#MoFemDay: Group encouraging women to wear pants to church

The photo from the Facebook event page encouraging LDS women to wear pants to church on Sunday, December 16, 2012. 

You might have a harder time telling the difference between Brother and Sister Jones at church on Sunday.

A group of Mormon feminists are asking women in the church to ditch their skirts on Sunday and slap on a pair of slacks when they attend sacrament meeting.

The group, known as All Enlisted, has created a Facebook group that is making the rounds in Mormon circles inviting women to wear pants to show the similarities between men and women within the LDS faith.

"We believe that much of the cultural, structural and even doctrinal inequality that persists in the LDS Church today stems from the church's reliance on -- and enforcement of -- rigid gender roles that bear no relationship to reality," the group wrote on its Facebook announcement.

The practice of women wearing dresses or skirts to an LDS Church meeting is more traditional than it is doctrinal. The group cites a Priesthood Bulletin issued by church leaders in June 1971 that states the church has not attempted to indicate how long women's or girls' dresses should be nor whether they should wear pant suits or other types of clothing. The statement does go on to say that when women attend the temple they should not wear slacks or miniskirts or dress immodestly. That statement was reaffirmed by church spokesman Scott Trotter on Tuesday.

"Attending church is about worship and learning to be followers of Jesus Christ. 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," he said.

More than 600 women and men have accepted the Facebook invitation to wear pants on Sunday, but don't expect the chapel to be a sea of suits. Many declined, with some of the respondents saying they simply enjoy wearing a skirt to church while others note they feel a dress or skirt is a little nicer than a pant suit. A few called it disrespectful.

"I think pants are too casual for church. It is church, not a business meeting. I am proud to wear a skirt," one responder wrote on the Facebook page. "We are told to dress the best that we can for church and that is what I will do."

It's not really about pants, though, blogger Hannah Wheelwright pointed out. The Brigham Young University student and blogger for Young Mormon Feminists said the pants campaign is about bringing awareness within the church to feminist issues. Many women don't feel equal. This is a campaign to highlight, and then change that.

She said the effort could help other feminists within a ward recognize that they aren't alone and that others feel the same way as they do. She also stated it could show church members that a lot of people see changes within the traditions and culture of the church that could make the church more feminist friendly.

"We should be more open to different ways to worship and open to different people who come from different backgrounds," Wheelwright said.

Wheelwright, who also works at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, said she has been wearing pants to church regularly for four months and nobody has made any comments to her about the pants.

All Enlisted organizer Kimberly Brinkerhoff Baptista said the pants campaign is the first of many for the group. She noted this was an initial test to see how many women would be interested in joining their cause. "This is something the culture needs to change," Baptista said about women being included in church discussions. "It is OK for women to have a little more freedom here."

The group invites men to participate in the cause by wearing purple ties, shirts, socks or ribbons on Sunday. Purple is generally associated with women's suffrage movements.

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