Mormon Women and Sunday Dress….Pants.
You may have heard about a group of Mormon feminists who organized a mass “Wear Pants to Church Day” for Mormon Women this past Sunday, December 16th. Shock! Awe! Outrage! You may now be wondering what all the fuss was about, or why the skirt vs. pants discussion is even a discussion at all. I’d like to answer a few questions about the issue and simultaneously solve it with this five letter word: S-K-O-R-T.
Let’s take it one letter at a time.
“S” is for Sunday dress.
Does wearing pants on Sunday break the rules? What are the “rules” of Sunday dress for a Mormon?
Wearing pants to church is not against any set of Mormon ‘rules’ or commandments. Nowhere in Mormon scripture does it say, “Thou shalt wear a skirt.” Rather, dressing in our Sunday best is meant as an indication of respect for God. Here’s the Church’s official statement on it:
“We have not . . . felt it wise or necessary to give instructions on this subject [of dress] relative to attendance at our Church meetings, although we do feel that on such occasions [members] should have in mind that they are in the house of the Lord and should conduct themselves accordingly.”
We dress in Sunday best as an outward indication of an inner respect for God.
“K” is for K.
K, so why did it cause such a fuss?
The goal of the movement was simply to promote gender equality among the church. I agree with what Joanna Brooks from the Huffington Post said on this one–while it’s not a violation of commandment, wearing pants to church definitely breaks a cultural norm within the Church. Here’s my 5-step explanation of why this might be:
1-Culturally in the US, “best dress” for women has traditionally dictated a skirt or dress.
2-Thus, most Mormon women wear skirts to church.
3-Wearing skirts to church has become the norm.
4-When a woman wears pants to church it breaks the norm.
5-Some women choose not to wear pants (even though they would like to) because sometimes norm-breakers become the subject of attention or unfortunately, judgment.
Some Mormon women have spoken out as being the subject of judgment when wearing pants to church meetings, which is not very cool. But the problem here is not with God, it’s with us. While God cares about our hearts, we as imperfect humans tend to make judgments based on outward appearance.
It’s been sad to me while following the movement to see some of the negative comments aimed at those who started the movement. Those participating in the movement received some mocking and meanness that to me seems like a misunderstanding of what it means to be Christian. Unfortunately, it’s pretty easy to throw rocks from behind a computer screen. Personally, I would rather throw confetti.
I fully believe that the negativity comes from a small (but loud) few, and would hope that moving forward we can simply be happy to see each other at church.
“O” is for zerO.
On a scale of one to ten, how much does God care about fashion?
Not that I can speak for God, but if I were a betting woman I’d guess it’s closer to the zero end. But it goes back to what we’ve already mentioned — it’s not about fashion, it’s about what’s in our hearts. If God cares about our hearts, then he definitely cares about every Woman feeling comfortable at church.
We try to show through our clothing that we respect and honor God. If your best Sunday attire is your fancy pants, by all means wear them fancy pants.
Perhaps after this Sunday we’ll see more pants at church, to which I hope we say, “cool.” Perhaps someday we won’t need to say anything at all.
R is for Relative.
The thing about defining “Sunday best” is that our culture’s definition may differ from another culture’s. In that way, it’s kind of all relative. In some Polynesian countries, men wear the traditional lava lava to church because in their culture it’s the most formal or respectful piece of clothing. Technically speaking, isn’t that a skirt?
The point is, creating a solid definition for something as ever-shifting as fashion is tough. (Ask anyone who ever wore acid washed jeans.) At one point, the cultural norm was for Women to wear only skirts, all the time. I think what we’ve seen with “Wear Pants to Church Sunday” is an interesting discussion on how culture and doctrine coincide and sometimes conflict. It’s a tough line to walk and one which I do not presume to have the answer for.
T is for equali-T.
Are Men and Women seen as equals in Mormon Doctrine?
Equal, while different.
Men hold the Priesthood, women don’t. Women bear children, men don’t. Not that those two are opposites or all-inclusive, but each is a specific role that we believe has been divinely chosen for its respective gender.
I love what this article says about LDS Doctrine on gender and equality:
“…LDS doctrine teaches that men and women are equals before the Lord and before each other. “Equal” does not mean “identical”—for example, there are no two men who are identical, and yet they stand as equals before each other and before the Lord. Can we imagine an understanding of equality that means that a man and woman, though different, can be equals before the Lord and before each other? That is the vision of equality that the Restored Gospel teaches…”
We believe men and women are created equal but intentionally different. As we’ve already mentioned, God is perfect, we are not. I dislike the fact that cultural norms may have developed which have made some women feel unequal. But from a doctrinal perspective, men and women are equals before the Lord. I think of us as complements. I believe any good we can do as individual sexes can be better when we combine our efforts.
Phew. We did it! We S-K-O-R-Ted the issue (thanks for going with that, btw). Let’s add a few more kind words to the one that made it all possible.
The hermaphrodite of 90′s fashion! The solver of all our problems! I can’t get enough of this thing. It’s just so functional. I find that its element of frumpy surprise can be rivaled only by the mullet. And never has the Skort seemed more poised for comeback than now. It’s the perfect solution for someone like me who likes the look of a skirt, but also supports those who want to wear pants. I will wait with bated breath for Shade‘s 2013 catalog.
As a single, working woman who advocates Girl Power and gets goosebumps every time I hear Beyonce’s hit ballad, “If I Were a Boy,” I consider myself a level one feminist. Maybe I’m only a nanofeminist, but it’s in there somewhere. I’m not making any predictions on the future of Sunday fashion for Mormon Women (unless the Skort really does come back, in which case I demand 20%!). But I do hope in the future we can try to be more accepting. Let’s throw more confetti, less rocks.
I believe in women. I believe we are intelligent, talented, and capable of doing every bit as much good in the world as men can do, even if we might do it a little differently.
I also believe that the song, “If I Were a Boy” would be equally powerful were Beyonce singing it wearing this:
All credit for this post goes to @mayseeh, whose brilliance and wit continue to inspire me, one Instagram at a time.