Mormon women protest in pants

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.

Gender trouble: The family portrait

New Haven, CT

Alexandra Brodsky is an editor at Feministing.com, student at Yale Law School, and founding co-director of Know Your IX, a national legal education campaign against campus gender-based violence. Alexandra has written for publications including the New York Times, the Atlantic, the Guardian, and the Nation, and she has spoken about violence against women and reproductive justice on MSNBC, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, FOX, and NPR. Through Know Your IX, she has organized with students across the country to build campuses free from discrimination and violence, developed federal policy on Title IX enforcement, and has testified at the Senate. At Yale Law, Alexandra focuses on antidiscrimination law and is a member of the Veterans Legal Services Clinic. Alexandra is committed to developing and strengthening responses to gender-based violence outside the criminal justice system through writing, organizing, and the law. Keep an eye out for The Feminist Utopia Project, co-edited by Alexandra and forthcoming from the Feminist Press (2015).

Alexandra Brodsky is an editor at Feministing.com, student at Yale Law School, and founding co-director of Know Your IX.

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