What was Pants to Church Sunday Really About?

It was, we believe, the largest concerted Mormon feminist action in history.

Thousands of Mormon women from the South Pacific to Europe to North America bucked convention and wore pants to church meetings on Sunday to manifest their support for greater dialogue on the status of women within the LDS Church, and Mormon men wore purple in solidarity. 

For Mormon feminists and allies, the event was a chance to step out of silence and fear and wordlessly say, “We are here. This faith matters to us. And gender inequality weighs on us too.”

Organized by a new Mormon feminist group called “All Enlisted,” the event set off strong positive and negative reactions within the world of Mormonism—including threats of violence and intimidation directed at organizers and would-be participants. 

But by all accounts, Wear Pants to Church Sunday unfolded quietly and peacefully, even in congregations that had once threatened to summon participants for mandatory interviews with their clerical leaders. In some Mormon congregations, it’s being reported, members of the male lay clergy wore purple in solidarity.

For younger Mormon feminists especially, the day marked an unprecedented opportunity to make visible their commitments as faithful, church-attending Mormons and as feminists who question how many of the strictly gender-segregated customs of Mormonism are—like unwritten Sunday dress codes—traditional rather than doctrinal and human rather than inspired.

It was also an opportunity to start a conversation about traditional gender inequalities in a community where feminism has been unnecessarily stigmatized as an excommunicable offense. 

(And for the record, it is not.)

Because really, it’s not pants or the right to wear pants that tops the list of Mormon feminist priorities. It’s the need for thoughtful conversation about how traditional gender inequalities—like the gender segregation of non-priesthood Church administrative responsibilities, or the fact that in some congregations young mens’ programming receives more resources than young womens’ programming, or the unwritten rule against talk about Heavenly Mother—shape the spiritual lives of Mormon men and women.

It’s a conversation restarted today. Even as the day’s events left many rank and file Mormons scratching their heads and admitting that they have no idea what Mormon feminism is really about.

This is a great time to learn. 

To learn more about what Wear Pants to Church Day was really about, please read this and this and this and this.

And to learn about what Mormon feminists care about and what they mean by inequality, read this and this and this and thisand remember that there is diversity among Mormon feminists: we do not agree on everything.

And if you really want to learn even more about Mormon feminist thought and history, by all means, please read this and this.

And let the conversation begin.

askmormongirl@gmail.com'

Joanna Brooks is the author of The Book of Mormon Girl: A Memoir of an American Faith (Free Press / Simon & Schuster, 2012) and a senior correspondent for Religion Dispatches.