Monday, May 13, 2013

Of Pants and Peacemaking

First off, one of these days, I'll write about why I choose to wear slacks to church.  I feel like my story needs to be set out clearly . . . somewhere. In the meantime, here I am, with the man who loves me and cheers me on as I try to come to a true, doctrinal, understanding of what it means to be a Daughter of God.  Yep--that's me.  A rather run-of-the-mill-looking Mormon mom of six.

Today, I read "Mormon Feminists Plan Demonstration in Sunday Worship Services", by Kathryn Skaggs, of A Well-Behaved Mormon Woman.

It's a well-written post, but I have a serious concern about the two quotes shared by Kathryn from women she knows.

From the first:
"More than anything, I feel sadness for the sisters that feel hurt and confused enough to feel they need to participate in this, because it means that they . . . " 
And from quote two:
"I read their reasons and I just don't understand where they are coming from. To me, their reasons are . . ."
My concern is this: both of these sisters assume true knowledge of motivation.  None of us . . . and I mean NONE of us . . . hold that knowledge without speaking personally (and often privately) with the person whose behavior we can't comfortably accept.  And even then, odds are we still don't know enough to draw conclusions.  There is but One who holds that moral authority.  And I cringe to see others stepping into His place in judgement (i.e. drawing conclusions about motivations--judging hearts, instead of actions).

The most concerning thing quoted was what followed the above quote of the second woman:
"To me, their reasons are that they don't understand the basics of the gospel. They don't understand the priesthood and womanhood. And that this is the Lord's church. They don't understand the symbolism of the temple."
Can you say "in-fla-ma-tor-y"?  Wow. The only thing saving me from outrage, hurt, and deep offense by that statement is the fact that I don't know that sister.  I don't know her heart.  I don't know her motivations, her paradigms, her experience.  I don't understand why she didn't grasp the material she read, stating the reasons some women wore pants to church. (As she said in the earlier part of her comment.)

I can, however, see her action.  Instead of accepting the publicly-stated reasons of All Enlisted, she inserted her own, assuming that those sisters don't understand the gospel, priesthood, womanhood, or the temple. (As she said herself.)  But I don't ascribe to her any level of malicious intent.  I choose to believe, in absence of proof otherwise, that odds are she didn't stop to think what her words might do to the heart of one who has studied long & hard to understand those very things, (none of which condone sexism or subjugation of women, in any setting), and who has come to the conclusion that these issues need to be opened for more public discussion--not left for behind the closed doors of an interview.

If anyone doesn't understand, the only remedy is to actually (gasp!) approach a sister wearing slacks to church, and humbly ask her why.  To open their hearts and accept the invitation that group extends to grow together in understanding.  If the sister approached stands with All Enlisted, in whole or in part, she has the opportunity to explain.  If she doesn't, then a lot of heartache can be avoided.  I've learned, through friends in my ward who have heard the gossip, that because I have chosen to wear slacks more than skirts lately, my testimony has been questioned ("Is Annalea losing her testimony?"), motives ascribed to me that are wholly false ("You know, Annalea supports women holding the priesthood, because she wears pants to church, and so does her husband, because he has worn a purple tie!"), and who knows what else.  Not one person (besides the bishop himself) who hasn't already understood me has approached me to come to greater understanding.  Not one.  I've talked it over with a couple of friends, but they approached me from a position of knowing who I am, and knowing that my choice of apparel is no. big. deal.  That it was not a protest.

Which brings me to another point in Kathryn's post.  That Sacrament Meeting isn't the place for demonstrations.  I respectfully disagree.  Sacrament Meeting isn't the place for protests--for disruption of worship and praise. But peaceful, quiet choices, selecting behavior that the church itself says is appropriate, seem completely fine.

If there is understanding, there is no demonstration.


1. The act of showing or making evident.
2. Conclusive evidence; proof.
3. An illustration or explanation, as of a theory or product, by exemplification or practical application.
4. A manifestation, as of one's feelings.
5. A public display of group opinion, as by a rally or march: peace demonstrations.

"Demonstrations" are often to express support--not opposition   That's the overwhelming impression I got, from reading on the pro side of the pants argument.  Just the same as some of the young men in my ward shaving their heads when a member of their quorum began chemotherapy. We don't assume they are desecrating sacred space, protesting the existence of cancer, or trying to draw attention to their friend's condition.  They're showing that they love their friend, and that they are willing to go through the awkwardness of a bald head to share in what he has to go through.  THAT was the spirit of "Wear Pants to Church Day".  (PLEASE NOTE: I did not say that was why I wore pants to church. But I DO assert that there is absolutely nothing wrong with claiming that motivation.)  To acknowledge that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not a haven for the perfect.  It is a hospital for the sick.  (For they that are whole need no physician, anyone?) It is a gym for spiritual couch potatoes, therapy for spiritual train wreck victims, and more.  When we assume that all is perfect in Zion, that everything that happens is the mind, will, and commandment of the Lord, we get in trouble. Really big.  There are women who struggle with the havoc wreaked by the adversary of all righteousness--Satan himself--in their lives through men, overwhelmingly well-intentioned), who have treated them otherwise than they should have.  And understanding that it happens is vital and valuable to every member of our church, both as validation for those who suffer, and as a cautionary tale to those who don't.

The self-stated purpose of wearing slacks to church in December was to show support to those who have gotten the short end of the gender-inequality stick within the organization of the church.  Due to the fact that our church is run by mortals, whether men or women, that unfortunate and wholly inappropriate kind of thing has, in fact, happened.  To someone who has never felt the pernicious and soul-deep worthlessness that kind of treatment engenders, it's hard to imagine or understand.  But its real.  And turning those who are reaching out into a bunch of negative discontents seems a rather unconsidered disservice to me.


Thimbleanna said...

Wow Annalea -- I don't even know what to say. I can see my inactivity has left me out of the loop. I'm really surprised though -- I just can't imagine the wards of my childhood with pants-clad women. I would certainly welcome the change though -- I never wear dresses anymore. VERY interesting!

Jarodious Badger said...

I must admit, this whole issue sparks a myriad of mixed emotions. Honestly, I am not at all up to scratch on this whole “pants” issue. I think people should wear their Sunday best to church. Additionally, I condone good manners in an effort for all parties to show mutual respect to one another. Good manners are generally espoused in an effort to make us feel comfortable with one another and to demonstrate a high moral culture. On the other hand, I completely sympathize with the fact that females in the church have often been treated very unfairly by priesthood leaders. However, the fact is, males are treated badly by male church leaders just as often as females, though perhaps in different ways and for different reasons. Certainly, a man’s testimony in a church court is generally considered more reliable than a woman’s; which is certainly far from just. The bottom line is that most, if not all, members of the church have voices that long to be heard in consequence of a long trail of abuses. And so, if wearing pants to church is a way of letting your voices be heard, for whatever reason, I say good on ya for having the courage to make a statement.