Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Stance on Pants

I have had one long and interesting day (and it is far from over). I learned a lot about humanity today, in both good and bad ways.

I wrote an article that ran as the cover story on Meridian Magazine today. The title is, "Pants in Church: A Feminist Movement." In a very, very small nutshell, essentially there is a movement of LDS feminist women to wear pants to church this Sunday as a symbolic gesture/demand for more gender equality within the church. My response in the article is simple, I avoid all discussions of gender equality, and only discuss the appropriateness of using a meeting devoted to renewing covenants with God as a place to make a personal, political stand. (Again, in short, I am against that.)

If you read the article closely, I actually do not disagree with anyone who wants more gender equality. While I fall very short of backing all of their cries of inequality (actually, I think they are flat out loony on some of their "issues"), there are a few I completely agree with (equal treatment of the YM/YW programs and budgets!).

But pants in church (on Sundays when they aren't a "stick it to the man" political stance), I have no problem with nice dress pants in church. I have searched for guidance on what constitutes “Sunday dress,” and have only found Elder Holland’s remarks above. It is probable that dresses and skirts being defined as “Sunday dress” is just a handed-down, and outdated tradition. Personally, I would love to be able to wear nice pants to church. Pants can be more modest (both in the covering and simplistic sense) than most dresses. Buying a dress that covers the appropriate amount of skin can be cost prohibitive at times, whereas pants rarely are. And I, for one, am tired of having to wear a coat to keep warm in a frigid chapel.

In fact, I have worn "pants" in church many times. Here's the proof-

That's me in the middle in the light green dress/culottes. My BYU roommates and I (and one roommate's mother) had just returned from church in this picture. I loved this little romper/dress/jumper/culottes outfit.  It was cute, comfy, and no, it was not a skirt. It was shorts at the bottom. As you can see, I wore it with tights and dress shoes. It was a very dressy outfit. My roommates also loved that outfit. I have pictures of at least 3 of them wearing it!
I'll even bet that a few of them wore the "pants" to church a time or two.

Here's the thing about that outfit. It was classy. It was dressy. And it was most certainly "Sunday Best." (And it was stolen about 5 years later by a drycleaner in Texas.)

I will not join the ranks of the “All Enlisted” cause this Sunday. I cannot in good faith support anyone that wishes to bring a spirit of contention to sacrament meeting. But I just might start to wear nice dress pants at some time in the future. My mind has been opened to the realization that traditions are not always commandments. I keep the commandments, not traditions. 

If and when I do begin to wear pants on Sunday, it will have nothing to do with gender equality or inequality. It will be because what I chose to wear will be my “Sunday best,” modest in simplicity, cover my skin, be comfortable and yet respectful, and I will do so knowing that my mind will not be on my clothing, or whether or not there is a seam between my legs, but on the covenants I will renew.

My little article on Meridian has just passed 1,000 "likes," and over 100 comments. I'm not used to such feedback and response! It's a bit overwhelming! I am the secret squirrel moderator of the comments on Meridian, but few people know that. I chose to be out of the house and away from my computer for most of the day, just so I wouldn't be able to moderate the comments. Why? Because I was worried there would be a comment war, and I didn't want to spend my whole day moderating it. If people can't see the other comments yet, they can't fight with them. (You can only imagine my surprise when I came home to find over 100 comments waiting!)
But I did have access to Facebook. I was at the hair salon (a disaster story for a different day) and kept checking the comments my own Facebook page was getting. And boy did I ever get a lot! Every five minutes I would log in and find another 5-10 alerts on FB. The stylist asked me what was going on. I explained in general terms that I had written an article that had sparked a lot of responses. She asked about the topic. I was worried that a non-Mormon wouldn't get it. After all, in most other churches this isn't an issue. But I explained it to her in detail.
Her response stunned me. She began to quote scripture- Old and New Testament- without blinking an eye. She is active in her own faith and as it turns out, quite adamant about women dressing like "ladies." Did I mention she had a tattoo on her wrist, a trendy, funky hairstyle, and works in a very new age salon, and she's probably not yet 40 years old? On the outside, she didn't look to be a kindred, conservative spirit. On the inside, well, she taught me a few things. We talked about gender equality and religion and the priesthood- from the perspectives of both of our religions. In her words, "Same does not mean equal. Two different things can be equal. Two identical things are just identical, it does not make the equal." She asked me quite a few questions about why women feel they have to be the "same" as men in order to feel "equal." The truth is, I couldn't answer most of her questions, because I was on her side. I don't have a problem with feeling "unequal" to the men around me at church. Men have their duties, women have theirs. (I do have some questions about why husbands are responsible for tithing even if the woman earns it. But I highly suspect the answer will come down to nothing more salacious than that is the way the computer program is set up, and has nothing to do with gospel doctrine.)
Back to the pants-
I have worn pants to church many times (beyond my little BYU outfit). I wore them in Haiti, and I wore them as an on-duty firefighter.  And I think I may have once worn a really fancy, flowy pair of pink pants too. (I miss those awesome pants.) It does not matter if you are in pants or a skirt, if what you believe you are wearing is the appropriate clothing to enter the Lord's building and renew your covenants.


  1. Loved your article on Meridian - and finding some comments interesting. It is not about the pants - it is about trying to tell God how to run His church. I don't wear pants on Sunday because I wear them all week and love to dress up and wear something different. You want to wear pants - OK with me. You want to protest at Sacrament meeting - not OK with me.

  2. Anonymous5:03 PM

    Erin, I have been a financial clerk several times and never heard that only the man pays the tithing. Maybe it's a US law or something but we can both have our names in the computer and pay separately here in Oh Canada. When my wife was a temple worker she found that women are very equal to men in the Lord's highest house, right?

    darcy the canuck


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