On Sunday, Mormon women around the world wore pants to church. With this seemingly simple act, some think, these activists have opened up a new era for Mormon feminism.
As the New York Times reports, “Wear Pants to Church” was first publicized on Facebook by the event’s originator, 26-year-old Stephanie Lauritzen and quickly spread around the globe. Women are not officially forbidden from wearing pants to church, but many report an expectation to stick to traditionally feminine garb nonetheless, confirmed by the widespread online fury in the days leading up to the event. Yet despite threats of violence against women who dared to arrive at church without their usual dresses, thousands opted for pants in what one Mormon professor called “the largest concerted Mormon feminist effort in history.
The ambitions of participants and supporters extend well beyond sartorial freedom. From the organizers’ statements, it’s clear that they don’t desire to break from their faith, but rather to engage more actively through sources of power, such as the priesthood and youth leadership programs, currently barred to women. The activists hope, then, that Sunday’s statement will spark a larger conversation about Mormon expectations of women’s roles at home and in the church. From reactions to the event–both positive and negative–it seems such a discussion has indeed started. One participant posted on the blog Feminist Mormon Housewives that, on her way to church in pants, “I had a couple people compliment me on clothing choice and some great conversations about gender equality.
It’s worth taking a look around the participants’ publicly posted thoughts and photos from the event. My favorite picture? One family took the event a step further than the rest and paired Mom’s pants with kilts for Dad and sons.