How to Silence a(n LDS) Woman: You’re Doing It Wrong

Wear Pants to Church Day has come and gone. Many women did wear pants to church (most significantly, this includes women who would not have done so if not for the Pants movement) and many women did not, including otherwise supportive women. Many men wore purple ties in solidarity. By all accounts, Sunday appears to have come and gone without word of  trousered women disrupting the taking of the sacrament or calling undue attention to themselves. Their quiet and dignified comportment was no surprise, not even, I think, to detractors. In fact, looking back to Sunday, many might now dismiss it as much ado about nothing after all. But there is a significance, I think, underlying this whole phenomenon, which I know has already been discussed and debated and gnashed on ad nauseum, but a significance  that has been more or less overlooked. It’s not my intent here to provide an overview or some kind of a philosophical sum-up of the import of what occurred. You can find much more eloquent and incisive essays of that type than I could ever write all over the Bloggernacle. Here, if you have room for one more, I just want to analyze what I see as some curious parallels between the massively vitriolic response to the Pants movement (particularly on Facebook) and the experiences of the woman in the above video, Anita Sarkeesian.

By way of quick summary (but please watch the video, it’s excellent): Sarkeesian began an online project through Kickstarter to explore the ways that women are portrayed in video games. The project is actually a subset of her overall project  exploring the ways women are portrayed in media generally. (The brief answer regarding female portrayal of women in video games and media in general is: sexist <—> misogynistic). It wasn’t long before she was bombarded by what she referred to as a “cyber mob”: boys and men (mostly men) who viciously harassed and attacked her on Twitter, Facebook, message boards, personal emails, and on all of her social media sites with everything from belittling and generally disrespectful comments to (much more commonly) outright vicious misogynistic slurs and sexually violent threats. They would then report these virulent comments on her social media as inappropriate, harmful, dangerous, etc., in an effort to have them suspended. Some of the offenders even created pornographic images in Sarkeesian’s likeness being raped, and repeatedly sent these to her.

What was perhaps most disturbing to Sarkeesian, however, was that the perpetrators openly referred to their actions as a “game.” They were the players, she was the villain. The superficial purpose was to take down the villain saying mean things about their video games, but the underlying goal, she points out, was ultimately to protect the male-dominated space of video-game playing (I should note that in a much broader sense this doesn’t work flawlessly because there is an increasingly growing number of female gamers, and in some formats female gamers dominate that platform). But as far as the male perpetrators here are concerned, they were nevertheless protecting a space perceived as exclusively male from a female who was intent on (by their lights) invading or altering that space by putting a negative element of the space under the analytic microscope.

Now, any attempt at drawing a parallel line between one phenomenon and another is going to be rough, but I couldn’t help but see some of these lines in many of the responses to the Pants movement. First, I think it should at least be considered that labeling the movement an overt social protest is weak. Like Sarkeesian’s essentially innocuous efforts to examine the portrayal of women in video games (no call to arms, no organized boycotting campaign, no provocative interviews with newspapers or letters to Congress about proposed anti-gaming legislation) the Pants movement never officially billed itself in a way that was meant to call for invasive social revolution. Others have described it in this way, both proponents and opponents, but most who advocated for it that I have seen more or less followed this line from the event page itself: “It is merely an invitation to entertain the notion of wearing pants, and to help others overcome the fear of being faced with discrimination and disapproval when they challenge the cultural norm so that all may feel welcome to worship.” That a statement was being made about unofficial cultural norms, and therefore about inequality is true. But that this statement somehow constituted a symbolic March on Temple Square and a disruption of communal ordinances didn’t hold water (for what it’s worth, in any case, I find social activism and public protest in our authoritarian church environment–as opposed to a political/cultural one–problematic, especially as a matter of utility, because, with some exceptions, it doesn’t seem to be very effective).

That being said, the overwhelmingly disproportionate response by those who saw evil and villainy in the Pants movement demonstrates, as many other bloggers have noted elsewhere, that the problem really wasn’t about the pants. Here is where I see some interesting parallels. First, Sarkeesian describes the men and boys who went after her as a “cyber-mob” and they employed many of the same tactics to take down her social media that were employed in in the Pants response: misogynistic comments, violent aspersions, flagging posts for abuse and spam, etc. We’ll likely never know, but it is very plausible that among those reporting abusive posts and comments to Facebook (and if you didn’t see any of these then you were spared a wave of filth and violence that might have made you physically ill) were the misogynistic posters themselves, in order to have the original site removed in an attempt to squelch the movement.

Nearly all of these abusive commenters were men and boys, typically on the younger side (20s). And that leads directly into the next parallel. Sarkeesian notes that her cyber mob (also comprised of young men and boys) described their abusive behavior as a “game” they were playing, complete with heroes, villains, and quests. This roughly confirms a suspicion I had concerning many of the abusive comments and posts, that a lot of the young men posting were seemingly one-upping one another for outrageous comments and behavior. Some of the posts seemed almost a caricature of abusive comments, and indeed, if they were–if some of them were not written wholly from a place of anger and resentment–that would lend credence to the idea that some of them saw what they were doing as a game, a way of pushing boundaries, competing with one another, seeing how far they could go before direct action was taken in response. But even if some of them weren’t entirely serious, the mere act of engaging in such online behavior was telling of some kind of deep-seated dissatisfaction and resentment directed at the movement.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Sarkeesian observed that the men and boys attacking her were protecting a male-dominated space that she was encroaching on. In other words, she was perceived as threatening their identities both as individual men (who are not, emphatically, women) and as a community of men where male bonding could be enacted and performed in a safe, non-shameful way. This is important, I think, in a society where male nurturing and love through male-only bonds might be seen as a feminine and, relatedly, homosexual trait and therefore generally discouraged. The gaming world for these boys was just such a safe space. Sarkeesian, then, was a bringer of war, threatening to disrupt a space that was already only tenuously constructed and therefore fragile.

The maleness of pants on a woman in a sacred space might be seen as symbolic of this. Here’s where it might actually matter that was pants and not something else that was potentially visually disruptive in some way. Pants, after all, though not formally prohibited at church, are more or less formally prohibited for women in temples, at least within actual temple ceremonies like the endowment, where the only ceremonial clothes available for women are dresses (my thanks to Brad Kramer for pointing this out) and we’ve seen a lot in the discourse on this issue revealing the conflation of sacred spaces in temples and chapels (where the sacrament is passed), a conflation that has made these sacred spaces nearly interchangeable (I think this is extremely problematic–a temple is simply not a chapel on so many levels– but it was there in the discourse). But this leads me to wonder if the ultimate source of fear and insecurity centered on the principal male space in Mormonism, which is priesthood–if women start wearing pants to church as a deliberate (perceived) political protest of some kind, this could be viewed by some as a direct line to and encroachment on that male-dominated space. Wearing pants to church as a social or political statement (so-perceived) actually then makes the statement (so-perceived) that your next target in male-only space is precisely the space itself, structured by the priesthood, and therefore the defining experience of what it means to be a man in Mormonism. Consequently, men’s identities within a Mormon context were, for the most outspoken and virulent, potentially threatened.

I know that these parallels themselves point to evidence that this was a larger phenomenon and not just a Mormon one. I agree that those violent, over-the-top comments weren’t exclusively or reductively Mormon. This type of behavior obviously exists on a much wider scale generally. But I do see a Mormon angle in this from the very apparent absurdity of such a response to such a seemingly equally absurd issue like women wearing pants to church, which everyone outside of our community and not a few in it saw, as a serious issue, as laughably ridiculous . It’s not ridiculous, however, when you include possible variables that reveal the very LDS significance of of the disproportionate retaliation.

There is one quite obvious difference, however, between Sarkeesian’s experience and the Pants movement, and that difference is women. From my own perusal of the Pants site before it was taken down, comments from women outnumbered comments from men by a considerable amount. They were almost never as abusive as the blatantly violent and misogynistic male comments, but they were nevertheless sharply critical and piercing in distinctive ways, ways that probably only women criticizing other women could accomplish. I think, in fact, a case could be made that the most effective opposition to gender equality in the church, whether you think it mostly exists or mostly doesn’t exist (and in this case cultural equality specifically) are not men alone, but other women, women protecting and preserving so -called male space (the current structure of men alone holding the priesthood and women having access to priesthood only through men) from other women because of the social and spiritual advantages that such protection incurs on the protectors by virtue, especially, of their status as their wives or potential wives. For example, a married LDS woman (assuming a temple sealing) is endowed (no pun intended) with a distinctive and weighty social status compared to a single LDS woman. Other than marriage being the highest universal ideal in LDS culture and practice, your chances of being directly connected to decisions of power and administration (wives of members of the bishopric, stake presidency, mission presidency, etc) and the social status that those incur (whether trivially or not) only exists for married women. The same holds true, with some exceptions, for being able to participate in local leadership. A married woman also has easier access to temple ordinances (non-married women usually need to be called as missionaries or otherwise receive special permission to be endowed). This applies to men too, of course, but because missions and priesthood administration and practice are exercised solely by males, the act alone of being connected to a wife does not carry the same significance. In other words, female space and the female experience are structured by male space in fundamental ways, ways that are not precisely structurally mirrored the other way around. This is just the nature of Patriarchy. Thus, the preservation of the status quo, even for single LDS women who nevertheless hope to become married to a holder of the priesthood is a serious matter, and attempting to transform, even just in perception, any aspect of that male space, has serious ramifications for both men and women and their concomitant identities.

Conversely, when women become more sympathetic to the arguments for equality made by those sympathetic to feminism, such sympathy is usually generated through other women, not feminist men and their arguments. Perhaps in this way, any kind of real, substantive, on-the-ground equality is only ultimately gained through women, who, as the ones on whom the burdens of any inequality rest, are the ones that must choose to accept, reject or create equality if and when it comes, even if it is extended through men (as in a hypothetical scenario where the [male] prophet extends the priesthood to women, but they would still need to choose to accept it or reject it).

In the end, of course, silence is not what happened in Sarkeesian’s case, and it is not what happened in the case of those who supported the Pants movement. When others saw Sarkeesian being viciously attacked, they donated to her project in waves, and she raised 25 times what she initially requested to fund her project. This is precisely what occurred in the case of the Pants movement. Scores of women, who were reticent or indifferent about setting aside an actual day to wear pants to church, many because they did not like the politicization of the event, were galvanized into action by the vitriolic responses of those who opposed it.

Comments

  1. So how do we have a productive dialogue on gender issues in the church if we can’t get LDS men, or a large subset of them, to engage in a respectful discourse? Do we just ignore that portion of the population and keep plugging away at Pants Sundays? More petitions like All Are Alike Unto God effort http://www.whatwomenknow.org/all_are_alike/index.html? Letter-writing campaigns to apostles and GAs? It Gets Better videos on YouTube? How do we have this conversation that we’re not supposed to have?

  2. (Sparknotes version at the bottom)

    Whilst very well-spoken and intelligent, I have to disagree with a couple of points that I feel you were hinting towards (if not avoiding directly aligning yourself with) in the piece.

    For starters, I should add the disclaimer that if I HAD to categorize myself (something I don’t like to do), I would state that I am inactive. A young(ish), inactive male, to be precise. I consider myself a moderate-leaning conservative on the political spectrum, although in Utah I am much more towards the left and in New York I am further right. So it’s all perspective, of course.

    My stance on the Pants issue (which feels ridiculous to even call that) aligns with an issue I take with feminism at large, as well as with most other “isms”, as Ferris Bueller would note. And that is the movement’s tendencies to (a) make issues out of non-issues and (b) equate “inequality” with “difference”. Essentially, I thought it was ridiculous and a large waste of time.

    In this instance, the two are more of a singular, intertwined issue rather than two separate matters. To explain part b:

    The main focal point of the movement, it could be said, is that there seems to be a certain inequality within The Church. That particular point I don’t disagree with, and this is because of The Priesthood, given that the men have it and the women do not. Now I’m not saying that women should or should not have The Priesthood–I personally have no opinion on it, and I understand the reasoning that it is God’s will and so forth. But on an objective basis, yes: men have a sort of “power” and authority that the women do not. So there’s that.

    However, I don’t imagine that most faithful members of The Church would suggest that their religion is wrong in such fundamental matters. A change in Priesthood gender paradigm would be *immense*, and probably the most dramatic change in its history, and to challenge the way things are now would be akin to calling The Church–and thus, according to its doctrine–God Himself, wrong.

    SO, it would seem, then, that for most faithful members of The Church who supported the movement, the issue was really that there is a gender inequality in the social climate of Church meetings, and that it is basically “unfair” that it is more acceptable for men to wear pants in these meetings, and less common for women to do so. I should also point out that this issue more specifically should be narrowed down to “It is unfair that in LDS church meetings across the 48 contiguous United States and Alaska, women do not wear pants as frequently as men do”, since to the best of my knowledge, there are Tongan and other Islander cultures where men wear bottoms that more readily resemble what those in North-Western society consider to be “skirts”. Forgive me if there is a portion of that statement that is factually inaccurate, but you know what I’m saying. I’m not very familiar with other country’s LDS meeting social habits, but I do know that here in the landlocked US, that’s the way it typically goes.

    Now, the point I am making with this now ridiculously massive post is that there is a perception by this group of women that it is less common for women to wear pants in these church meetings. Based on observation and anecdotal evidence, I would say this is correct. This is NOT a matter created or established or even heavily promoted or governed by The Church. It is a cultural norm established by western American society as a whole, outside of the church, that generally, women’s formal outfits consists of a skirt or dress, while men’s formal outfits consist of slacks, a collared shirt of some kind, and often a tie and/or coat. And this brings me to the thrust of part b of my stance: does this make men and women different? At some levels, yes. Does it make one less “equal” to the other? Not even a little. Do men and women have to be exactly the same? Not in my opinion, no. Should women and men be exactly the same? As someone who is attracted to many things about women that are based on these very differences and NOT attracted to men: I would emphatically say “no.” I ENJOY the differences between men and women. I think they are often complimentary, and serve to provide us with one of the most basic and dramatic organizational categories that makes this world a unique and enjoyable experience, followed by dividers like race, preferences, hobbies, and so forth. So when a group decides to equate this difference between men and women with “inequality”, I am frustrated. Pants are not this divine gift or fantastic, unique experience that men have been secretly enjoying for centuries at the expense of women who are missing out. Neither are skirts. And if men wanted to create a movement surrounding wearing skirts because they feel “unequal”, not only would I be opposing it in the exact same way, but I would guess (and this is just me guessing), that it would be met with even more intense ferocity from all sides. But because it is women who have started the movement–again, in my opinion–and women seem to be a sort of protected “minority” group in today’s political climate, it seems that it has been given much more consideration. I realize that observation is completely based on my presumptions, and that we could never know for sure without it actually happening, but I don’t thing I’m wrong there: if a bunch of guys decided to wear skirts to church in protest, they would be laughed at. By almost everyone.

    But again, wearing pants is not a special privilege. Nor is it a big deal–if women want to wear a business suit to church, who cares? But pants also aren’t the cause for inequality of Priesthood power within the church–that would fall directly on God and the First Presidency. I personally have no opinion on Priesthood authority, and so, for me, your theories on the Pants movement being some threat to a male-dominated space falls flat.

    I honestly just think it’s stupid.

    TL:DR Summary: The Pants movement was dumb because wearing pants is not a big deal. For anyone. And it isn’t a source of “inequality”; it makes men and women different, which does not equate to one group being more or less equal than the other. The real inequalities are women not having the Priesthood and the presumed case that if men wanted to wear skirts, no one would take them seriously, but when women want to wear pants, there is at least a large amount of serious consideration.

  3. Mark Brown says:

    Holy cow. Ho-lee cow.

    Comment # 2 is dumb. How do I know this? Because it makes issues out of non-issues and can’t grasp a fundamental point, which is that there is more to the gender divide in our church than priesthood. This is so blindingly obvious that it is embarrassing to have to point it out.

    Anyhow, if there were any substantial points raised in the comment, I’d engage them. But since it is just a silly, emotional non-issue, I’ll just blithely dismiss it.

    I honestly think that whole comment is stupid.

  4. Mark Brown says:

    rscottc,

    Did you see what I did there?

  5. Mark Brown says:

    I looked up ‘mansplain’ in the urbandictionary and they gave me a link to comment # 2.

    Weird.

    Essentially, I think it is ridiculous and a large waste of time.

  6. Thank you, Mark. Here I am wrestling with the angels of Adobe and Christmas, took a BCC break, and I just had to breathe deep and back away slowly.

  7. Thanks for this Jacob. Thanks Mark.

  8. Mark, is the answer to your pithy question: “Get my feelings hurt because someone disagreed with my perspective (which is so unthinkable because I am so definitely right) and respond glibly with a series of smartass remarks that don’t do anything to contribute to the discussion or further the discourse”?

    Is that it?

    Or are you just being a douchebag?

    OR, is “‘being’ a douchebag” a misleading option since it implies a state of behavior that strays from the way you usually are?

    Pretty sure it’s that last one.

  9. Mark, if you’d actually read my admittedly lengthy response, you would see that my thoughts on The Priesthood being a “source of inequality” is hardly a stance I’m taking, as I really don’t care either way.

    Also, you trying (and failing) to liken my comment to your sardonic and theatrical dismissal of my entire stance is a grossly unfair comparison. I stated *WHY*, in great detail, I felt it was a non-issue. And regarding my comment as being “blithe” is ridiculous given the support I provided for my argument.

    But again, I guess if someone disagrees with you they’re just automatically wrong–never mind needing to explain why you actually feel that way.

    Judging by your response, it sounds like you merely read one of two lines from my actual response in combination with my brief summary which provides my stance with little to no background. Which is fine–read the whole thing or not, I couldn’t care less. But don’t respond to it without gaining the whole picture for yourself.

  10. And Jacob, this is probably a good insight into why we can’t have these conversations.

  11. rscottc, you want someone to engage substantively with your (long) comment? Fine. First, you began with a long mansplanation about the distinction between difference and inequality, as though feminists aren’t aware if it and haven’t heard people go in about it ad nauseum. Nobody’s going to talk substantively to that canard now because five minutes with google will get you the long response. The short one is: of course difference isn’t the same as inequality. But inequality exists nonetheless. That whole paragraph just introduces you as someone itching for a fight.

    Then you go on to call the movement stupid because (a) women in pants is no big deal and (b) the whole dresses-to-church thing isn’t institutionally-endorsed equality. But that only makes sense if you think to only possible point for the activity was to protest institutionally-sponsored inequality. That was simply NOT the point of the exercise. And asserting (a) shows just how clueless you are about why peoole started this in the first place. It was precisely because wearing pants to church SHOULD BE no big deal, but — as the hubabloo shows — it IS, at least in the US and Canada, for reasons having to do with social/cultural dynamics, that the organisers suggested this particular activity. It wouldn’t have taken you five minutes with google to figure THAT out, either.

    If you’re going to show up with a post bearing the hallmarks of wanting to pick a fight and complete ignorance of the issue you’re fighting about, you’d better expect dismissive comments.

  12. Rick Smith says:

    @jason. It’s all been said before. Let’s just replace the comment section of all websites with a Google search and be done with it, ok?

    I don’t really agree with either side of this particular debate (see future comment for details), although I usually am sympathetic to feminism as a movement. But, being dismissive and labeling people as ignorant simply because they don’t indicate having read YOUR particular set of websites–or, more accurately, don’t indicate a proper level of conversion to your particular point of view, is, to me, offensive.

    I’m not good at coming up with catchy cultural slang, but I think your type of post does need a label. Here are some tries, clumsy as they may be.

    – jerksplanation
    – selfrighteousplanation
    – snoblsplanation

    At the end of the day, comment #2 is an individual’s attempt to honestly engage with the issues. If you can’t engage with someone who disagrees with you, then why are you even having the conversation? BTW, sandwiching a couple of sentences in between ‘you’re an idiot’, ‘google it’ and ‘you are not welcome here’ statements is NOT engaging.

    A few minutes with Google may reveal the type of conversation you seem to be looking for here. Let me supply a link:

    http://lmgtfy.com/?q=echo+chamber

  13. Well, Jason, if you wanted to interpret my explanation that differences and inequality are not the same as “looking for a fight”, then that was YOUR ignorant assumption, and you couldn’t have been more wrong. Furthermore, for you to expect me to assume what “all feminists” supposedly know (but I’m glad you’re an elected spokesman–SORRY–spokesPERSON–for a large and varied group) is absurd, and a very call for ignorance. First of all, I have NO idea who exactly is on this board, what each of them does or does not know, or what each of them has had explained to them once, twice, or “ad nauseum”. These are all assumptions that YOU are making about other people whom you don’t even know. Don’t project said assumptions onto me as if they’re something I should be readily carrying, or that it’s some sort of personal downfall that I didn’t come into this discussion assuming.

    Secondly, if you, feminists, or anyone else who is apart of this discussion about the Pants debacle is engaging in the conversation because apparently some loons decided that not enough women are wearing pants to Mormon church meetings, then they clearly don’t understand the distinction between mere difference and inequality, because guys wearing pants and girls wearing dresses is DIFFERENT. It is NOT UNEQUAL. And trust me, there were PLENTY of people in my social sphere who made it exactly about that issue in particular. You can bellow about what YOU think the point was or wasn’t of the exercise, but I’ll remind you again that neither you nor any one other individual gets to proclaim what the point of an entire movement is when it involved hundreds of thousands to millions of people. You can say what it means to you, but there were lots and lots of people who supported the protest/movement who made it about things other than what you chose to. Though I’m not surprised you assumed that it’s all about your perspective, and yours only.

    And gathering that information from multiple, direct sources (that are different than yours, since you and I know vastly different people, thank God) and forming an opinion on that isn’t mere “assertion”–you can try to belittle my opinions because they differ than yours, but I can assure you, they’re as equally informed and intelligently crafted as yours. I’ve simply reached a different conclusion, and that apparently offends you.

    For me and many of my peers, the “big hullabaloo” wasn’t over the fact that it was a big deal that women were planning on wearing pants. I directly stated in my first post that I don’t care whether or not women wear pants to church. I don’t even attend meetings anymore, so even if I cared, it wouldn’t affect me. The big deal that this group of women–and then, with time, many other women and many men–THOUGHT that it was a big deal that women wore pants. For us, it was an issue of “Oh give me a break–how many people actually care if women wear pants or not, and how is this niche in American LDS culture any indication of inequality?”

    Get off of your [admin: expletive removed] high horse and quit acting like I somehow lack knowledge or the insight that you possess–that I somehow didn’t inform myself of the issues first–just because I’ve drawn a different conclusion than you. For a group of people looking for equality and preaching about open-mindedness, you’ve all been some of the most close-minded, ignorant, waspish and aggressive keyboard heroes I’ve ever encountered on the Internet–and that’s saying an awful lot.

    Congrats, all. In your supposed effort for true discourse and mutual understanding, you’ve successfully run off an intelligent person looking for real conversation in the worst way you could have. Then again, that’s not really what any of you are looking for. Call this what it is and stop pretending–this is a hive for vindication regarding your own closed-off viewpoints, back-patting and self-congratulations. Not discussion.

  14. I am a young, single, African American LDS woman, and for me personally, women wearing pants to church isn’t a big deal, however, I prefer skirts over pants in general because I like skirts. Skirts seem to fit me best.
    Anyway, before I go off on a tangent about the specific reasons why I’m not too fond of pants right now (ahem, mainly the jar of Goober I consumed), I honestly think the movement would have taken on more steam if the focus was broadened from within the LDS church and into other denominations/religions. I grew up in a non-denom church, and even though I grew up with female pastors, missionaries, deaconesses, and elders, there was still this unspoken “rule,” this expectation that pants were never to be worn in Church, even by our female leadership.
    There was still an overwhelming atmosphere of threatened male. So even in a non-patriarchal structure, the very idea that women hold leadership/lay positions in the church was still, just under the surface, threatening to the traditional, ideal of the long-held belief in male patriarchy in the church. And the wearing of pants by the women, especially those in leadership positions? Well, that would be bragging, throwing it in their faces.
    In the traditional Baptist church, women are scorned for wearing pants, and scorned for wanting to teach or act on their aspirations to attain a position of leadership. In other Christian denominations, though females are given access and are ordained to positions of leadership, it is still a hot button issue. There are men who believe that women should not be ordained in any capacity and that their access to lay ministry needs to be through males.
    So, while it may seem trivial, the wearing of pants in church is more than just about fashion. Though it may sound Victorian, even in the 21st century, women wearing pants is still a symbol for women bucking tradition. While the wearing of pants to church or in any other forum SHOULD be a trivial, and, rather trite, matter, unfortunately, the wearing of pants by women has been seen not just as an exercise in choice, but also taken as intentional scorn for our increasingly weak hold on social traditions and mores concerning feminine/femininity virtues and gender roles. This even extends to the workplace as well. When women began to enter the workforce with a vengeance in the latter half of the 20th century, men were threatened, and because women were working, they automatically lost points on the Femininity Meter. And if she wore pants? Huh, well, her husband or boyfriend or whoever else must be in a perpetual state of emasculation.
    That’s what scares me about this whole thing: the fact that we are somehow viewed as less feminine because the choices that we make for our own sanity, our own health and wellbeing, and, at it’s lowest, trivial level, our own comfort. That it lessens what, as commenter #2 put it, actually does make us different from men. Historically, women who did wear pants were seen as aggressive, subversive, unattractive, unladylike, and even accused of being lesbians. They were cast in such a negative light, and unfortunately, subconsciously in our culture, that image still sticks. The woman who wore pants was revolutionary and dangerous. She was less modest because she showed her legs, she was immodest because she wanted to be comfortable and be able to actually, you know, breathe. She wanted to tear at the rapidly fraying ends of an upright society.
    The wearing of pants in church shouldn’t be seen as a pock on our femininity, it shouldn’t be seen as a statement that we’re one buzz cut and braless day away from becoming Butch in our relationships. No, absolutely not. We are not abandoning our roles, we are not trying to “act like a man.” We just want to wear pants in Church without being accused of subterfuge and trying to even the score.
    Personally, I believe that the Priesthood should be held by men. That’s just my personal opinion spiritually because, if it is practiced justly and fairly, it makes men more responsible for their own spirituality, and the spirituality of their families. I have faith that Heavenly Father intended for those positions to be held by men, and that the reasons for it transcend our earthly comprehension. I of course have no problem with women holding leadership positions in Church, though. If that’s what Heavenly Father intends and that’s his will, then who am I to question it? If a woman receives a call to leadership from her Father, should she disobey?
    It’s been proven that over the last twenty years, maybe thirty, women have been the spiritual heavyweights in their families. In addition to now being breadwinners, they are also more religious/spiritual, attending religious services in higher numbers than men.
    That’s another statistic that I think adds a whole other dimension to this debate. Why this hold on traditional roles and mores when the men aren’t the ones who are at the forefront of upholding it? Why aren’t men stepping up?
    In the African American community, men are supposed to be the spiritual leaders, the champions of their wives and families, they are supposed to raise and bless their children, and they are supposed to provide emotionally and physically. Unfortunately, that is a huge issue in our community, and yet, the men become threatened when a black woman is more aggressive, more spiritual, more ambitious, and has higher expectations. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. You can’t want a traditional, non-pants wearing (in the metaphorical sense) woman, and not step up and be that traditional man to compliment that ideal.
    Yes, there are differences between man and woman; as genders, we are physically, emotionally, and spiritually different, and that should be celebrated. However, I think women are unique in that we are capable of adaptability. When we see that something isn’t working, we do something different. We don’t stubbornly insist that we keep doing the same thing that obviously isn’t (and will possibly never) work until it magically does. No, we adjust, we challenge, we find solutions. Women sensed a shift in the social/moral dichotomy in this country and shifted with it. Does that make them less moral, less a daughter of God? No.
    So, when it comes to wearing pants in Church, I believe that is another sign of our adaptability. We sense a shift, a change, and we are changing with it. The woman who wears pants to Church shouldn’t be denigrated, her femininity shouldn’t be called into question, her spirituality shouldn’t be called into question. We must be careful. Yes, Church is a social place, but more than that, it is a peaceful place for worship, and the focus should be on the Savior, not on who’s wearing the pants.
    I honestly don’t believe that Heavenly Father will close the gates of eternity to us because we dared to break man’s many social, unspoken laws by wearing pants.

  15. Mark Brown says:

    Word to the wise: If you want to be taken seriously, it is best to not say things like “I enjoy dividers like race….”

    rscottc, your speculations about my reasons for not giving you the response you desire are wrong, no big surprise. You haven’t seen me in smartass, douchebag-gy mode. If you gave a hint of having a clue what you are talking about, even the foggiest clue, I might try to manage a polite and charitable dismissal. Your ability to string words together is impressive, but it doesn’t compensate for your ignorance.

    You are completely off-base here, podnuh. Rather than doubling down and trying to defend the indefensible, you ought to spend the same amount of time you spent composing that dissertation comment googling around a bit and educating yourself.

    p.s. Did you really think it was necessary to explain that you are male? Really?

  16. *Even if they’re white and it’s after Labor Day;)

  17. Rick Smith says:

    To make clear my intentions here, I want to just state for the record that I fully support women wearing pants to church. I think women should hold the Priesthood. I think the church is much the worse for not allowing women more direct influence on it as an institution.

    That said, I don’t particularly find this code to be an example of sexism in the church’s cultural norms as much as I find it to be an example of the church as an authoritative power structure. The “unofficial” code, explicitly stated by local members what is implicitly stated by the Brethren, is one place where, to me, men and women do have equality in the church–both are held to arbitrary dress codes that, to me, are pretty analogous. Men must have white shirt and tie to be taken seriously; suits if they have (or aspire to) certain levels of responsibility. Women must wear skirts or dresses, although they aren’t allowed significant enough levels of responsibility to merit a specific dress code analogous to suits. In either case, men violating the dress code and women violating the dress code are treated similarly–(typically) outwardly accepted, but inherently marked as untrustworthy to some degree and marginalized. The arbitrary nature of this and the subtle ways in which it plays out is precisely the point–after all, if an institution can obtain conformity and groupthink on small things like dress, then it has already pretty much won the battle in defining the power relationship.

    I think Jacob was right in pointing out that women play a large role in enforcing this; in my experience, it is almost entirely women who enforce this for women. To be honest, I’ve never heard a male member of the church comment on women wearing pants to church, but I have heard, tens of times, negative comments from women on the matter. I recognize that my experience may just be atypical.

    That said, whether or not this the origins or implications of this code are sexist or not, it needs to go. Out of all the things that should matter at church, conformity of dress is explicitly not on the list.

  18. Rick Smith says:

    @rscottc

    Men wearing pants and women wearing skirts is unequal because of the following:
    – Men typically wear pants. You have to go to small subcultures in society to find otherwise.
    – Many women don’t like wearing dresses / skirts.
    – On Sunday, men wear pants, just like they do the rest of the week. Women wear skirts and dresses, unlike the rest of the week.

    I think your specific point here is invalid. If men typically wore skirts, but then were forbidden to wear a skirt to church, then you’d have a point. Oddly enough, your example of island cultures pretty much disproves your point–in cultures where men DO acceptably wear skirt-like clothing outside of church, it is acceptable for them to wear them in church.

    Footnote. My previous comment on this being pretty much equal between men and women in the church still stands. I just disagree with rscottc’s analogous of men’s pants==women’s skirts. I do think that men’s suits is == to women’s dresses.

  19. Rick Smith: You make an excellent point! Women are so much more critical when it comes to things like this.

  20. Rick Smith says:

    @Mark Brown

    Let’s be honest here–your real point is ‘If you want to be taken seriously here, constrain your posts to a certain acceptable range of viewpoints.’ Which, I think rscottc pretty much understood from your posts.

  21. Mark Brown
    Your comments are so stupud.

  22. Mark Brown says:

    Henry, I grant that my comments may well be stupid, but at least I know how to spell the word.

    Rick, nope. I think it is ridiculous for a n00b to show up here and make his first comment ever longer than the original post. Such a person has no sense of perspective. Then to make the centerpiece of his rant something about priesthood was pretty spectacularly laughable. There are dozens of blog posts with thousands of comments from women who participated, all readily accessible to anyone who wants to look. When somebody shows up here with an ego that size, I expect that he will have at least informed himself a little bit.

  23. the type of conversation you seem to be looking for here…

    your real point is…

    “Fortune is arranging matters for us better than we could have shaped our desires ourselves, for look there, friend [Rick Smith], where thirty or more monstrous giants present themselves, all of whom I mean to engage in battle and slay, and with whose spoils we shall begin to make our fortunes; for this is righteous warfare, and it is God’s good service to sweep so evil a breed from off the face of the earth.”

  24. Rick Smith @12, I’m happy for people to disagree with me. Honest and for trues. But I have a hard time believing that rscottc is simply trying to “honestly engage with the issues”. First, he doesn’t say anything about the content of Jacob’s post (which was about the sociology of the kind of responses we saw on Facebook), but instead uses the forum to voice his own opinion about “Pants Day”. Second, he doesn’t show any desire to understand where people are coming from; rather than “I didn’t see the point,” we’re told the whole thing is “ridiculous,” a “waste of time,” and “just stupid”. And (and this is for you, too, rscottc) although I confess that my accusation of ignorance was in part sheer exasperation from seeing the “difference/inequality” line once again, it was also because he didn’t seem to know what the people actually promoting Pants Day said about its purposes. The point wasn’t to do something that directly challenged institutionally-sponsored inequality at all. It was in subtle ways to show solidarity with, and make Sunday meetings a safer place for, many (especially, but not only, feminists) who often feel unwelcome at church for various and sundry reasons. If someone wants to honestly engage with issues raised by some event, I would expect them to at least try to find out what the events’ supporters were trying to accomplish before waxing on about how the entire thing was a waste of time. I thought that information would be easy to come by. Perhaps I was wrong; if so, mea culpa.

    Also, lest it be missed, I did substantively engage with rscottc’s post. He gave an argument, and I pointed out a faulty assumption that it relied on. (To wit, that the only possible justification for Pants Day would be to directly protest or try to change institutionally-supported inequality.)

    And on to that, since rscottc did me the kindness of substantively responding. I take this to be the crux of it:

    neither you nor any one other individual gets to proclaim what the point of an entire movement is when it involved hundreds of thousands to millions of people

    I don’t buy this at all. I mean, I don’t think I get to proclaim the point of the movement, but I would have thought its promoters got to. I was just reporting what I thought these individuals said. Of course, maybe I’m wrong. I was just going by what others said about it, like oh here and here and even hinted at in the OP. Maybe rscottc is right, and none of us gets to proclaim the point of the entire movement. If none of us gets to, then rscottc certainly doesn’t get to proclaim that its to eliminate differences between the sexes, or to try to directly protest structural inequality, or anything else for that matter.

  25. Doug Hudson says:

    Isn’t it great when comments to a post prove the point of the post?

  26. Wow Jacob. Thank you for this post. I’ve read many posts on this recent event, but your post really helped me to reexamine myself and the feelings that I’ve had towards it more than any other.

    FTR: I am an LDS female, I have worn pants to church, but almost always wear dresses, before this event I never cared which anyone wore (although, I have thought jean skirts were un-dressy and typically not a good idea :))

    Your talk of protecting distinctly male spaces made me that realize (at least one reason) why this event was so upsetting to me. It was upsetting (at least in part) because I wish to protect the distinctly female spaces in the LDS church.

    Wow. Sometimes its nice to uncover the reasons behind emotions. Thanks for the perspective and enlightenment.

  27. (oops ‘made me realize (at least one reason) why'; not ‘made me that realize (at least one reason) why’)

  28. Nickel,

    In response to your comment, I would say that many LDS men can and do engage in respectful discourse about these kinds of issues. So there is hope in that. For those who are disrespectful, the key on the part of those who are passionate about this or that issue is to model charity, I think, which doesn’t necessarily preclude ignoring those who are out of line or calling attention to their behavior. But for the most part we model charity both in what we say and what we do, and we become “an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” (1 Tim: 4:12).

  29. Yes, what Jason said above, regarding the purpose of this post. As I tried to make clear, this was not directly about the actual merits or demerits of the Pants movement, or an overview of inequality in the Church or Mormon culture. I’m trying to offer a plausible account of why the commenters and posters on the original Pants movement website were so appallingly violent and abusive in their comments. If you are not one of those or don’t share a penchant for that kind of behavior, however much you disagreed with the movement, then this didn’t apply to you. I merely find it very curious that what Anita Sarkeesian experienced and what the women who initiated the Pants movement experienced were so similar in a number of ways, and that’s telling about some among us and their motives for becoming so passionately unhinged about this.

  30. After seeing the shockingly hostile response that Pants Day provoked, I was hoping that I would see a number academic/intellectual responses exploring the bizarre causes of this vitriol. Your post is a great example of what I was looking for. Nice work.

  31. I think the part of comment 2 that irked me the most was the blithe admission that ” . . . on an objective basis, yes: men have a sort of “power” and authority that the women do not. So there’s that.”

    Yeah, that’s pretty much it in a nutshell. But why should any woman care about that? Such a non-issue.

  32. I love the way these threads always enact the problem we’re trying to describe: a bunch of men getting in fights about how women ought to behave, punctuated by a few women politely trying to explain their experience and being completely ignored.

  33. …too bad we have that pattern ritually reinforced every April and October.

  34. Right, Ben. QED.

  35. Learning the word mansplain was as rewarding as watching the video. However, what I find the most disturbing in this dialogue is the use of female hygiene as a slur. Douchebag? Really? Why not just refer to one’s opponent as a menstrual cycle to really show them how nasty and filthy they are? Obviously, this popular insult has become so common that it is being used without thinking about it. I hope the Mormon feminist community will become just as active in educating about the way we unintentionally demean women’s bodies in such small ways because the small things can demonstrate how large the problem really is. And I will be wearing pants to church in the future thanks to this campaign.

  36. I have zero response to the comments. But Jacob, thanks for a well-written analysis and an interesting angle on PANTS day. And thanks for including the video. I’ve seen several of Anita Sarkeesian’s deconstructions of media portrayals of women and they always give me food for thought. Her courage and perseverance is pretty amazing.

  37. Kristine @ 32 — you’re right. And please accept this apology from one of the men getting in the fights and derailing the thread. And one who reads, appreciates, and genuinely had his eyes opened (perhaps not wide enough yet, but widening) by women’s descriptions of their experiences.

  38. I know this has actually nothing to do with anything, but one little irk I have is when people have said, “Well, men have just as strict a dress standard, if not more so” or, as above, “It’s different, not unequal.” I have yet to meet a man who had to spend most of the Sunday meeting trying to keep from flashing everyone due to the nature of his calling. Women have most of the callings that involve grabby little hands and wiggly little bodies. I have had my garmented breast flashed and my skirt yanked down more than once (and I have witnessed it happen to others numerous times). It is very difficult to sit on the floor modestly even with ankle length skirts. But since I’m not just supposed to be in skirts, but also stylish and feminine, I can’t just wear turtlenecks and tightly-belted mom-jean skirts. I know that for most women this isn’t a weekly problem, but having spent plenty of time glaring jealously at the men in suits rolling around on the floor without even thinking about it, I can tell you that for some of us, it IS unequal. And it would be really nice to not to have to feel like a dangerous rebel just because I dressed appropriately for my calling.

  39. I really appreciated this post. I’ve had a hard time understanding the intense reaction, especially coming from friends and family members that seem like nice, reasonable people. I’ve been blown away by the number of women writing facebook posts defending skirts, as if the feminists were out to destroy the female fashion industry. Why do they feel so threatened? This really does help clear that up a little for me, though I still can’t understand their perspective. But thank you.

  40. Jacob, another well thought out and thought provoking post. I think you make a plausible argument here about the uproar that took place at the original Pants Day Facebook page. I would note that the inequality of temple endowments for single women is largely overlooked. As I have had it explained to me by members of our stake presidency, getting a recommend to attend the temple for your own endowment should be linked to a significant event, ie marriage or mission, essentially leaving out young unmarried women, who apparently must wear down priesthood leaders with much pleading to get that recommend. Now that women are allowed to go on missions at age 19, and seem to be applying in record numbers, some of that inequality might go away.

  41. jacob,

    Thanks for the thoughtful post. What has really boggled my mind is how literal minded so many Mormon were and still are. What happened to the people skilled in dissecting symbolism and allegories in scripture stories? I mean what do we DO every Sunday? Some times trees are not just trees and pants aren’t just pants. I agree that “protecting male space” is good description of the motivation of some of the push back. I think it also shows that expressing a feminist identity is still and dangerous and deviant act in much of Mormondom. Please ladies and gentleman, if you think this was about pants and the right to wear them you need to reflect a bit more before engaging. For the literal minded let me repeat: It is NOT about PANTS. Pants are a symbol. I will let you mull over what they may symbolize. Hint: They don’t symbolize the belief that men and women are the same any more than wearing a lava lava or kilt is meant to symbolize that men are trying to be like women.

    #32 Amen Kristine. Amen.

  42. As someone who joined the movement as a member of All Enlisted, I echo the thoughts at the end of the video. “I believe with perseverance that we can create a gospel center church experience where all can be accepted and loved, as the person they truly are.”

  43. Domi, I really liked your response. Thanks for sharing! I like the adaptability idea and would hope that both men and women would encourage mutually beneficial adaptation.

  44. I am not at all offended by the pants thing. To each their own. And I think I understand the underlying issues that the pants sunday was intended to address/highlight. But I have an honest question. To what end? What is it that I should do, as an adult male in the church, to help? Is the statement truly against the organization? In other words, is the only change that will mean something a conferral of priesthood keys on women? Because, there, I am frankly powerless. Or is there something that these statements expect of me, just another dude that likes to plan bowling nights with the youth? Because if these statements are not directed toward me, fine, but I will continue to just fumble along doing my best love my neighbor but feeling–every time I read posts like this–like I have absolutely no chance because of the general framework in which I am operating.

    I am not trying to make this about me. Or maybe I kind of am. I really, simply, want to know what those making the statement want from the rank and file.

    As for the vitriol aimed toward anyone in this debate, it all seems decidedly incongruous with, well, Jesus.

  45. rd

    That is the perfect question. I think there are lots of things rank and file members can do and change about their own behavior that directly addresses the concerns and goals, and most of them are not hard or particularly “activist” in nature. Here are five ideas, not that they are the only it best things, but they are things that came up in a conversation. Today, and I think there are a good and simple start.

    1) When anyone bears their testimony, and you feel the Spirit confirming it, tell that person. You can do it in person, in an email, written in a letter or card, or on their FB wall or blog. Be specific about what it is that touched you and what you felt you learned from them. Women and men need to know that they are loved and valued, and for many sharing a testimony can be scary. If you want to show love and solidarity for those who feel marginalized, then recognizing their worth helps. Making it a habit helps you to be more aware of everyone’s testimonies, and you never know who it is that is feeling like they don’t belong.

    2) Talk about the women in your life who have been role models of faith to you, anytime you get the chance. Don’t make things up, but if you are sharing something in a talk, as part of teaching or commenting in a lesson, or with friends and family, acknowledge the women who have shaped your life and faith and give them credit. We so often hear about General Authorities, fathers, mothers who have shaped our lives, and that is fine, but IF there are other women whose words and actions have led you to become a better person, then give them the credit for doing that.

    3) If you are in a position where you are helping plan activities, ask for the thoughts, opinions and input from people who you have never seen at an activity. Find out what keeps them away, and what would make them feel a desire to participate. Be willing to think way outside the box as you listen yo their reasons for not coming or not feeling welcome. This means being aware of not just who is there, but also who is not.

    4) Take notes during sacrament meeting. Start a journal or notebook that you can keep those notes in and make sure that the names of the speakers are part of the notes. This gives you a way to go back and reflect on the talks of all the speakers, and gives you a place where you can find quotes or thoughts from women, if your lesson manual is missing women’s voices. It also allows for diverse examples of “likening the scriptures unto ourselves,” that can be especially valuable in Primary, YM and YW lessons, since you will be sharing examples from people they know. It becomes easier to see that there are many ways to be a “faithful Mormon,” and for people (youth especially) who feel disenfranchised because they do not fit a particular mold, that the “cultural mold” is not what makes a disciple of Christ.

    5) Each Sunday find at least three girls, teenagers, or women and tell them how happy you are to have them at church, and how nice they look. After this feels second nature, then start telling anyone who seems sad, unhappy, frustrated or uncomfortable that you are so glad they are here at sacrament meeting (or whatever activity you are at) that they look wonderful, but that you noticed that they looked like they might need something. Ask them if you can do anything to help, and let them know that you have some days were you aren’t sure what you are doing in church, but that you come because you know that being among saints isn’t always easy, but it is still where you want to be. Offer that if they don’t want to talk to you, that would would really like to help them find someone to sit with/talk to/listen to them. If your offer is rebuffed, take it without offense, and look for them next week, and make sure to at least say Hi!

    These are all things that men and women can do, no matter what their calling, gender, marital status, loyalty or disaffection with the church and/or any specific doctrine. It takes no money (except for maybe some paper and stamps) and you may just make a few friends in the process.

    I am sure other people will have more answers, and there will be as many ideas as their are different people with different testimonies.

  46. rd, here’s a bunch of things that can be done at the individual/local level that, if implemented widely, would have a huge impact on the day-to-day experience of women in the church: http://www.fairlds.org/fair-conferences/2012-fair-conference/2012-to-do-the-business-of-the-church-a-cooperative-paradigm

  47. I like Julia’s suggestion: “Find out what keeps them away, and what would make them feel a desire to participate. Be willing to think way outside the box as you listen yo their reasons for not coming or not feeling welcome. This means being aware of not just who is there, but also who is not.” This is to me the heart of why I participated. I could give a fig about pants. But people matter.

    This was a great OP. I didn’t know about the gamer backlash, but I agree that some of the men who were riled up seemed to be engaged in a game of one-upmanship. The death threat guy was getting high fives all over the place for being so bold. Another guy did a meme in which the brethren were laying the smack down on the feminists (or something like that – it wasn’t totally clear how E. Holland was the ‘big guns'; although I notice they didn’t call L. Tom Perry the Big Guns.)

    In light of the OP, I wonder what the response would have been if women had decided they would wear a ribbon instead of pants. Would there have been less backlash from men?

  48. rd (44):

    One thing I’ve done as a white male that I’ve gotten positive feedback on is encouraging women to feel and act empowered. I try to always encourage and praise women who unapologetically express their honest opinion. I tell women that at least one guy finds assertiveness and strength attractive qualities. Just as I aspired to be a dad AND something else (still trying to figure out exactly what) I wanted my significant other to aspire to be a mom AND something else.

    Of course, this was mostly relevant during my time in BYU singles’ wards. But I think the women from any ward or branch could benefit from hearing such things, especially the young women.

    Also, this hearkens back to the problem that Church is a male-dominated place. I shouldn’t have needed to encourage those women to be honest and assertive and to have goals; as a male, I almost feel hypocritical doing so. But looking back now, I wonder if the biggest reason I did it wasn’t so much for them as for me, as I was hoping to encourage women to express the qualities I wanted in a wife.

  49. Continuing on what juliathepoet said, quote women. It is rare for men in talks or general conference to use a quote from a woman. The sacrament talks or 3rd hour lessons about conference talks are almost never ones by women–and I’ve heard from numerous women that their husbands often leave the room during conference when a woman starts speaking because they’re sure the talk has no relevance to them. Use their talks too or use quotes from books by Chieko Okasaki, Sheri Dew, Camille Fronk Olson and so on; also use stories and scriptures about Biblical or Church history heroines to support your talk/lesson as much as you use stories about men. Don’t belittle or make fun of women speakers for their voices. If you’re involved in a youth calling or bishopric, make sure the budgets for YM and YW are comparable; and don’t have stereotypical activities where the YM are doing sports or learning car repair or whatever and the YW are learning cooking or crafts. Make sure both are getting the chance to learn that “gendered” skill. If you call stake, ward or Elder’s Quorum leaders by President or Bishop Smith, call the stake and ward RS and Primary leaders by the same title. Don’t ever frame chastity/modesty as something that’s solely an issue for women or women’s responsibility to control. Don’t equate priesthood to motherhood–and emphasize the importance of fatherhood as much as motherhood.

  50. I very much appreciated Sarkeesian’s comments, and her work in raising awareness of sexism.

    Not sure how much of it applies to this situation. Yes, women wear dresses at the temple. But when they wear those dresses, they are able to perform ordinances. So male space is being invaded in a way it is noplace else in the church, and women don’t have to wear pants to do it.

    The antepenultimate paragraph has my head spinning. Who are these women who would be willing to give up 20-30 hours a week with their best friend in order to gain “status”? And why is that “status” so valuable? In our ward the bishop doesn’t get hazard pay and doesn’t even get a reserved parking space.

    But the biggest problem is the lack of definition of that term, “status quo.” Some might define the role of women in the church today as oppressed, that we are under our husband’s thumb and have no voice of our own. Others might define the role of women in the church today as a system of complementary equal partnership in which different contributions to the family are valued equally, so that child production is just as important as earning and paycheck.

    “Women…must choose to accept, reject or create equality if and when it comes, even if it is extended through men…”

    So if equality is not here yet, your definition of “equality” is a male-normative sameness, in which women are only equal when they also do what men have always done?

    Of course denying equality now is pretty much pissing on women who find great value in current church teachings. They get told they are being “illogical” and worse if they don’t insist on having the priesthood like men. It invalidates their reality. But then, they are all just a bunch of mindless sheep anyway, so no big deal. Whereas women who feel they have been hurt by patriarchy have genuine pain. (I personally think that people can have pain from a variety of sources and we should avoid jumping to conclusions about one another.)

    Also, while of course there are people on the fringes of any group, I suspect there are a whole lot of women, a vast group of women, who feel equal now, but don’t have any problem at all with women having priesthood or whatever the Lord asks of us next.

  51. “So…your definition of “equality” is a male-normative sameness, in which women are only equal when they also do what men have always done?”

    In a word, no. But you’ve been around these parts long enough to know that already.

  52. Naismith, in what way would our manuals using more quotes from women (past RS presidents, etc) “piss on” you? In what way would having the order of speakers in Sacrament not always be FemaleYouth, MaleYouth, Woman, Man, but rather switch around week to week, “piss on” you? In what way would addressing Relief Society presidents as “President X” rather than “Sister X” “piss on” you? Do women serving missions at age 19 instead of 21 “piss on” you? Or, more to the point of this post, does the existence of women choosing to wear pants to church if that is what they want to wear “piss on” you?

    I am genuinely curious how any of these things (or other things that are being proposed widely) diminishes you, or your role in your family, or your role in the world, or your life choices.

  53. “Of course denying equality now is pretty much pissing on women who find great value in current church teachings. They get told they are being “illogical” and worse if they don’t insist on having the priesthood like men. It invalidates their reality. But then, they are all just a bunch of mindless sheep anyway, so no big deal. Whereas women who feel they have been hurt by patriarchy have genuine pain.”

    Naismith, this simply isn’t true. Many Mormon feminists do not begrudge other women their feelings of being valued and content in the organization. Indeed, many Mormon feminists also experience those feelings. The difficulty is that “equality” is a term with empirical denotations, not merely subjective or emotional content. If I say your position in the church is not equal to that of men, I am saying NOTHING about your personal experience or your feelings. I am making an empirical observation about the structure of the church, which by any reasonable standard does not put women on an equal footing with men, in the terms in which we typically analyze organizational cultures. It is perfectly possible to value and love someone and treat them well, while not according them equal status (as in, for instance, a patriarchy, which, BY DEFINITION, gives the patriarch superior status).

  54. #50:

    My only point about women being prohibited from wearing pants in the temple was that there was a conflation of sacred spaces, with people likening the temple to the chapel, as if wearing pants in one was the same as wearing pants in the other. It’s not.

    Give up 20-30 hours a week with their best friend to gain status? Whuzzah? I can only assume you mean “receiving the priesthood,” of which I didn’t actually make a direct connection to in the post. The abusive commenters, I was arguing, were making that connection; the women wearing pants were in no way making some kind of statement that they were after the priesthood next, though of course many who participated see the extension of priesthood to women as a long-term goal and good in the name of full equality. And many did not. But for none of them, that I could see, was Pants Day about receiving the priesthood at some point, nor did I imply it was.

    Status quo was not referring to all the experiences of women in the church, but merely to the questionable cultural norms that wearing pants represented. I think you are reading way to much into this particular post, which, again for the third time, was not providing some kind of birds eye overview of the entire event or all the issues around it, but merely pointing to the specific responses which were demeaning and misogynistic, and offering potential explanations for the unhinged vitriol.

    And poor choice of words there, friend. I know of few ostensible instances where feminists, for example “piss on” or do anything else on the experiences of women in the church who are not sympathetic to feminism. What Kristine said. And what Cynthia said. You just flat out have no evidence for this, and certainly no substantial evidence.

  55. “pissing on women”

    Freud would have so much fun with that.

  56. At the very least he would have been envious

  57. “I am making an empirical observation about the structure of the church, which by any reasonable standard does not put women on an equal footing with men, in the terms in which we typically analyze organizational cultures.”

    I totally agree with this. It makes perfect sense. But why does that matter? The church is not a typical organization. For one thing, it is based on servant leadership, which is catching on in some organizations but is by far the least common way of running things. For another, it is divinely inspired. We could go on and on about the ways the church is different. And so trying to fit a round block into a square hole (or whichever) does not work particularly well.

    “It is perfectly possible to value and love someone and treat them well, while not according them equal status (as in, for instance, a patriarchy, which, BY DEFINITION, gives the patriarch superior status).”

    And if the church was a patriarchy, that would be a valid point. But the church is not a patriarchy in the sense of many other patriarchal cultures (e.g. Saudi Arabia); rather, it follows the “patriarchal order.” A search on lds.org for “patriarchy” reveals very little use of the term “patriarchy.” In our church, men are a conduit through which priesthood power flows into their home. They are never entitled or even able to use that power to serve themselves, only to bless other people. So they don’t have superior status, but are only servants to their families and equal to their wives.

  58. Ardis E. Parshall says:

    It may matter to the wrongly shaped pegs who never fit in no matter how hard we try or how desperately we want to fit, who have no voice except to accede by upraised hand to the decisions of others, and who have no one speaking for us in councils.

  59. Amen Ardis. You truly speak the words of my heart!

  60. “Give up 20-30 hours a week with their best friend to gain status? Whuzzah?”

    I was refering to your statement that “…chances of being directly connected to decisions of power and administration (wives of members of the bishopric, stake presidency, mission presidency, etc) and the social status that those incur…” And yes, my reaction was “Whuzzah?” Why would women value the status so much that they would want their best friend to serve in those callings? Indeed, that entire antepenultimate paragraph seemed to be describing the scheming of women to grasp at some kind of power, which inevitably eludes them. Also, I am not sure if the statements on reciprocity are entirely correct. For example, older men cannot serve as senior missionaries without a wife.

    “I am genuinely curious how any of these things (or other things that are being proposed widely) diminishes you, or your role in your family, or your role in the world, or your life choices.”

    I actually support and practice many of the suggestions made. Zum beispiel, when I taught “The Presidents of the Church” SS to 12-year-olds, we also included a female role model, either the RS president, or a wife or sister of the prophet we were studying. For us to value the complementary nature of the genders, we should all understand the other better.

    But I do think that it diminishes my choices when it is stated, as if an irrefutable fact, that LDS women are unequal. So if I don’t agree that my partnership is unequal, then I am, what? Denying reality?

    I appreciate that some women and men feel unequal, and I have nothing but sympathy for any pain that they experience. I will certainly try to take steps to make them feel welcome. But to declare that theirs is the only possible reality is something else again.

    Yes, I realize that in a comment a few minutes ago, I did declare women and men to be equal, for effect. Mostly I think that these are complex issues, that none of us experiences exactly the same thing, and that we should be willing to work together on issues of common interest. And to say whether we feel unequal or not, but not to declare what IS, as if there were only one possible way to view things.

  61. For the 4 millionth time, “equal” is not a feeling.

  62. Ardis, you are always a voice of reason and common sense. Whenever I read comment threads and then come upon your comment, I feel like the final word has been said.

    Kristine, brilliant as always. Men arguing on and on about women, and then ignoring our input is so tiresome.

  63. PS: Everybody stop fighting and go vote in the Boggs-Doniphan poll.

  64. Following Sigmund Freud’s referencing of classical art to elucidate the unseen drives of the unconscious, I give you the story and art of Judith and Holofernes:

    http://bjws.blogspot.com/2011/08/judith-holofernes-1500s.html

    Page down to the end and see the Caravaggio.

    Then the folk tale: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vagina_dentata

    We men stand powerless before woman, for she will seduce us with her body and our desires, then kill or castrate us. She has the power. It is our task to break her will and make her subservient and obedient. To allow her freedom is a great danger. Look what happened in the Garden of Eden when Eve had freedom, she chose knowledge over ease and pain over ignorance. If we do not take steps to control her, she will continue in this destructive course. Pants are just the beginning, we know that.

    She will require us to be nice, to love her, to ask her permission for physical favors. She will require equal pay for equal work so that she does not have to honor and obey us any more. She will demand that she be equal to man in the sight of God so that she can get her own revelations rather than having to heed her husband’s oft-misguided interpretations. Finally she will demand an equal status in calling down the powers of heaven, of being true daughters of a Heavenly Father and Mother.

  65. That is one cool website, RW. And a thoughtfully expressed comment. I’ve had some thoughts to express myself, but no time to collect them.

    I really really want to watch this video, but dangit ladies, Christmas. I bet it’s good enough to repost in a few days when I have time to fritter away again. In case I forget to come back and find it, due to the ephemeral nature of blog content and all. I hope that doesn’t violate some blog rule.

  66. Naismith is right — women and men are equal in the Church.

    And Kristine is right — women and men are not equal in the Church.

    The problem is, they’re using different definitions of “equal.”

    Until someone can posit a universally-accepted metric for measuring equality, these conversations will likely always devolve into “yes they are” “no they aren’t.”

  67. anonymous2 says:

    I haven’t read everything, but I just had to say I liked comment #2–a lot, and I was shocked by Mark Brown’s dismissal–nay, contempt–of it. The one who came across as a jerk in my book was Comment #3.

  68. anonymous2, I think you may have the wrong thread. We will be shortly starting a new series where readers can vote on the biggest jerk of the week. So please be patient and wait for us to put up that post. In the meantime, there are some interesting comments here that are worth responding to.

    lindberg, such an approach inevitably distracts from the work that can be done to correct areas where both groups agree that there is some inequality, even when we do not use this word directly. Those who do not agree on what equality means in practical terms can often find common ground on some specific examples of inequality. Working together on these areas should be our focus at least part of the time. There may not be many of these but there will be some.

  69. Mark Brown says:

    anonymous2, I am shocked by your dismissal-nay, contempt-of my comment.

    I will readily cop to the charge of occasionally being a jerk. I am also enough of a grown-up to comment with my own full name. How ’bout you?

  70. lindberg: we could start with the dictionary–

    1 equality: [mass noun] the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, or opportunities

    It is possible to argue that women feel valued, feel encouraged, feel empowered, feel happy, etc., but it is simply not possible to argue that they have the same status, rights, or opportunities as men in the church. Whether or not that should change is a separate (and more difficult) question, but we have to at least agree to use words in the way that they are commonly defined and eschew the generation of idiosyncratic definitions to conform to our personal ideological commitments, or else we might as well not bother talking.

  71. I am starting to understand Mark better having now followed his posts on two blogs. His comments have more in common with what one sees on more typical news sites where each side is intent on winning an argument or downgrading others. That is not what I expect from BCC which has a reputation for being a place where sincere seekers of honest dialogue can engage each other. It is a shame to see this happening on BCC but the solution is probably as simple as not reading his blog – an action I will take – and hoping to avoid his confrontational comments on others’ blogs.

  72. #61 – Kristine, I need a T-shirt that says “equal is not a feeling.”

  73. I know I’m late to this party, and the conversation has moved on, but one comment on Juliathepoet’s suggestions way back at (45). The last one about telling women and girls how nice they look. I think the intent of that suggestion is to help women feel welcome and valued, but in practice, mightn’t it serve to reinforce the already pervasive idea that a woman’s value is based on her appearance?

    Complimenting a woman’s appearance is great, and it is far better than ignoring her completely. However, if the goal is to create an environment where the contributions of women are valued equally to those of men, it seems better to direct compliments at contributions that go beyond seeing women as decorations. Look at the way the women in your ward are serving. Thank them for their comments in gospel doctrine class. After they give an interesting, uplifting, or thought-provoking thought, tell them so. If you don’t know whether women are saying interesting things at church because you sort of tune out a little when a woman starts talking, then maybe work on that a little.

    Do you go to a ward that consistently has nice flower arrangements by the pulpit during sacrament meeting? Who arranges those flowers? Does your ward hand out printed programs? Who is in charge of putting those together, printing them off, folding them, and handing them out? In my experience, these callings are often given to women. Find out who these women are in your ward and tell them how their efforts have helped you in your worship during sacrament meeting. Do you have young children? Their teachers at church are probably women. Find out what your kids are learning in Primary and, if they are learning good, true things and developing a love for the gospel, tell their teachers that you have noticed the good effects their teaching has had.

  74. Carole, I tell men and women they look nice – and I don’t think Julie’s suggestion was meant to be applied exclusively to women. I agree that telling only women that they look nice can reinforce unintended messages, but there is nothing whatsoever wrong in telling someone she looks nice – especially if it is done for men and women.

    If I err in complimenting or not complimenting someone, I would rather make a mistake with an unintended consequence of a sincere compliment than leave a needed compliment unsaid.

    I agree with the other suggestions, completely.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 9,832 other followers