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When Mormons wear pants

The other day, a friend posted a Facebook event entitled "Wear Pants to Church Day" or something similar.  It was a Mormon feminist event.  In some churches, including the LDS church, women are expected to wear skirts or dresses to church.  The rationale given for the dress code that the church has is that at church, the atmosphere should be one of worship and reverence toward God.  I can respect that.  When I first saw the event, I just thought "Why is wearing pants a 'thing' for these feminists anyway?"  To be honest, I've never understood why women burning bras was part of some liberation or feminist movement or whatever.  I can't say because my breasts have never been large enough to require support, but I would imagine that I'd want to wear them.  But I digress.

The point is, my initial reaction was "Why pants?"  I have never had any overwhelming urge to wear a dress or a skirt.  I have never had an overwhelming urge to wear make-up.  I don't think there's anything wrong with people who do--male or female.  I've also never thought of dresses or pants as inferior or superior, nor as indicative of status in society.  I really haven't.  I mean, I can understand that some women want to wear pants, and I don't want my words to be interpreted to mean that I think there's something peculiar or wrong about that.  I just didn't understand why this was an event.  I didn't know why women wanted to band together and all wear pants, especially in the name of empowering women.  (I can't imagine a group of men getting together and wearing dresses in the name of empowering men.)

Then today happened.  Today the event page went viral--at least, in the Mormon subculture of Facebook.  I have participated in large groups before, and I have watched a few event pages with hundreds of thousands of people who have RSVP'ed as "going".  But I have never seen such a fast and furious storm ever.  Not on or outside of Facebook.  

Most of the comments were clearly made by people in support of the event--varying all over the page from loyal, believing Mormons who just want to allow more open-mindedness at church to people who absolutely loathe the LDS church and think that it is the epitome of all that is misogynistic and everything between.  But there were several (dozens, at least) people who were posting on there as seriously concerned believing Mormons--male and female.  There were people saying that (women) wearing pants to church is disrespectful, that it's satanic, that the devil is trying to blur gender roles and this is one way he's doing it, and all sorts of arguments.  

I knew that there were people in the church who felt that gender roles should be strictly obeyed, and that women wearing dresses was part of that.  But I didn't know there were people who felt this strongly about it.  The administrators of the page said that they received death threats from people because of this page they had created.  There is so much anger toward this event (or the Mormon feminist movement in general) that people are threatening to kill those who promote it.  This is certainly not in the lines of love or the morals that Christianity often touts.  Certainly church officials would not approve of such behavior.  I would like to think that anyone who would do something like that would be disciplined by the church, and I sincerely hope that happens.  However, I do blame the church for encouraging an environment and rhetoric where people become this radical.  No, the church has never taught (as far as I'm aware) that feminists should be killed.  But it has said some rather hurtful things about feminism and about women wanting to be treated equally, and this kind of doctrine sinks into people's hearts and helps strengthen their radical views.  I hate to admit that on one occasion, my own father lamented that women were given the right to vote because ever since then the country has grown ever more liberal.  (I don't believe that he would go so far as to say that they shouldn't be allowed to vote, but he did say that we'd be more conservative as a nation if only men could vote and to my dad conservative=good, liberal=evil.)

I was aghast at the things that I saw people post.  I really was.  Some of them I just hoped with all the hope I could muster that the person posting it was being satirical.  There were some things said that I sincerely hope that no one actually believes.  I said some satirical things on there myself, and I hope that no one took me seriously.  

There was so much about this event--or rather, the happenings today on Facebook concerning this event--that saddens me.  The same friend I mentioned at the beginning of the post said this: "So the Wear Pants to Church event disappeared likely due to the number of Mormons who reported as offensive. Lesson learned: Mormon culture and its people can be uglier than I thought. Misogyny is still incredibly rampant within, especially when it comes to Facebook discussion. If anything, the event shed light on exactly how much work needs to be done."  And I couldn't possibly agree more with this assessment.  There is much work that needs to be done.  The thing that really make me sad is that so many people (I can't imagine it being anyone other than a fundamental Christian, most likely Mormon) complained to Facebook about this page that Facebook shut it down.  These people are so radical that they don't even want to allow other people the freedom to discuss something that they find disagreeable.  That's a problem.  People need to learn how to just walk away.  If you don't want to participate, then don't.  But let other people do it, if they want.

I take comfort in knowing that the Mormons who threw a temper tantrum on Facebook today  are but a small minority of Mormons.  I would hope that a majority of faithful LDS people would at least keep their mouths shut if they have some judgmental thought about a woman wearing pants at church, or any other rather insignificant deviation from the scripted dress code.  I take comfort in the fact that many of my LDS friends are progressive in many ways, including thinking that a woman wearing pants to church shouldn't be a big deal.  I take comfort in knowing that my closest Mormon friends, including my immediate family, try to make their religious worship focus on being more kind and loving and avoid distractions such as what someone wears to church on Sunday.  

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