Pants: A Review

If you’re thinking that one of the coolest people you know is named Jessica Jensen, you’d be right. She originally blogged with us last year, resulting in the epic Jonny Lingo .gif post. She lives in Phoenix and has been married 9 years to a perpetual student. She supports him by doing office support for an engineering firm but she plans on those student/provider roles reversing in the future. She also blogs when she feels like it at her Bloggity Blog.

I wore pants to church last Sunday for the first time. My main reason for doing it was very simple: I just plain wish women felt comfortable wearing pants to church. They’re more practical than skirts (especially for mothers of young children), they’re often dressier than, well, dresses, they warm your legs in the arctic temperatures of the Young Women’s room, and what year is this again? And while I do hope for greater visibility for female members of the church, I specifically chose not to participate in the designated Wear Pants to Church Day because I didn’t want to heighten the controversy. So I waited it out a few weeks instead.

Maybe this is a non-issue in your ward, in which case can I come visit you? I do love my Phoenix ward but generally speaking it’s at best ultra conservative and at worst glaringly sexist. Several weeks ago, the Gospel Doctrine teacher asked, “How does Satan attack our families?” and the proffered answers managed to malign each of the following groups: Older single women, divorced women who don’t remarry, women who think they’re “the same” as men, women who asked for entry to the Priesthood session, women who erase their femininity (an allusion to pants?), moms who work, women who aren’t moms, and The Gays.

A world of pure imagination

A world of pure imagination

That’s the closest I’ve ever come to walking out of Gospel Doctrine. I decided to stay and live-tweet it instead, because that room deserved the shame of the entire internet, and if not that, then the shame of my many tens of Twitter followers.

To further illustrate, I recently discovered that my Young Women won’t be able to organize their annual silent auction this spring to raise funds for camp. When I pressed for an explanation at a planning meeting, I was told, verbatim, “Well, the Young Men are low on funds, so if the Young Women try to raise money, too, it will be a strain on the ward.” All the other leaders nodded and accepted it with no resistance. I sorta made a scene and the shaking didn’t subside until I’d been home for thirty minutes, but as far as I know the decision stands. It’s really a shame, because I would have crocheted a truly kick-ass baby blanket to contribute to the cause.

For these above reasons, which are just a small sampling of the treats my ward has offered over the past two and a half years, I wasn’t quite sure how people would react to a display of feminism. I’m sure plenty of people in my ward would conflate women wearing pants to church with Ordain Women and by extension Satan (see second paragraph), so maybe I should have been nervous. I wasn’t; I was mostly just curious. I made the conscious decision to really dress up my wide-leg trousers with a floral blouse, velvet blazer, pearl necklace, and heels, so that it would be abundantly clear I was A) not trying to erase my femininity, and B) dressier than Sister Denim Jumper, and off I went. (Nothing against denim jumpers. They can be lovely. My mom had one when I was young that I really enjoyed. My point is that a Mormon chapel is the only place on earth where a denim jumper is considered more appropriate than a nice pantsuit).

I received a lot of down-and-up-and-down-and-up-and-down looks from both sexes, and the man who inspired this tweet, written long before I wore pants to church, gave my lower half a six-second-long unblinking stare. And while I didn’t discover any secret feminists emboldened by my outfit, I wasn’t called into the Bishop’s office, either, or worse, the Extraction Room. (Do church buildings still have those? As a kid, I used to give that door a wide berth and wonder about the horrors that must take place inside.) I didn’t hear a peep from any of my Laurels, and I’m hopefully optimistic that it’s because it was no big deal to them, and not because they were shocked into silence.

All things considered, I give my pants-to-church experience 4.5 out of 5 stars. Highly recommended. My favorite part of the entire day was when a Mia Maid regarded me with interest then asked her advisor, “Can I wear pants to church?” The advisor replied, “Yes. There’s nothing official that says you can’t, as long as it’s your Sunday Best,” but then her own daughter asked, and she said no. So. One miracle at a time.

Comments

  1. Brilliant. And funny. And soulful. Well done, sister Jensen. Carry on.

  2. “My point is that a Mormon chapel is the only place on earth where a denim jumper is considered more appropriate than a nice pantsuit.”

    Just a small quibble to an otherwise very good post. You should check out Amish Country sometime. Women do not wear pants there either but denim skirts are quite common. I’m still amazed to see a community where 14 year old girls are not allowed to wear pants, but they are allowed to drive a horse buggy full of primary-age children along a two-lane highway with semis passing at 55 mph.

    For what its worth, you (and Gene Wilder) have inspired me to wear a bright purple suit for Pants Day III – Revenge of the Myth. I’m still planning my wardrobe for Pants Day IV – A New Hope.

  3. True, Dave. I concede. Also: The Duggar’s home.

  4. Thanks for the reminder that, as bad as my ward is, it could be worse. And for the reminder to never, ever move to Arizona.

  5. Extraction Room. It does sound bad, doesn’t it?

  6. I’ve never heard of the Extraction Room, but you make it sound like Room 101.

  7. It’s where they keep the bishop’s storehouse of rats and face-cages.

  8. You could go dressed as a giant daffodil in my ward and no one would bat an eyelid. In fact, you could probably go dressed in jeans, a t-shirt and a drawn on beard and you wouldn’t get a reaction.

    Mind you, that’s largely due to the fact that, thanks to the missionaries, two thirds of the ward have spent time in the local mental hospital.

  9. I wore pants to a RS leadership training earlier this year…I looked fabulous…I think I’ll try it for a Sunday…sounds fun :)

  10. I’m still trying to decide if I dare wear pants without jeopardizing my position in the YW organization–I would hate to so alarm our bishop that he releases me, thereby removing one of the few feminist voices my YW will hear at this impressionable age. Culture is so hard to change.

  11. it's a series of tubes says:

    Great post. Makes me thankful that my ward, also in Phoenix, bears no resemblance to yours.

  12. You make a really good point about denim jumpers vs. nice pants. It’s a little Pharasaical to say that one is more appropriate than the other. Around here denim jumpers (“frumpers”) are really popular with the Fundamentalists – they go great with hair down to your knees.

    I’ve seen a few Wear Pants To Church Days come and go and I’ve honestly never been interested in participating. I really really like dresses – I make my own, using sewing patterns from the 1950s, in the loudest prints I can find. OTOH I can see how pants are useful – one of the sisters in our ward regularly wears pants because she serves in the nursery, and you’ve got to get up and down off the floor/tiny chairs without flashing so much as a millimeter of garment, which is nigh impossible.

  13. But seriously, Jessie, don’t forget that you ‘get’ the kind of man you ‘dress for.’ A woman who wears pants to church may very well ‘get’ a man who wears pants to church!!!

  14. But seriously, Jessie, don’t forget that you ‘get’ the kind of man you ‘dress for.’ A woman who wears pants to church may very well ‘get’ a man who wears pants to church!!!

    You mean it doesn’t work out that women who wear pants get men who wear kilts? Bummer.

  15. Bonus Benefit: No more having to give sacrament meeting talks!

  16. The main reason I don’t wear pants to church is that church is the one of the few opportunities I have to wear dresses, which I like to do. My feminist daughter feels the same way. Activism thwarted by vanity.

  17. liz johnson says:

    I really enjoy that every single thing that Satan uses to attack the world is used via women (except for The Gays, but I’ve heard people seriously argue that The Gays just want to be women, so…). It’s a good thing that men have never started wars or created suffering or any other horrible thing. Man, it must be good to have a y chromosome!

    Also, this post has me thinking that I should go shopping for some nice pants.

  18. So, you asked for such a ward – Lewis Center, Ohio, of all places. I wore pants to church both before and on pants-Sunday (and have worn them since.) Wearing them before pants Sunday I had several sisters come up and compliment me on my outfit. Wearing them on pants Sunday, I had people (a man and a woman) I didn’t know stop and shake my hand, one sister call me later in the week to say how much she appreciated it, and another brother stop my husband in the hall to say that he noticed I’d worn pants and my husband had worn purple, and that he had thought about this whole women-and-the-priesthood thing, and he didn’t understand why women shouldn’t have it.

    And yes, of course there were some people who kept their eyes uncomfortably fixed on my face as though I was wearing a really low-cut blouse, and a few sisters who seemed to be a little uncomfortable with it, but give people some credit – it takes a while to get used to new things, and to remember the difference between culture and doctrine.

    All in all, it was an incredibly positive experience.

  19. I like pants not on pants days!

    I didn’t participate the first year for various reasons, but this year I came out of the mofem closet and got kicked around a bit – and felt that this year’s Pants Day, with the purpose of celebrating the inclusivity of the gospel being what I was now passionate about, AND the fact that having a “day” gave me courage to commit to just do it. All in all it was okay, quite a few people were shocked and only one woman reached out after church to semi-grill me about it. I blogged about it and the Rexburg local paper interviewed me (and then stole my blog picture and put it on the freaking front page of the paper without permission) and then I had a lot more negative reactions :-/. My dad, a bishopric member, told me I would need to apologize to the ward from the pulpit (yes he gave me a complex). But I also, gratefully, had quite a few wonderful people surprise me with their Christlike examples (turns out I was judging rexburgites for being too judgmental and ended up being surprised they are not as bad as you think once you get to know them. Now the ones that didn’t know me personally . . . let’s just say don’t read the comment section of the Rexburg Standard Journal).

    It took “girding up my loins, fresh courage take” to bust my pants out again after the crazy times . . . but my pants count is up to 3 now, and Rexburgia will just have to get used to me :-)

  20. Kevin Barney says:

    Great post! I feel the need to share the personal story I always relate when the topic turns to pants:

    When I was on my mission we had an investigator who came to church wearing a very elegant pants suit. She gets not 10 steps inside the chapel when a guy [not a leader; just some random old guy] takes it upon himself to inform her that she was dressed inappropriately for church. Without a word she turned on her heel, walked out, and we never saw her again.

    That was as close as I’ve ever come to punching a guy out right there in the chapel.

  21. ps I have a few non-mofem friends who were considering wearing pants to church who say they never will now because of the “annual days.” I understand their perspective, I encouraged them to still do it because mofems are the only ones wearing pants it *will* just be a mofem thing. But if non-mofems do, pants wearing will lose the connotation. Maybe one day.

  22. When I go to church, I wear pants. I have occasional problems with swelling in my legs and they are ugly. I am far more self-conscious in a dress than I am in pants. I don’t care what anyone thinks. They are lucky I’m there at all.

    I also wear pants to swanky political events. I look fabulous.

  23. I was just skimming through the comments and my eyes caught on “thanks to the missionaries, two thirds of the ward have spent time in the local mental hospital” and I was imagining all sorts of shocking or thrilling backstories to this before I realized what Shez actually meant.

    Priceless.

  24. Yes, Ann. We should be vehemently thanking people for attending Church and joining us in our worship rather than criticizing their clothing choices. I’m glad you wear what’s comfortable for you when you attend. Thanks for attending at all!

  25. There is so much about this that I love…the last paragraph being the perfect ending.
    Thanks for the good laugh. I had an almost identical experience with my first pants at church excursion (also not on the Pants to Church Day). Thanks for sharing!

  26. What great writing. Thank you.

    I wear pants to church occasionally because I work in the nursery, and it’s freezing cold where I live. Unfortunately, my husband is not a fan and really wishes I wouldn’t. Hopefully it won’t be a big deal to him some day. (He told his mother that I wore pants to church, and she said, “Well, some days you just don’t want to dress your best.” I looked very nice thank you very much.)

  27. Why doesn’t your husband want you to wear pants? Because he thinks they look dumpy?

  28. One of the saddest days I’ve ever had at church was two years ago at our ward in Gilbert, AZ. My wife, the YW Pres, wore pants to church. It was a few weeks after to the first wear pant to church day. On our way out the door the Bishop asked to see my wife. After their discussion I could see the heartbreak on my wife’s face. The Bishop said a new family in the Ward with girls in the YW program had raised hell during church about my wife wearing pants and they would not allow their girls to attend a YW program where the YW Pres wore pants. They requested and received permission to attend another Ward in the Stake. The Bishop asked my wife to not wear pants again. My wife was heartbroken and I was so heartbroken and sad for her that she was being judged so harshly by adults who did not even know my wife. It still bothers us both terribly to this day to be so judged and to not be supported by our Bishop.

  29. “that room deserved the shame of the entire internet, and if not that, then the shame of my many tens of Twitter followers” LOL. So true!

    “”There’s nothing official that says you can’t, as long as it’s your Sunday Best,” but then her own daughter asked, and she said no.” Yes, this is the problem. Pants (in some wards) become the purview of the poor, the inactive, the investigators, and the fringe. Not so in my Singapore ward, but now that I’m back in Scottsdale, I’m not seeing a lot of pants. If I lost 5 pounds, I’d have to consider wearing mine again, but by then it will be hotter than the surface of the sun here again.

    Loved your post!

  30. If one takes something innocuous and turns it into a political symbol, one shouldn’t be surprised when people who do not support said politics stop wearing the newly repurposed symbol. Good grief.

  31. My husband genuinely believes pants can’t be a woman’s Sunday best. Like I said, I am hoping to show his the error of his ways. Hopefully sooner rather than later. But that’s why wearing pants is so controversial. Many people don’t believe pants are the best a woman can wear.

    Delux- what a terrible story!

  32. One shouldn’t speak in passive-aggressive ways about such things if one expects to be taken seriously.

  33. Thanks for the kind responses, everyone!

    Kyle – It did cross my mind.

    Angela C – “Pants (in some wards) become the purview of the poor, the inactive, the investigators, and the fringe.” YEP. Culture is a powerful force.

    Kevin Barney and Delux – Heartbreaking.

  34. I wore pants last week because I can and because it means something. As I got dressed I practiced my zinger on my my husband in advance so that I would be prepared for the questions and the up-and-down glances that I got last time. So, I walked into the library and the sister there said, “So, it’s wear pants to church day again?” “Well, it’s wear pants to church day for me,” I said. “I am menstruating and it just wasn’t going to work to wear a skirt today,” I added with you-know-what-I-mean eyebrows. Pretty soon the other sister was somewhat uncomfortably providing me with justified reasons for my wearing pants. “Yeah, and you are in the nursery and it is hard to work with the kids in there in a dress.” “Yes, and I shock people when I wear a skirt,” I added, “I haven’t shaved in months.” No one else asked or confronted me, but then I was in nursery for two hours and we sit in the back of sacrament meeting. My intention was to embarrass the hell out of anyone who would ask or insinuate that they know better that I about how I should be dressing. I think it worked for those two women.

  35. My husband was 200% against the pants in October. It was completely unacceptable for him to accept. After 2 months of temple dates and really long celestial room discussions by December he was okay with it. He said before if he would have saw a woman in pants he wouldn’t have thought much about it, but now after my experience he thinks – ‘wow she’s got guts.’

    I’m sorry my statement about celebrating the inclusivity of the Gospel was such an offensive political statement. :) I did feel more authentic to who I am . . . and I thought as a primary chorister I provided a good balance to other women in 5 inch stilettos and tight pencil skirts and bling. I have nothing against their choices, but it doesn’t fit me — and I’m all for a variety of examples to be presented.

  36. What would your husband have done if you had worn pants without his acceptance, Kristine? There are many fronts to this issue, eh? Who knew that pants could symbolize so much. Way to go up there in Rexburg! Now your reputation precedes you for sure.

  37. There would have been marital discord up the ying-yang, fosho. 13 years ago we both were about as black/white, following every rule that could be conceived by mormon culture, very much gender roles, very much man having the final say. Three years ago I had a faith transition, he didn’t. It’s been . . . interesting, to say the least.

  38. I was all revved up to give an earful to anyone at my West Lafayette, Indiana ward who questioned my pants. But alas, no one said anything but how nice I looked. We’re moving back to Utah soon and I’m excited (mmmm nervous) to wear pants the first Sunday there.

  39. Oh, I see. It was a very personal question, I’m sorry. My husband and I have been married 13 years as well. I could not have predicted what have become our tough issues. Hats off to your forging forward!

  40. No worries – I have no problem being honest about the challenges, strangely it’s brought us closer together because we’ve been forced to communicate and understand each other, even though our opinions are still oceans apart. I prefer his acquiescence to my parents’ horror :-), I think they’re pretty mortified their daughter is ‘famous’ for feminism in their hometown.

  41. I’m a born-and-raised Utah Mormon, and I can only recall a girl wearing pants to church once. I was in Primary, and so incredibly jealous of her, because my mom would never let me do the same. I don’t think anything would be said if I did wear pants to church-outright, at least. I’d bet it would be a day filled with passive aggression, though.
    But where I come from, denim is a work fabric, and NEVER to be worn to church. In fact, one time at a stake dance, I was turned away–told to go home and change–because I wore a denim skirt. The only skirt I owned at the time.
    But in the ward I grew up in, we were also told we had to wear nylons, and forbidden from wearing red nail polish. Pretty ridiculous.
    And Jules, best of luck in Utah. Hope it’ll turn out well!

  42. jlouielucero says:

    This is the best comment I have ever read!!! I am laughing so hard. Thank you. Great post BTW.

  43. I’ve been wearing trousers to church since Pants I. My teenage daughter will also sometimes wear trousers instead of a dress or skirt. She has to wear a skirt for school (school uniform), so enjoys the chance to wear smart trousers instead.

  44. You are welcome to come to my ward. We are pants-friendly. You could even wear shalwar kameez or a sari and it would be fine.

    I am dying laughing about the extraction room!

  45. At the time of Pants I, I could not figure out the big deal. Women regularly wore pants to my home ward, including the RS president. And of course in Brasil women wore pants when it was cold out, as nobody expects a woman to walk three miles to church (typical for our congregation) in a skirt in windy cold weather.

    I have actually noticed that women are less likely to wear pants nowadays. Perhaps it has become imbued with some kind of negativity. But in no way does that justify the treatment that Delux recounts, and I hope they met with the stake president.

    This is a non-issue for me, because as a bicycle commuter I have no interest in wearing pants that might get caught in the gears. I don’t wear skirts, either–I have a wardrobe of culottes that I sewed myself, that hit below the knee to mid-calf.

    I am not sure what wearing pants has to do for speaking out for equal treatment of women including equal funding opportunities for YW, I applaud and join you in that effort, as do all the other non-feminists that I know.

  46. John Hatch says:

    Lovely! Well said and beautifully written.

    In the wake of Callistergate (can we call it that?), I was watching Ellen Page’s coming out speech and couldn’t help but think her words were far more inspired than the Ensign article on the Lord’s Standard of Morality. At one point, she mentions that she spotted a gossip story that included a photo of her in sweat pants and the headline, “Why is Ellen Page Dressed Like an Obese Man?” Her answer was simple: because I wanted to be comfortable. That answer might seem obvious or even silly, but the contrast to LDS expectations of women’s dress seemed so stark. Isn’t life challenging enough, we have to add expectations of how people dress? It’s not about their comfort or how it makes them feel, but it’s about whether they’re meeting our preconceived expectations of attractiveness, modesty, fashionability, etc? It seems (and the scriptures kinda back me up) that the last thing we ought to be doing is giving people crap for the clothing they wear.

  47. My first time going to the temple I wore pants. I was wearing the nicest, most dressed up outfit I owned. I was a kid. I was living in another country. I didn’t know I was supposed to wear a skirt. I hadn’t been around LDS people much.

    I took a bus and a subway to get to the temple. I’d never been in that part of town, and I got there right after my youth group had already left the foyer and gone to the baptistry. I didn’t know what to do…or even what one does at the temple…so I just waited in the foyer.

    When my young woman leader saw me 3 hours later, she didn’t care about my pants. None of the other kids did either…although they were American kids who’d been raised in the Church.

    People in that country don’t equate skirts with “how women should look” (even though my time in that country = continual sexism).

    The issue some people have with “pants” is that it is a “political” statement in a place that is supposed to be non-political. You want the priesthood, have a maverick give it to you. But don’t wear pants as your “political message.” But maybe someone wears pants just because they don’t see skirts (or spiky heels…or Shade t-shirts…or white shirts…or whatever makes you look like other people at church on Sunday) as any more worshipful than pants. I know I didn’t…until someone told me they were.

  48. That’s opposite of my experience . . . I always thought skirts were more respectful and worshipful than pants. Until I decided for myself they weren’t. And then the only thing stopping me from wearing them was fear and conformity. So I wore pants.

    If your issue is that it is a politicized message, do you have issues with the church involved in voter registration drives in las vegas on church property? with bearing testimony of mitt romney during sacrament time? me having a seam between my legs (and my personal reasons for doing so) are pretty slight compared to those. My political message is that I don’t think I have to wear a skirt to be respectful and worshipful.

    I can’t control other people’s assumptions about my motivations – whether they think it’s a political statement or not. But I can choose to be authentic and live my truth.

  49. Kristine,
    Please re-read my comment.
    I was trying to say what you said.

    When I said–
    “The issue some people have with “pants” is that it is a “political” statement in a place that is supposed to be non-political. You want the priesthood, have a maverick give it to you. But don’t wear pants as your political message.”

    I was quoting what someone said to me, the day I wore pants.

    Like you, I am learning that–
    “I can’t control other people’s assumptions about my motivations – whether they think it’s a political statement or not. But I can choose to be authentic and live my truth.”

    I was trying to speak ironically. But this topic arouses such strong feelings, maybe it’s better not to.

    My point in telling the temple story–
    Some LDS people don’t care what you wear, even to the temple.
    They know you are doing your best and they care about you.

  50. And when I said “you” I didn’t mean “you, Kristine” in a condescending way.
    I just meant “you, me, the lunch lady, the guy with the dragon tattoo”

  51. Yeah…I’m one of those “older single gals” who, apparently, Satan is attacking.

    I mean, okay, if I’m being honest, I’d love to find my own Mr. Wonderful and get married and have babies…but the fact is, I’ve not found him, and I’d much rather be happy and single than settling for something less than I deserve.

    I myself don’t have a problem wearing skirts to church. I almost-loathe dresses, but skirts are exactly my cup of tea. Having said that, I totally see your case about the the Denim Jumper thing. And I’m sure you looked super classy in your outfit. :)

  52. “”There’s nothing official that says you can’t, as long as it’s your Sunday Best,” but then her own daughter asked, and she said no.”

    I don’t see a problem in that. Families may have cultural differences or they may practice their faith in different ways. Is the problem in recognizing that such differences shouldn’t be applied or expected of those outside the family? Isn’t judging the mother for setting a family standard for her own family just as ridiculous as worrying about some sister wearing a a nice pantsuit?

    My wife and daughter wear skirts/dresses to church. It is based upon family tradition of what “Sunday best” means. I wear a white shirt and a tie. But given a chance, I would wear a kilt to honor my Scottish heritage! I do NOT condemn others in their own good-faith decisions about what is appropriate. There will always be some variation among different groups of Latter-day Saints. I hope there always will be. Anything otherwise would mean we have lost to ability to grow, discern and choose. Let a little controversy remain, but lets treat each other with kindness. It is healthy.

  53. May I also add that if my ward council did not treat the YW fairly they would have this old man screaming bloody murder at them. Since when did it take fewer dollars to help young women achieve their goals and dreams than it did for the young men?

  54. jessiejensen says:

    Oh, it was an observation, not a judgment. But shouldn’t her daughter be able to choose for herself what her “Sunday Best” is? Teach her correct principals, let her govern herself? Agency, etc?

    Thank you for sticking up for your ward’s Young Women!

  55. glasscutter, no harm done. I think speaking ironically is a hard tone to pick up for me on the internets sometimes. I misread your comment because it was combined with the “some people” explanation. As in, “some people speak in a passive voice on the internets to project their own feelings and ideas onto others without really having to come out and say it.” #passiveagressivemisinterpretation

  56. In my ward in suburban Detroit, some female is always wearing pants. No one cares (or acts like they care). Also, lots of kids had Frozen themed birthday parties this winter. :) Come visit!

    I could never, never live in the mountain west. The things I read about Mormon culture out there don’t even come up here. We are all about Jesus Christ here, not the silly stuff like skirts and pants and women’s and men’s roles.

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