Why I Wore Pants on Sunday: OFF WITH THE PANTS!!!!

Dec 16, 12 Why I Wore Pants on Sunday:    OFF WITH THE PANTS!!!!

From the fabled Medford 4th Ward, Central Point Stake, Oregon:  From left to right: Mike Barker ( Ward Young Men’s President) Cathy Barker (2nd Counselor Ward Relief Society), Jerilyn Pool (Primary Chorister), Garrett Hall (Stake Young Men’s Counselor), Tamara Hall (Ward Primary Secretary). Rockin’ the pants and purple shirts!

As many of you may know, Sunday, December 14th was deemed “Wear Pants Sunday” by a group of Mormon Feminists.  It began as an invitation for women to wear pants, and men to wear purple, in support of gender equality within the church.  It was not meant as a protest or a publicity stunt, but simply a way to show awareness for gender discrimination and solidarity among those with similar views.  However, when word spread about this “movement” throughout Facebook and the bloggernacle,  a war ensued.  Many found it offensive that women planned to wear pants to church.  Some women were called  to repentance and their faithfulness questioned.  Others were called names like “idiots” and “stupid”.  Some were even asked, “Why don’t you just leave the church?”  It became a very hateful and un-Christlike attack on women and men who support gender equality. The strange part was, some didn’t even care about gender equality; they were more upset that women wanted to wear pants.  Really?

When I originally heard about the “Wear Pants” movement, I wasn’t really planning on wearing pants.  While I do support gender equality,  I wasn’t really sure  how wearing pants would accomplish anything.  And, the thought of being at church, sitting in front of everyone in Relief Society (because I’m in the presidency), and being judged because I’m wearing pants terrified me!  That thought, however, is what changed my mind about wearing pants.  I know the movement wasn’t supposed to be about pants, but for me a big part of it was.

Click here to listen to an interview with Kristina Monson, one of the organizers of the “Wear Pants to Church” event

In the LDS Church, the “cultural norm” is for women to wear dresses or skirts to church.  The Church PR department recently said, “generally, church members are encouraged to wear their best clothing as a sign of respect for the Savior, but we don’t counsel people beyond that.” (ksl.com) So, it is not Church policy for women to wear dresses.  However, I find that when a women comes to church wearing something other than the “cultural norm”, whether it be pants, wearing a skirt above the knee, showing tattoos, or multiple piercings, she is immediately judged as an outsider.  I’ve heard missionaries comment that their investigators feel uncomfortable coming to church because they don’t have the “right clothes”, causing them to feel like they don’t belong.  What kind of message are we sending to these investigators?  Come unto Christ, but only if you look like us?  I find this very sad.  Church should be about worship and learning how to be more Christ-like; not about the clothes we wear.  There are a few women in my ward who come to church wearing pants fairly regularly.  They usually keep to themselves, sit in the back, and leave immediately after church.  It is obvious they don’t feel a part of our ward.  Thinking about how scared I was of being judged if I wore pants and realizing that this is how many people feel each week, was one reason I decided to wear pants. It was in an effort to help these sisters and new investigators feel more accepted at church.

My other reason for wearing pants was to support gender equality within the Church.  Yes, I call myself a feminist.  Now, before you go thinking about burning bras and unshaved legs, I am a third-wave feminist.  Which means I think women should do whatever the heck they want to do.  If they want to be a stay-at-home mom, that’s fine.  If they want to work outside the home, that’s fine.  The thing I care about  most is that we have a CHOICE.  I do have some issues with gender equality and I think women need a more active voice in the Church, but that’s for another post.  My perception is that many members of the Church see feminists as being on “the fringe” or as outsiders.  As a feminist, I wanted to show support to my friends and family members who are feminists.   I don’t want them to feel marginalized; I want them to know that their unique contributions are wanted and needed. I also wanted to show that feminists can be temple-recommend holding, faithful leaders in the Church.

I hope I didn’t offend anyone at church today by wearing pants; that was not my intent.  For 37 years I’ve worn a dress to church, have always done what I’m supposed to do, and have always been on the “inside”.  Realizing what it must feel like for those on the “outside” gave me empathy.  When I was baptized I covenanted to “bear one another’s burdens, mourn with those that mourn, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort” (Mosiah 18: 8-9).  Today I stood with those that “needed comfort“.  If I helped someone feel more acceptance and less isolated, then the uncomfortable stares I received were worth it.

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The U.K.’s, Daily Mail, picked up this essay, quoted extensively from it, used the picture at the top of this blog-post as its featured photo,  and linked to it.  Click here to read the article.

 

Born and raised in Oregon, Cathy now lives in Southern Oregon with her husband and two girls. She works as a dental hygienist. She loves spending time with her family and enjoying the outdoors.

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31 Comments

  1. Leah Marie /

    Thanks for this, and I love the group photo. I was the only one in my ward (besides an investigator) which felt a bit lonely. I’m not sorry I did it, though. Totally worth it.

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  2. Yay for you guys!

    I love the term third-wave feminist. I’m totally going to own that now.

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  3. Kathy Ludlow /

    How nice for you, really, and I feel that is how the organizers visualized it if they in fact did think it through. Was the good that came from it worth the ugliness that showed itself? Perhaps the result was good, perhaps it is a good thing that we see how horribly women treat women, nobody treats women worse than women.

    I felt that I was being intimidated into wearing pants and that the reason was lost.

    Even the add promoting the event that you post with your article infers that I am not with the times if I don’t wear pants to church.

    Also there was a Joanna Brooks Quote (I don’t know if it really is her quote) on facebook; “Pants to Church Sunday is not a protest against anything but the fear and intimidation progressive Mormon women have been silently living with decades.” So maybe I am just grumpy and old because I found this insulting, really? I have never felt afraid or intimidated by my church, the Gospel or my Father in Heaven. So am I just not progresive? Antonyms for the word Progressive: backward, low, lower, nonprogressive, primitive, retarded, rude, rudimentary, undeveloped.

    It is good that folks are talking, it’s great! This was poorly organized, poor choice of delivery and extremely poor management because there have been too many extremely hurtful things said, and anyone can say anything and say it was anyone that said it on facebook so there is no accountability there.

    This issue is a human issue, a people problem, has not one thing to do with the Church or the Doctrine of the Gospel and so why was our Church targeted? A lot of people behaved terribly, there was abuse on both sides, why are we being pitted against our sisters…..why are there 2 sides? Poor presentation I think.

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    • Cathy Barker /

      Kathy,
      Thanks for the response. I agree that the organizers mismanaged this event. I also think they were ambiguous in what they were trying to accomplish. I don’t necessarily agree with Joanna Brooks’ statement, “Pants to Church Sunday is not a protest against anything but the fear and intimidation progressive Mormon women have been silently living with decades.” I thought that was a little much, but maybe it meant something different for everyone. I understood it wasn’t a protest at all. Rather, it was a way to show awareness for gender inequality by wearing pants (the pants being the symbol only). Just like we wear pink for breast cancer awareness or red for heart disease awareness, they chose pants for gender equality awareness. Thank you for pointing out the add promoting the event that we put in our post. I didn’t realize my husband had put that in my post and I had him remove it. I don’t think it portrayed the message I was trying to get across. I appreciate all your comments.

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  4. Kathy Ludlow /

    Oh and I wore flip flops, a skirt and men’s boxers under my skirt cause that’s how I role…. I am a progresive Morman woman.

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  5. Kathy Ludlow /

    try to keep up :)

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  6. Interesting that people find it offensive to go to church in pants. In my ward some guys will go to church with jeans and cowboy boots. I stopped wearing a tie, it was awkward at first but I’ve gotten used to it. No one gives me a hard time about it.

    Of course, if women did stop wearing dresses altogether, my oldest daughter (4 yrs old) would go crazy, she loves dresses!

    Yeah, it is too bad we are not all more Christlike.

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  7. m. rees /

    I’m waiting for the No-Tie Sunday for men. Clearly LDS men have been manipulated by strong willed women for so long that we don’t give a second thought to tightening a noose around our neck each Sunday. To emphasize this harsh reality, we lack the freedom to choose a shirt color other than white and, should a man come dressed in Kaki’s with a blue polo shirt, he would surely feel uncomfortable. Who’s with me? No more white shirts and ties!

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  8. Leah Marie,

    Leah Marie,

    It just dawned on me that you are Camille’s sister! We are going to put your post up tomorrow. If you haven’t done it already, go to your gravatar account and write a quick bio about yourself; it will appear at the bottom of your blog post.

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  9. That was a wonderful post! I also wore pants for the reason of all the hateful comments that were going on. I just didn’t like seeing how judgmental people were.

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  10. Kathy Ludlow /

    Tam,
    How did that go? wearing pants, did others wear pants did anyone notice that you wore pants? Nobody at my church wore pants, when I brought it up with a few ladies, nobody knew what I was talking about.

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  11. Jerilyn /

    Over the years, as investigators and less-active women have come to church in pants, I’ve always felt apologetic, like I should let them know that I, for one, really don’t care what anyone wears to church. The action of being at church is so much more important than what we wear. Today, a less-active member was there in pants. I introduced myself, learned her name (Melanie), and then introduced her to the other women standing in the hallway, who were all wearing skirts or dresses. I felt approachable, honest and kind. It felt great.

    AND, when I taught Singing Time in Primary, I didn’t feel immodest or uncomfortable during any of the gymnastics I generally perform in order to get the kids to sing, when I’m always worried about showing off my business.

    The only person to say anything to me about my pants was a 10 year old girl, who I promptly kicked in the teeth—WHICH I COULD DO, BECAUSE I WAS WEARING PANTS. (I didn’t really kick her in the teeth, I just said “Aren’t pants awesome?!”)

    I’m pretty sure I’m never wearing a skirt to church again.

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  12. Cathy,
    I enjoyed hearing your thoughts on this issue. When I first heard about it I thought “Oh gheez, who cares?” there are women who regularly wear pants to church in my ward. I wear a skirt because to me it sets aside Sunday as a different day and it’s what I’ve done since I can remember. I’m sure I’d feel fine in pants if I had any dress pants that still fit me! Ugh that’s another issue. I didn’t even make it to church today because I have a sick kid. I agree with the woman who said she felt this was poorly orchestrated. It sure did spark a fire on facebook and left a bad taste in my mouth so to say. I asked my husband, who could care less about this issue, about it and said something about Mormon feminists and he said “You’re a feminist” I thought “Ha, I guess I am” Maybe I’m a third waver like you. :) I don’t actively look for things to protest etc. I do believe we should be able to choose like you said but the whole deal with the pants was never really something we couldn’t do, which is why I initially thought the whole thing silly. Heck I’ve gone to church in crumpled camping clothes more than once and probably will again though I’d prefer to wear my best, sometimes it’s not available and it’s better to be there than not.

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    • Cathy Barker /

      Hi Mary,
      Thanks for commenting. I love hearing from you! The first thing I’d like to say is this wasn’t supposed to be about pants. When I first heard about it, I couldn’t figure out what the organizers were trying to accomplish. I thought it was very ambiguous. Then upon further research, I realized the organizers chose pants only as a symbol for gender inequality awareness. Just like pink is the color for breast cancer awareness and a mustache is the symbol for prostate cancer awareness. They chose something that wasn’t against the rules, but maybe went against the cultural norm. I would assume in Alaska women have good reason for wearing pants to church, so to you it probably wasn’t a big deal. It became more about pants for me when I saw how judgmental people were being about women wearing pants to church. I thought, “What does it matter if a woman wears pants?” It kinda struck a nerve with me. Maybe it meant something different for everyone, but it was awesome to have the solidarity of so many sisters standing together supporting each other.

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      • Kathy Ludlow /

        Dear Cathy, You said; Just like pink is the color for breast cancer awareness and a mustache is the symbol for prostate cancer awareness
        I say; if pants had been just a symbol it would not have been called wear pants day, as you point out we call it Cancer awareness month and Prostate cancer awareness. We do not call October wear Pink month, or buy pink stuff month.

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        • Cathy Barker /

          Kathy,
          Touche. You got me. Like I said, the organizers were ambiguous in their motives, but they were calling pants only a symbol. I think it became more of a pants issue when the criticisms started surfacing. Maybe they should have called it “Gender Inequality Awareness Sunday”.

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  13. Kathy Ludlow /

    Kathy Ludlow,

    roll

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  14. m. rees,

    Like I said in my comment. I’ve stopped wearing a tie. It’s nice not to have to wear one anymore! I haven’t gotten any push back from anyone.

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  15. Kathy Ludlow /

    On the “news” last night the reporter said that the woman that started this event was pleased with the results, I find that really interesting.

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  16. Kathy Ludlow /

    How to dress to visit the Vatican city: Saint Peter’s Basilica, Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museums.

    Also valid visiting the Vatican Gardens and/or the Scavi (the excavations under St. Peter’s Church.

    APPROPRIATE DRESS IS A MUST!

    Please be aware that there are monitors outside St. Peter’s, which has a very strict dress code: no skirts above the knee, no shorts, no bare shoulders (i.e., tank tops or sleeveless blouses), and you must wear shoes. You will not be permitted inside the basilica unless you are dressed appropriately. Slacks and jeans, however, are permitted. If you are out sightseeing in shorts, miniskirts, tank tops, sleeveless blouses, etc., and wish to enter a church, you must be dressed appropriately. People who monitor visitors in churches have the right to refuse entrance if in their opinion the visitor is dressed inappropriate to enter. One way to get around this is to carry long pants and a shirt/blouse with sleeves in a bag or backpack so that when you wish to enter a church, you can slip these garments on over your inappropriate attire before you enter. Strict dress codes are especially adhered to at St. Peter’s,
    so I wouldn’t even try to enter wearing short skirts, shorts, or sleeveless tops. You will be refused entrance. Again, no shorts, or sleeveless tops, but it’s okay to wear jeans. In case you haven’t been foresighted enough to carry additional apparel with you and you happen to be at the Vatican wearing inappropriate clothes you can still buy disposable pants and/or t-shirts and scarves on sale in the souvenir shops just outside St. Peter’s. In addition to all of this, keep in mind that during your visit to the Vatican you’ll be in a sovereign country regulated by it’s own rules, where the laws of Italy or your own country do not apply!

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    • Cathy Barker /

      Kathy,
      Thanks for posting this! It’s really interesting. It seems to me that the Vatican City is more concerned with modesty more than anything. I say if pants are good enough for the Vatican they’re good enough for an LDS chapel!

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  17. Leah Marie /

    Michael Barker,

    Yes. You see, I am awesome just by association. :-)

    I’ve added the bio.

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  18. In my congregation, I find this same trend. Several women in our congregation wear pants to church. Don’t know why; don’t care. They still look nice. And several of the men wear colored shirts or half sleeves without jackets. Where I live, it’s not a big deal. Church is no fashion show.
    Jon,

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  19. Tamera LeBeau /

    Cathy,
    I really enjoyed your post. I can imagine that it felt very strange going to church in pants, but I admire your reasons for doing so. First, I think it’s important to show support for a cause you believe in; but it’s also great that this showed support for some of your ward’s members or prospective members who may either not have the type of clothing that has been culturally expected at church or are not yet aware of this cultural expectation. After all, isn’t it what’s in our heart and how we treat others that should really count? It sounds like this also got people to thinking and talking and that’s not a bad thing. I just have one more thing to say…when Mike decides to wear a dress to church in support of something, you’d BETTER post a picture! :)

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    • Cathy Barker /

      Tamera,
      Let’s hope that never happens! It’s funny because to some, clothing doesn’t matter. Mom didn’t even notice that I was wearing pants and I sat only a few seats away on the same pew! I wish more people were like her. Thanks for the comments.

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  20. I love the comments about third wave feminism. I also am a third wave feminist. The term is gaining huge popularity among scholars. I write about it all the time on my blog. Go pants!

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  21. I am no longer a member for various reasons, but, I always wore pants, I didn’t care, mostly because, on Sundays, especially in the in the Winter I was cold and I have a compromised immune system which means I get sick quite easily. I also wore pants because I look better in pants than in a dress. But, the biggest reason I wore pants, is because I’m an adult woman and I can choose for myself what is and is not appropriate, without having some male authority call me into his office to question me on my attire.

    Similarly, I just wanted to say, I don’t understand what all the vitriol and venom from members is about. Many of the comments that I have been reading have wanted to ridicule us, especially, given the fact that school children were gunned down last Friday and yes, that is sad, but, here are my thoughts on that. We really shouldn’t be tying this event to that horrific event. What members should really think about is how much Mormon Church culture is very much like the Taliban is for Islam. Little girls in Afghanistan are gunned down for wanting nothing more than an education, another was beheaded for refusing to marry another member from a neighboring tribe. Some grown women who try to refuse to wear Berka (I know I spelled that wrong) have had gasoline thrown on them and have been beaten to death. Now, in the United States, these things don’t happen to women in our faith. No, something much more insidious happens, we are told our bodies are shameful, we must cover up lest we show some part of our body that makes our male counterparts thinks some terrible thought about us. We(women/girls) are taught from the time of our birth that we control men with our bodies and put these impure thoughts in their brains.
    That to me is the biggest reason to hold the event, to get rid of old outdated notions that no longer apply

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  22. Greg Pearson /

    The “pants” protest must have been a bust. I didn’t see or even hear about a single woman wearing pants. All the woman I overheard talking about it thought it was silly. My son said not a single woman in his stake conference wore pants. It wasn’t even talked about. BTW, it did sound like a protest.

    Also, it wasn’t until the Tuesday after the 16th that the purple thing hit the net. Both PROTESTS were a big bust. I find it funny that woman who started it was pleased with the “results”. Lady, there were no results other than miniscule, anecdotal “results”. And, you have to go to the internet to find them.

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  23. Melody /

    I just read this, Cathy. Well done. The photo is great too. And the fact that each person in the photo is in what might be termed a noteworthy calling or position. Loved it.

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  1. ‘I hadn’t worn pants to church for 37 years’: Mormon women ditch strict dress code in push for gender equality | Cool Chrome Hearts Sale - […] about discrimination and equality in the church, she wrote in an article for Rational Faiths: ‘I find that when a …

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