not have or enforce such a dress code. Now, the point of Pants’ Sunday is to focus attention on the inequality of women in the Church, which I readily admit exists, just as it does throughout the entire world (recall how they treat their women in the Middle East?). The Mormon Church is not unique in its discrimination against women–or better stated in its unequal treatment of women. For example, women cannot be ordained to the Mormon Priesthood. They cannot function at the highest levels of policy making authority in the Church because of this. And, for many years, what I like to call Mormon myths, or Mormon folklore, actually implemented in practice, did not allow women to pray formally in Church meetings on Sunday, give talks, or officiate in the ordinances and sacraments of the Church.
Peggy Fletcher Stack of the Salt Lake Tribune has an article, just posted to the Tribune website, and is worth the read:
The event is intended as the first act of All Enlist, a group dedicated to gender equality in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“We do not seek to eradicate the differences between women and men, but we do want the LDS Church to acknowledge the similarities,” the group’s mission statement says. “We believe that much of the cultural, structural, and even doctrinal inequality that persists in the LDS Church today stems from the church’s reliance on — and enforcement of — rigid gender roles that bear no relationship to reality.”
Within hours, the page had hundreds of commitments to participate, and even more hostile comments. Critics questioned the organizers’ motives, their spirituality, their loyalty to the faith. A second group posted its own, opposing event: “Wear Skirts to Church Day.”
I am sympathetic to the cause, i.e., more equal treatment of women in the Church. And, in the Mormon Church there always remains a real possibility that the equalization of women could become a De Jure practice, given the Church’s fundamental, and foundational bedrock principle—continuing revelation. Our history demonstrates not only the capacity for change, but the actuality of change, in core doctrine or practices. The prime examples would be ending the practice of polygamy, and extending the male Mormon Priesthood to all worthy males, regardless of race. I, and millions of others would welcome such revelation in the future enlarging the role of women in the institutional Church.
That said, my problem with the current movement (if wearing pants to Church can be considered such) is wrapping itself in the cloth of “civil disobedience.” I’m sorry, but I just don’t think wearing pants to Church is a form of civil disobedience. Nor is it similar (even remotely) to those persons of color who in the 1960’s refused to be segregated in their transportation, their schools, the lodging, and in the most fundamental of constitutional rights, to vote. Nor, will the consequences of wearing pants on Sunday be similar (even remotely) to those pioneers of the Civil Rights Movement who rode freedom buses in the heart of the racist south, and were met not with rhetorical fire hoses, attack dogs, and nooses, but the real thing.
Of course, the other major difference is the very concept of civil disobedience itself. The great disobedience movements in history, at least two of the greatest, Ghandi, and Independence in India, and the American Civil Rights movement, headed by Dr. King and others fought against legalized government oppression, bigotry, and discrimination enshrined in law. Not to trivialize Pants’ Sunday, but wearing pants to protest a rule that doesn’t exist, by a religious (and not governmental) organization that doesn’t even enforce the non-existent rule—-well, it’s just not the same thing.
All that said, from what I have read there have been some very ugly responses to this harmless, benign proposal of Pants’ Sunday, including threats or a discussion of violence. One of the Facebook pages devoted to Pants’ Sunday got so nasty that it was shut down–not certain whether that was a Facebook move or by the administrators of that particular page or group. Regardless of your position on Pants’ Sunday, ugly and derogatory responses including threats or even just a discussion of violence is beyond the pale and indefensible. There is simply no room for that type of discussion in the community of Saints no matter what your theological leanings.
I wish my Feminist Sisters and Brothers well on Sunday–and beyond for that matter. I hope there are positive results (whatever they might be) from this exercise. While I’m not certain there will be any significant changes from Pants’ Sunday, certainly those who want to participate ought to be able to do so without the ugly response from some who have responded in Facebook and other Internet venues. Hey–I may even join you this week . . .
Worth the read:
Ronan: Less than 1200 words on pants;
Jacob: Women Wearing Pants At Church;
Washington Post: Mormon Women Wearing Pants Love The Gospel