Wear pants and make a statement.
Services in The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints (LDS) are not generally formal. In the US, women wear skirts or dresses and the men wear ties to LDS congregations. Although there is no official policy against women wearing pants, it is not the norm. Mormon women all over the world plan to pack away their skirts and dresses and bring out their pantsuits on Sunday. Doing so, they hope to change the conservative dress code and increase the dialogue on the status of women within the LDS church. Men who support their fight for gender equality also plan to wear purple.
Stephanie Lauritzen, creator of the Mormon feminist group All Enlisted, noticed that people in her congregation judged her when she wore pants. “People were afraid to talk to me. People who would never hesitate to talk to me in a skirt and heels were suddenly reluctant to talk to me wearing pants,” said Lauritzen. As a result, she decided to make an event on Facebook called “Wear Pants to Church Day.” Thousands of people joined the event, some strongly agreeing and some strongly disagreeing. One person wrote, “What is wrong with all you women??? If you’re not happy with the LDS church, move on, find another place of worship. You will not change Mormon Doctrine.” Organizers and participants even received threats of violence and intimidation. Another person commented, “every single person who is a minority activist should be shot .. in the face … point blank … get over yourselves ….” Wow. However, despite all of the criticism of the event, Mormon congregations are embracing it. Even members of the male clergy are wearing purple for support.
Women who participated in the event feel pride and liberation. Jenna Cole tweeted, “Gave the closing prayer at sacrament wearing pants. Bishop said he was glad to see me there.” Christine Cline also tweeted, “Glad I have a family who supports me in wearing #pantstochurch.” Rebecca Van Uitert, a leader in her congregation, plans to wear pants to make everyone feel that they can dress however they want. She stated, “I’m kind of neutral about what people wear to church. I’m just happy when people are there.” Van Uitert’s makes a great point. What you are wearing and what gender you are does not change your faith or your commitment to the church.
This event is not really about the right to wear pants, but about the role of gender within the church. Wearing pants is just an act to shine light on all of the issues of gender inequality, such as the gender separation of administrative responsibilities in the church, the unequal amount of resources given to young men and womens’ programming, or other unwritten rules such as the forbidding of talk about Heavenly Mother. The goal of this event was not only to change the conservative dress code, but also to make progress on changing the overall role of women within the church.
Overall, many others and I view these Mormon feminists’ efforts as a success. Drawing a lot of attention to the issue has increased conversation and made people aware of the gender inequality in the LDS church. According the Joanna Brooks, the author of “The Book of a Mormon Girl: A Memoir of an American Faith,” this event is “the largest concerted Mormon feminist effort in history.” Also, Aimee Hickman, the editor of a Mormon feminist magazine called Exponent II, believes that it “has people talking about Mormon gender roles more than anything I’ve seen.” The future for change for women in the Mormon community looks promising thanks to Stephanie Lauritzen and her Facebook event that has become a worldwide effort.