Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Why I Didn't Wear Pants to Church



**As always thanks for allowing occasional advertisements so that I can rake in my millions.  

**This is a post heavy in Mormon speak and spurred by Wear Pants To Church Day which was started on a FB page here.  You can also read other opinions about it here and here.  Or just google Pants To Church...this was national news people!  

Also, here is updated information on how to help the residents of Newtown, including addresses where you can send letters of support and encouragement.  Info here.      

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I instagrammed the above picture Sunday morning with the following caption:  I'm going to church today to partake of the sacrament and worship with the saints.  Lets not let this divide us people.  #pantstochurch  #unity

When pressed to know if I was wearing pants, this was my reply:  Well I started this gram with the intent to post what I was wearing.  Then I decided this was becoming a 'stars upon thars' thing and I didn't want to contribute to any divisiveness which is why I'm not saying what I wore...at least not here.  Perhaps a blog post about it...But honestly it all feel so insignificant to me in the aftermath of Newtown.  

So here you have it:  I wore a skirt.  And although it's with some hesitation I throw my hat into the ring, there are three main reasons I did so.  If you think I'm here to scold you pant wearers...well please read to the end.

1.  I personally have not and do not feel as though I'm unequal to or less than the brethren in the church.  I do not recall ever being treated as 'less than' and more importantly I do not recall ever feeling 'less than.'

Years ago I was a single gal, with a college degree working in the corporate world.  I had a great job and genuinely loved my coworkers and the company culture as a whole.  I was one of two women in my department, and we were good friends.  We were also friends with the other guys, including our boss.  The company heads were also good guys.  In fact, most of them I would say were great men.  Between my boss, the CEO and additional VP's I was surrounded by guys I could trust and even ask advice from on a personal level...sometimes a really personal level.  My work was respected and I was respected.  The environment was professional yet fun.  It was without a doubt the best working environment I was ever lucky enough to be a part of.

That being said, I don't remember the circumstances, but I do remember the day I asked my boss, "Is this because I'm a girl?"  Whatever it was, it wasn't the only time I felt this way.  Left out of professional conversations I should have been in on, or even activities/events I should have been a part of because I was a girl.  A woman.  My boss looked at me incredulously and said, "What?  No!"  But I knew he was wrong and I knew he didn't get it.

As I look back at my lifelong membership in the LDS church, I can't ever think of a time I felt the way I occasionally felt in my 4 short years at that wonderful, yet still flawed, company.  (Ironically, most of those men I spoke about above were LDS).  Certainly there have been times I didn't agree with opinions being touted as 'doctrine' or uncomfortable stories and experiences I couldn't remotely relate to.  There have even been leaders that have taught things I felt were actually not in line with church doctrine or Christlike teachings.  I chalked those up to shortcomings of individual members, and not short comings of The Church on the whole.  (Do I capitalize that?)  I have been in plenty of priesthood led meetings over the years and can't recall a single time I felt my voice was diminished, silenced or scoffed at because I was a woman.  And I have led or been a part of many meetings where a man's presence was not needed (I say that because one article claims women can't hold a church meeting without a man present.  Not true).  I have however often heard society telling me I should feel like a second class citizen in regards to my standing in the church.  The misrepresentations of our faith, council and doctrine has never really bothered me though.  I come from a family of divorce and my mother worked throughout my entire childhood.  In many ways our family didn't fit the perfect Mormon family mold.  To be honest, I felt more discrimination on that front than on any issues of female equality.

All this being said...I know this is not every woman's experience and that is not to be diminished.  But this was my experience, and it is not to be diminished either.



2.  I didn't understand the goal and purpose that wearing pants would accomplish.  

I believe in gender equality, but I'm not sure I see it as these sisters do.  I could not for the life of me grasp what this movement was trying to accomplish. "We do not seek to eradicate the differences between women and men, but we do want the LDS church and its members to acknowledge the similarities.  We believe that much of the cultural, structural and even doctrinal inequality that persists in the LDS church today stems from the church's reliance on--and enforcement of--rigid gender roles that bear no relationship to reality."  Which inequalities?  What rigid gender roles are they talking about?  The Priesthood, women staying home to raise children?  Women who wear pants to church?  Which ones do they think are doctrinal vs. cultural?  I might agree or I might really disagree depending on what exactly they're talking about.

The thing is we've lived in lots of wards where women and girls wear pants all the time to church and I don't think anyone has batted an eye.  And I don't mean nice suits and dress pants, many times we're talking jeans, t-shirts and high-tops.  And no one cared!  We were just glad they were there!  And I would assume they hadn't been looked down upon or treated with disrespect because these were members who came back week after week.  So perhaps this was a problem specific to certain Mormon concentrated areas?  I don't know...but to me the fact that we can wear pants to church and that I often see women who do wear pants to church--repeatedly!--made it a little null and void to me.

Not to mention the additional press that seemed to fan the flames of confusion?  Why are women wearing pants?  Equal rights?  It's not about the pants?  What?    


3.  What was perhaps my biggest concern was I found the method to be encouraging divisiveness, rather than unity, pitting sister against sister, the antithesis of Christlike behavior.  
  
 The very nature of this Wear-Pants-to-Church-on-Sunday was one of an outward display of opinion which immediately invoked comparison, analysis and misjudgment.  Perhaps you're saying, Yes!  That's exactly why we needed to wear pants so we can stop doing this to each other!  But in my opinion there are other ways to go about accomplishing this task without setting us up to very directly and visually choose sides.  Perhaps a call for a church-wide fast.  Sunday morning as I was about to post a picture on instagram of me wearing a skirt I stopped and realized posting a picture of myself in a skirt with my 'holier than thou reason' was exactly why I didn't want to participate in the first place!  I had been checking the different posts on instagram and seeing who was wearing a skirt and who was wearing pants, with comments along the "You go girl!" line and the other extreme of shaming each other and proverbially shaking our heads.  Church is a time to worship together as saints, renew our covenants and gain insight through lessons and listening to the spirit.  I worried that far too many woman were going to be distracted with who was wearing what and what statement exactly was she making.  Was this Sister So and So's first time wearing pants?  I'm surprised Sister Such and Such is wearing a skirt...maybe she just didn't hear about it.  Yeah Sister Whatsherbucket's wearing pants!  Holla!  I kept coming back to this idea:   One of my favorite quotes from CS Lewis says, "Aim at heaven and you get earth thrown in.  Aim at earth and you get neither."  For me, this was an 'aim at earth' idea.      


HOWEVER, I have to say, as I've continued to contemplate this tonight and writing this post in my head, I've also had a new idea.  For me, Wearing-Pants-to-Church just didn't sit well and I stuck with my skirt.  Yet, for others they feel strongly that pants were the way to go and felt validation from God in doing so.  How could we both feel so right about our decisions?  Would God give contradictory feelings and ultimately contradictory guidance for two different people?  Can it be possible?  If it gets them to the same conclusion, the same greater goal, I believe He will.  For me, wearing a skirt kept me focused on the sacrament and unity.  But perhaps for others they felt accepted and loved while wearing pants for the first time in a long time.  The Lord has told some people to fight during wartime while urging others to lay down their weapons of war. (There's a very good chance I have some serious faulty logic in this comparison).  Ultimately He wants us to come unto Christ, in pants, skirts or jeans and high-tops.

Though I only think this is only possible through humility and love, sometimes a different means can get us to the same end.  Believe me I had no intention of wrapping this up in a tidy "see we're both right!" sorta of way.  In my opinion the method was still not the way I would have gone, but ultimately our choice in how we acted and reacted was probably more telling than anything else.


35 comments:

  1. Hey Miggy - I am just going to say that I am not well versed in LDS, so I had to read the other articles you posted before I could grasp what was going on. At first I thought there was a rule that stated women have to wear skirts/dresses to church. But there is no such rule, correct? I agree with what you are saying though... I do believe that God (or whatever religion someone follows) just wants us to have a relationship with Him and be faithful and kind, etc. I can truly see both sides, that wearing skirts/dresses is a sign of respect, that we are honored to be in God's presence and we are showing Him that honor by dressing in our best. But I also see the whole pants thing... because does God really care how we are dressed if we love and honor Him? Good post... I had no idea this was such a controversy! And I do hope that different means can get us to the same end...because we are all wired differently and that was God's intention afterall! (PS, I hope I didn't say anything offensive since I'm not knowledgable on the subject... just a broader perspective!)

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    1. Emily,

      Not offended at all! Thanks for throwing your voice in here, especially as one looking from the outside in so to speak. Yes, luckily we are wired differently and luckily God does know us all. Thanks for your comment.

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  2. If the movement had been about clothes that would have been one thing but deep down it wasn't about clothes. After hearing this and that and this and that (and so on) about it, I went and read the mission statement of the facebook group "All Enlisted" who started the event. Then I became very concerned. I agree that it does not matter what we wear to church and I live in an area where it really doesn't. I see pants all the time, on women, and not nice dress slacks but jeans. or even leggings and tank tops, no big deal. This movement though was started by a group who believe that women don't reach their full potential in the church because they are women. Here is a link to their mission statement "http://www.facebook.com/groups/479498132093781/?fref=ts" if you would like to read it for yourself. I wanted to get to the heart of the matter and the only thing that kept coming to my mind while reading their goals was "This is exactly opposite of what is says in the proclamation on the family" where it states that "Gender is Essential", essential! I believe God is in control and although I know His church is run by imperfect humans, I don't believe that He would allow those humans to ruin his goals and purposes. Wear what you want to church, but if you are a woman, find joy in that and if you are a man, find joy in that and remember, the only one who's opinion really matters, is God's.

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  3. Miggy, you are awesome. Every time I read your blog, I think that.

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  4. I wore pants to church. When I heard that this was going to happen I felt like this is the time I should come back. I haven't been to church in over 6 months because of the pain I feel there. This isn't because of wanting to wear pants but something that always has run deeper in me. I have always felt unequal in the church. I'm grateful that I met other ladies and men that feel the same way. To be told that there isn't a place for me because of some of my feelings in the church has been devastating. I've been told many times to just forget about it and not worry, but I can't. I'm thankful this happened because it helped me back to church.

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    1. Sarah--thanks for your perspective. Glad it was helpful to you and many others. I hope everyone was respectful.

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  5. I couldn't help but feel from the time I first read about the whole pants-in-church business that this was more of a Utah thing than a general church thing. Now I realize that it is probably not limited to Utah, but I can tell you that it wasn't even a blip on the radar of my small east coast ward. I have seen women wear pants to church before--and jeans, too, as you mentioned--but I didn't see any this week. And the one person I mentioned it to looked at me like it was the craziest thing she'd ever heard. I just think that there is such a blurring of the line between the cultural and the spiritual in the areas where the concentration of Mormons is such that the whole community is shaped by them to some degree. That is certainly not the case where I live, but I experienced it in spades during the 3 years I lived in Provo. I can understand the concern in some churches that women are kept from becoming pastors, because that is a paid position and they are being denied a possible job. But in the LDS church, women preach from the pulpit, teach Sunday School, sit on leadership councils, head auxiliaries, and exert all manner of influence over the policies and practices of the church. I agree with you that it was very hard to pin down exactly what the point of wearing pants to church was. I must say, it struck me like a move after the pattern of teenagers rebelling against their parents to assert their own identity. Perhaps for some women in our church this was cathartic and a way to say to themselves that they are equal. For me, I already feel that I am. Great post--thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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  6. Beautifully, beautifully put. Thank you for posting what's been in my heart and head and I have not been able to write. I too have wondered about how each 'group' could believe they had received revelation from the Lord and yet have different answers. Your conclusion gives me more to ponder. Thank you.

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  7. SO well said. Probably the best I've read on the subject (though granted that's not much... but you can still take it as a compliment :) ).

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    1. Kayli--Oh no, you're right. This is DEFINITELY the best one out there on the subject. Lets go with that.

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  8. Amy,
    Totally agree with everything you said. I didn't wear pants either because well I don't feel the same way that those women felt. And I too thought the same thing as how could we both feel right in what we were wearing. I've come to the same conclusion you did. For whatever reason some women truly feel "unequal" and for them wearing pants was were they felt that love and acceptance that they have been searching for. To me that's great because they needed that. I always have to remember that everyone is on a different spiritual journey than I am. I'm not saying that I'm better than them or they are better than I am but we are all on different paths that will ultimitaly lead to the same goal.
    The reason why I chose not wear pants is because to me I didn't feel like it would prove anything. And no one wore pants in my ward because truthfully in Vegas we have seen everything. I truly think this is a Utah based issue. Most of the women hadn't even heard about it in my ward.
    Anyway, thanks for this post.

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  9. Why does it matter what we wear as long as we are there?

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    1. PM--Well it sorta doesn't, and it sorta does. Yes the most important thing is that we're there. However, as in most cases eventually God asks more of us than just our attendance. And while the dress code is probably at the bottom of the list, I do think it's on the list. Partly for the respect it pays and shows on the outside, and partly for what you don't see...that the outward manifestation is often a reflection of our inward manifestations.

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  10. Well said. Very well said.

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  11. we live in orem but i'm from texas and my husband's from oklahoma. my family is also one of divorce, and my mom too worked through my childhood. i have never, ever in my life felt less than my husband or brothers or any other male figure. i'm grateful for people like you who are so articulate, because your thoughts are mine but better said. however a lot of the 'goals' of that group make me uncomfortable, because i believe that gender is essential and we should embrace our differences. i think this was a utah thing mainly, or at least high concentration of mormons thing.

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  12. I completely agree with everything you said. You are awesome. That is all.

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  13. Anonymous7:36 AM

    I think it makes your church look bad all this pants chatter. I am catholic and I have learned to respect your faith. This just makes you look like you are very shallow in your faith walk as a group of LDS women.
    There are so many other things in our world to put our energy into......pants??? To be very honest it is embarassing......

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    1. I can see your point.
      But I'm sure we've all been part of 'petty' arguments that feel more important to us for some reason.

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  15. Thanks so much for this post. I think its so important to recognize that some women are hurt by their experiences with the church in terms of equality. I didn't wear pants because I didn't think the goal was clearly explained, and I don't support all the tenants of their group. I think a fast would be so much more effective. Especially if it were a fast for understanding, for healing, for more compassion. As women, we can do more than pants. And, both genders should be capable of finding greater understanding through unity and empathy.

    However, I am grateful this has started a conversation because there are a lot of women hurting. Doctrinally, women should feel empowered. They are equal to men. We are equal. We need to be teaching this better. We need to share our experiences better.

    Anyways, thank for your post!

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    1. Emilia,

      Yes I agree that it's important to recognize that some women have been hurt in their experiences. This is where it gets tricky though... like you said, I found their goals so poorly articulated that I wonder if women as a whole knew what they were agreeing to when the signed up to wear pants. I would really, really like to know what their specific grievances are. They throw out the words 'doctrine' and 'cultural norm' and I'm sorry, but which doctrines are they referring to? Because for me (and I dare say many others) that's going to make a HUGE difference in my support or lack thereof.

      My mom was a divorced, single mother at the ripe ol' age of 25 living in Salt Lake City in the early 80's. Boy howdy did she have super negative experiences in regards to members in her ward and how they treated her--and some of these were definitely issues of inequality. However, she also had some super great experiences. But I don't think my mom holds 'the church' accountable for some of the treatment she received back then, for some of the words spoken, even from leaders who seemed to lack compassion for her situation. At what point do we try to make ammends for every woman (person) wronged? Or is it even about making ammends? Or is it about how we move forward? Yes, there have certainly been some inequalities thrown around but like you, I would have liked to seen something more spiritual, calling upon the powers of heaven at least--a fast. I would have gotten behind that in a heartbeat.

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    2. Yes absolutely. I love your points about your mom being divorced.

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  16. I'm so glad you wrote about this because you did it so well, and I completely agree with what you said. I only ever hear messages of such deep love, support and respect from the men and women in leadership positions in the church. The connection of the means and the end of this protest was fuzzy for me as well. But most of all (and I haven't worked this all out in my head yet, but here goes...) what we wear is important. Dressing modestly and respectfully has big emphasis in our church, culturally and doctrinally. However, where we go wrong is in judging others. (I also had this thought when you and others posted about modesty a couple months back, but never got around to throwing in my 2 cents.) We need to learn-- and teach our daughters and sons-- to dress modestly and respectfully while only worrying about ourselves and not looking to judge others, ever. And it can be really hard, especially in areas where everyone is "supposed" to be LDS, but if our focus is love and acceptance, and seeing others how Christ does, then it's possible.

    If only that were sensational enough for a FB page...

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  17. Anonymous1:39 PM

    "I personally have not and do not feel as though I'm unequal to or less than the brethren in the church."

    But can you have empathy for those who have indeed felt this way? I think there was a huge missed opportunity here to make those who do have issues with gender inequity at church to feel more welcome and accepted.

    "What was perhaps my biggest concern was I found the method to be encouraging divisiveness, rather than unity, pitting sister against sister, the antithesis of Christlike behavior."

    That's really a shame, because I honestly felt that this was meant to bring people together, and was not at all intended to divide. My Relief Society president did not wear pants, but she did wear purple in support as did several other sisters in my ward. I felt more acceptance and love at church than I have in a long time. It was a wonderful Sunday.

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    1. Anon--

      Yes I can have empathy--which is why I said "I know this is not every women's experience. And that is not to be diminished."

      If you read one of my reply comments above, my mother is a perfect example of someone who endured some harsh treatment in a difficult time of her life. And while I haven't talked to her about it in regards of wear-pants-day, we've talked about it before and she knows that the people were flawed, not the church. Again, I would like to know what these women's specific grievances are with the cultural norms and the doctrine. I might be surprised to see that I agree more than I think, but I might not. And the fact that it is a little confusing/veiled/misunderstood doesn't bode well for me.

      I too think it was a missed opportunity--to start the conversation in a more loving, spiritual tone. One of the women talks about her specific situation of wearing pants to church and feeling ostracized so it seemed a little "take that!" to invite everyone to wear pants--a little, "Treat me differently when I wear pants? I'll show you..." And that probably wasn't the tone she intended. What if we all staged some sort of demonstration every time someone offended us at church? We'd get no where fast. I still don't blame, look down upon, or even think that women who wore pants were in the wrong. You had your reasons. I have mine too. I'm glad people had the support of leaders and felt welcome. But like I said, asking women to do something visual, for everyone to see, draws very direct lines in the sand. Of course we could have/should acted with only Christlike charity in our hearts, but knowing we're flawed people it begged for division and misunderstanding.

      Both sides of this argument, both reasons, can be seen through filters of love, goodness and kindness or petty, snarky and prideful. Ultimately, it depends on WHY you chose to wear pants or a skirt/dress.

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  18. Thanks for posting this. I don't feel less than the men in the church. My sense of identity comes from my relationship with God and others, including a wonderful husband and an amazingly awesome ward. However, this is in direct contrast to the messages I get from the Church structure and tradition. It's found in the difference between the men's and women's lessons, young men's and women's lessons, and a million other things I won't list here. A lot of it seems just copied and pasted from another century. I usually just roll my eyes and ignore it, but deep down I know it's really not acceptable. Sexism isn't just an explicit insult of women. It's still sexism when it's kindly meant, insidious, condescending, obstructive, and just plainly built into the structure in the first place. I didn't wear pants, but did wear purple and appreciate those who did. Yeah, it may be a very diffuse way of addressing deeper issues, but it does bring attention to them, which is an imperfect first step. A fast is a good idea too.

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    1. Ellen,

      I can completely see where you're coming from in regards to some of the lesson manuals. Ee-gads! Having taught YW's recently I was rather surprised/upset to see that the manual I was using was from 1992--um, that's when I was a freshman in high school...timess have changed. However, the online lessons add considerably to those lessons with additional resources for teachers to use. But for me, this is a problem with both the YW's and YM's manuals--outdated. I'm not sure I specifically remember feeling like they were sexist. I guess I'm just not seeing what other ways this sexism exists? When you say 'just plainly built into the structure' what do you mean? And I agree that " It's still sexism when it's kindly meant, insidious, condescending, obstructive, and just plainly built into the structure in the first place" but again, I just don't see this in the very structure and fiber of the church unless you're talking about the Priesthood...and then we just have different opinions I guess.

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  19. Miggy,

    I agree with your post. My experiences have not led me to be inferior. In trying to decide how I felt about this issue, I came across two articles that are worth mentioning.

    "To Do the Business of the Church: A Cooperative Paradigm for Examining Gendered Participation Within Church Organizational Structure" at:

    http://www.fairlds.org/fair-conferences/2012-fair-conference/2012-to-do-the-business-of-the-church-a-cooperative-paradigm

    This first article was actually written awhile (several months) ago. The second article is by a female Mormon scholar:

    http://mormonscholarstestify.org/1718/valerie-hudson-cassler

    At least for me, I can see how the structure of the Church would be viewed as male-dominant. But in my personal experiences, I have not felt I am inferior. Perhaps it's because I grew up with strong women in my family, including my mother who got her Master's at 40. In my marriage, my husband never demeans me, and often defers to me in matters of family and spirituality, finances, home projects, etc. He is a very strong-willed person who grew up in the Church but our marriage is one of equality.

    I think often the culture of the Church, which can occasionally reflect values of earlier times, downplays the actual doctrine of men and women. I fully, 100% believe that these issues with equality are based on life on Earth and the result of our very imperfect mortal sphere. I don't think that Heavenly Father wants it to be this way. But it is because we are human.

    Do you ever think about how to raise your daughters in this? I have 3 (4 in May) and I wonder how the Church will change by the time they are teenage girls. I would love to hear thoughts on daughter raising. My oldest is 5, like PSP and I am overwhelmed by girls! I am not sure how to raise them to be strong, independent, smart, devout, humble women. You seem like that type of woman though so I'd love to hear your take on it.

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  20. Well put miggy. I live in ca and didn't see/hear any mention of this on Sunday. Honestly, it all seems ridiculous to me. I agree with you that if anyone makes you feel unequal as a woman in church it is a flaw with that person and not with the church. We are different as women and we are supposed to be different! Why else would we be put on this earth but to be different and have our own roles and responsibilities. And I love being a woman and my role as wife and mother. I never feel less important. Ever. If anything, sometimes I feel more important :)

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  21. Beautifully written.

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  22. I am with you. Pants did not feel right for me either.

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  23. Thanks :) I couldn't agree more.

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  24. Just found this. Glad you did a follow-up post. Glad you wore a skirt. I did too. : )

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  25. Anonymous8:38 PM

    I am a little behind in commenting but thought I would take a few minutes. I am a single LDS woman in my early 40's. Never married but would like to be. I am a college graduate with a very good job - I make a decent living and work in a field that is male dominated. I often find the Church as my safe haven. I have been intrigued by this pants discussion since it first started. I see both sides of the issue. I have never felt less than equal by being a member of this Church. I have had moments, very rare, where a member (probably more female than male) has made me feel less equal. I often get comments from LDS women about how I should be looking for a man and staying home with kids (this opens up a totally different can of worms with me - maybe a post for another day)! I am rambling but I guess what I want to say is, thank you for posting your perspective. I am on the fence on any given day but not so much that I will fight someone to get to one side or the other!! :-)

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  26. I live in Provo Utah and wearing pants to church wasn't even a blip on the screen. In my sister's ward on the East Coast it was a very big deal. My sister and I grew up in the same household with the same parents and even shared a room for 13 years, but we still came out on opposite ends of the spectrum here. She wore pants and I did not. We each feel strongly about our views, but I have to say this has made us stronger. We both came away with what we had hoped for and had the opportunity to talk through our thoughts and experiences. I think personal experience is so much at the heart of all our longings. What we view as culture or doctrine varies from person to person, not that it should, but it does. And though I do not agree with the movement I found myself unfriending people on Facebook who viciously degraded those who supported it. We decide if it is an us vs them or an us and them. I'm proud of my sister for wearing pants and I hope she is proud of me for not. There is room for all of us in the church. Thanks for your post.

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