Women Who Want to Wear Pants to Church Outrage Mormon Traditionalists

When a group of Mormon women began promoting “Wear Pants to Church Day” this month as a way to encourage a stronger voice for women in church affairs, they received an abundance of attention, ranging from encouraging support to bitter outrage. Apparently, some people were so threatened by the idea of women wearing pants to church that they felt the need to post death threats on the event’s Facebook page, including this frightening post from one visitor: “Every single person who is a minority activist should be shot … in the face … point blank … GET OVER YOURSELVES ….”

Due to the death threats, the Facebook page was taken down on Thursday night. However, prior to this it had garnered nearly 1,200 supporters. A new page was posted to continue the movement and encourage any woman who so desired to wear pants to church this Sunday.

Though the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints does not mandate that women wear skirts and dresses to services, it has long been customary that they do so. Women who are involved in this movement argue that they have for too long been expected to wear what Mormon men deem appropriate church attire. What’s more, the church has a history of distinguishing women’s roles from those of men–for example, women may not be ordained to a lay priesthood available to men and boys ages 12 and over. While the church states that women’s roles are different, not lesser, Mormon women’s rights advocates argue that men are given complete control over church management, and therefore have power that women do not. “Wear Pants to Church Day” is an initial attempt to establish a collective voice for Mormon women who seek equal access to that power.

On Sunday, Mormon feminists across the country will wear trousers to church, despite the outrage and criticism the Internet has thrown their way. Hopefully, their actions will instigate further change in regards to women’s rights and their place in the church. After all, attending church should be about honoring your religion and your community however suits you best, not upholding anachronistic gender roles. As one Facebook commenter puts it: “We are supposed to be members of a church that teaches love and tolerance and acceptance. Honestly, the hate I have seen about this issue leaves me wondering why people are members of Christ’s church if they can’t at least try to not judge others.”

Photo via Flickr user aaronstanga licensed under Creative Commons 2.0.



  1. DeAnn Morris says:

    Most conservative women in the Church have no clue that they are second class citizens.

    • Brenda Brady says:

      I am not sure how to interpret your comment. I am a conservative woman in the LDS Church. Am I unaware that I am 2nd class? No. I am not aware of that, neither do I believe it. If you are saying that I am simply “clueless” meaning I haven’t put enough thought or research into it or that I have just been blindly following along all my life, then you are assuming a lot about people you don’t know. Maybe this is not what you meant.

      I can see how some might perceive LDS women as 2nd class. I get it. But they don’t understand the gospel. We are not denied anything. The Lord has promised us all that he has. In fact, men have been placed in a position of serving women, because every priesthood duty is an act of service. Anything I need via the priesthood, is available to me. And I know that you and I as women, are loved by God, every bit as much as any man.

      If you say that the Church is run by men, then you’d be wrong. The Church is run by God. The prophet and others are simply his servants …. and who do they serve? Us.

      • I wold not call it serving women when Mormon men seem to have all the power. What happens when a Mormon couple gets divorced?

        • howard doughty says:

          As a male, but also as a feminist since Gloria Steinem was a pup, I confess to being a little torn by this issue. It’s not that I don’t support women’s access to positions of influence and authority in any and all social institutions; but, rather that I cannot understand why anyone would want to remain in the LDS Church (or, any church, for that matter) which has insisted from the outset that women are “different but equal.”

          No African-American with the wit to flip a light switch has bought that argument since Brown v. Board of Education overturned Plessey v. Ferguson in 1954. No woman should allow herself could buy into any relationship (with god or human) which puts her on a pedestal or, more often, grinds her under foot.

      • “If you say that the Church is run by men, then you’d be wrong. The Church is run by God. The prophet and others are simply his servants …. and who do they serve? Us.”

        If that is really the case, then why are so many MEN so unsettled by the idea of women wearing pants to church? Honestly, this is 2013, not the 1850’s. I thought by now, we were done with the “bloomer debates.” My mistake.

  2. What women wear is of no importance to the Church. The Church has always said wear your best to Church. Western Civilization cultural norms have stated that dresses and skirts are considered “best” in terms of clothing for women. This isn’t a Church issue, it is a societal issue. The real underlying issue here is that these women want to fundamentally change the divinely ordered structure of the Church. Yes, only men hold the priesthood. Yes, men’s and women’s roles are different in the Church. These women argue that the anger directed their way indicates Mormons don’t live their religion, and I agree with that sentiment. No one should get angry or upset by how someone else dresses. But I believe these women who want to change how the Church is ran, in what I and many believe to be a divinely inspired organization, clearly do not have an understanding of Church doctrine, nor a testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Holding the priesthood does not gain a man any greater stature in God’s eyes than does a life lived in purity and Christlike love. It simply bestows responsibility upon those men who have been ordained to the priesthood. This is such a ridiculous issue, I can’t believe I wasted my time reading and responding to it.

  3. Great article! Thanks for covering the event. And I believe the event page membership was actually around 2200 when it got shut down.

  4. Much ado about nothing…no sister wore pants today at our church, not even in the Young Single Adult Ward….

  5. Actually, it is mandated by the church that women wear skirts. If a young woman wears pants she is often referred to as “slutty”.
    When I converted to the church I wore pants on the first Sunday after my baptism. I was immediately told that I was “slutty”, “unladylike” and would need to wear skirts from that point forward. This was by my BISHOP.
    Young women who attend the youth dances are required to wear skirts. I showed up to a youth dance in pants once, I was forced to leave and go to a nearby member’s home to get a skirt before I would be allowed to return.

    Believe me, the church tries to act like this isn’t taught, but it actually is. Check out the standards for female missionaries…they are not allowed to wear pants at all.

    • Brenda Brady says:

      Frankly and with all due respect, I don’t believe you were called “slutty”. This goes against everything I have ever seen at church, and I have been attending for decades. Every group has its odd people, and sometimes people are rude or thoughtless simply because we all have our stupid moments. Because of this we can all appreciate repentance and forgiveness. But rude behavior like this is the rare exception. The vast majority are very kind.

      There are dress standards at youth dances for a reason … and very likely it has to do with elevating the behavior of the attendees. No one is required or forced to go. If they choose to go, they must follow the rules. There are also dress standards at BYU. Again, no one is forced to go.

      Missionaries represent the Church. They are the face, so to speak, of the Church to non-members. Again, there are reasons for dress standards in these situations. But the rank and file of the Church, when attending their Sunday meetings, are not required to dress in any certain way. We are only asked to dress in a respectful manner that invites the Spirit. If pants work for you, then wear them and stop feeling picked upon. Instead, focus upon feeling grateful for the tremendous blessings of the Gospel.

      • Grissel Garcia says:

        Lets hear one another out. That Alex was called a slut is not a figment of her imagination. She should be able to dress herself in whatever she feels is most appropriate and if someone finds her outfit inappropriate they should stop staring at Alex and focus on the service.

        You said “If pants work for you, then wear them and stop feeling picked upon.” Did you see the part where she said she was forced to leave? If we continue to deny or close our eyes and ears to what goes on around us because it challenges our beliefs, how will women ever reach equality with men? Sexism is not a myth, so when women share their encounters with sexism we should not immediately resort to calling that person a liar. We see this enough with rape victims.

    • Christ and prophet Gordon b hinckley both said “a man of god is only a man of god when he is ACTING like a man of god” just because your bishop said it does not mean it’s doctrine or Christs way. He was giving his opinion which was clearly based on societal factors and personal opinion. Christ in every picture is wearing a robe which looks a lot like a skirt or dress to me. So as long as you bought your clothes in the womens section you haven’t broken any doctrine. And besides “every way of a man is right in his own eyes but The Lord pondereth the hearts” so as long as your not having bad intentions with your choice of dress it doesn’t really matter what you wear. I was born in the covenant and believe in the gospel but remember just because u learn it in Sunday school doesn’t mean it’s true. It’s a church based on personal revelation! Use your right to personal revelation! God loves and accepts you 10000 more than what the church portrays. He’s perfect, everyone else isn’t even prophets otherwise they wouldn’t be here.

  6. So many women in the LDS church are abused by their spouses. They don’t get the help they need and they are further damaged because of the indoctrination. Abuse is systemic. Women are not treated equally in the church, they are suppressed, which makes it more difficult to escape from an abusive relationship. When healing is so needed, change must take place. I doubt the patriarchs are going to do the changing, but when women OWN their power, their authenticity, and who they truly are in Christ…they change! My story, which is written about domestic violence narrates how I was sealed in the temple, my husband was violently abusive and when I reached out for help? Help wasn’t given, but I did get a sermon on how reading my scriptures and paying my tithing would remedy my situation! (www.janiceromney.com)

  7. Brenda Brady says:

    Death threats? Outrage? There are crazies in every crowd and the few get this attention? What about all the people who DON’T CARE what the women wear? As far as who holds the power over this church ….. that would be God. And we women have a direct line of communication to him, with which to express our complaints. Just like the men do.

  8. Aliisa Leon says:

    All this nonsense about women in the lds church being oppressed. Oppression can’t exist in an environment where education and learning are encouraged. The lds church encourages all its members especially women to seek out knowledge and get as much formal education as you can. We are also encouraged to pray, study, and ponder spiritual matters individually. One of the core lds values is a deep respect for agency. We feel that agency is a gift and a responsibility, we all have the right and duty to make our own choices in life. Interference with that agency. Is antithetical to our belief system. -a female lds grad student.

  9. Mark Slusser says:

    Whether or not you agree with the message, this uke song on Youtube, “You Might As Well Wear a Skirt” by Millie Montag, helps to keep the dialogue going about the role of women in the Church. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vmze01JJj3Y

  10. The comments on this post just reinforce my view that Mormonism is a patriarchal religion that treats the male as the gold standard and the female as the inferior. I applaud Mormon feminists for promoting Wear Pants to Church Day.

    When I was growing up in Arizona, a Mormon attorney advocated the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in front of the state legislature. When a male Mormon senator said that it would ruin the family, she retorted, “Strong women build strong families and that is why I am for the ERA.”

    Yeah, Mormon feminists!

  11. We may not realize it, but it’s time we do: When we tell the woman to
    wear the hijab so she can avoid being molested, we’re evading the REAL
    problem of our society: criminals, rapists justifying their evil
    actions against women who choose not to cover. Hungry men roaming
    around, looking for a female whose hair is uncovered (no, really?) so
    they can rape her. And what are we doing, folks? We’re JUSTIFYING
    rape! We’re saying, “That woman deserved to be raped. She should’ve
    covered her hair, and then nothing would’ve happened. Let’s make all
    girls cover their hair. Problem of rape solved!” Oh, I don’t think so.
    I’ve read some conflicting statistics on the rates of rape in Muslim
    societies where women have to cover their hair as well as in
    non-Muslim societies where women don’t have to cover their hair, so I
    really don’t know which stats to trust. But for those of us, like
    Zakir Naik, who think that AMERICA represents the ultimate non-Muslim
    society in which women don’t have to cover their hair, that America’s
    high rape rate represents EVERY non-Muslim society’s rates, I’m not
    convinced! America isn’t all there is, you see. There’s Canada, too,
    and Iceland and Germany and Japan and Mexico and Brazil . . . and the
    list is never-ending.

  12. ThanksForNothing says:

    I have NEVER heard of such a bizzare way of looking at things. My daughter, who is struggling with her testimony, saw this and promptly reported that men in the church want to shoot women in the face for wearing pants.(???) Seriously, how much free time do you actually have? perhaps its time to consider serivice to others for a change. This manner of service isnt terribly constructive. Thanks for flushing out the confused in a new and fascinating way.

    Please wear pants all you want. Just dont infer that those who dont are somehow not being independent thinkers for their gender. Its not healthy to see this as some kind of virtuous challenge to the priesthood. This looks to me like misery in the making.

    Please, those of you who are not of our faith, do not think that we all have so much free time to devote to something this weird. I pray any person who has posted death threats against anyone get some serious help – fast.

  13. My issue is about welcoming everyone into the LDS church even if your schizophrenic, homeless, have drug problems, skin color, or don’t have the means to wear a dress. I’m 64 and have osteoarthritis in my knees and back. I can’t bend my knees to shave my legs and have severe pain, so often don’t go. If I could just wear some nice dress pants I would be so much more comfortable. I have an adopted son who is schizophrenic and he doesn’t go because he was threatened by the other young boys. My adopted daughter has brown skin and was called “dirty” and was beaten multiple times after school by other young adults even from our church. My issue isn’t about women’s equality, it’s about church members welcoming and accepting everyone. Other churchs do. Why can’t the LDS members?

  14. My only problem with this story is that you didn’t call it what it really is.
    Mormon FUNDAMENTALISTS, not traditionalists.

  15. This is a good argument against organized religion.

  16. All these comments make me wonder why any women would want to belong to any religion that treats them in such a hateful way, and regards them as inferior second-class participants. When are they going to wake up?

  17. Ann Deluty says:

    To quote Oscar Wilde (I think) Religion is a form of insanity.

  18. I’ve met several Mormon women over the last 20 years and each of them were 2nd class citizens, obviously subservient to the men and 12-year-old boys in their church. One woman who was having minor health problems was told by her husband that she should get ready to die because she probably wouldn’t see her children grow up›, but he assured her that he would remarry and his second wife would raise the woman’s children. This woman told me, tearfully, that she was so sad that she wouldn’t see her children grow up, but that God spoke through her husband and so she accepted it. This so-called church is not a church at all. It is a cult and should be disbanded.

    • Kristin says:

      I am a Mormon woman…and I am not at all a 2nd class citizen! In fact if I were to tell church authorities of abuse going on in the home, he would have take action on my husband so fast and report it to the authorities. We as women in the church are taught to become well educated and strong willed women. I have no doubt in my mind that any leadership in this church seeks to uplift and protect it’s women to the upmost degree. I’m not saying the incident in which you speak did not occur, but that is completely against what we are taught as members of this church. The man who did this will be found responsible one day.

  19. Hillary Sax says:

    Girls need to be constantly encouraged to see what really holds them back:
    1. Believing that they are the inferior sex
    2. Believing they must marry young and have too many children
    3. Believing they should not to take math and science courses
    4. Believing they should be Molly Mormons

  20. This is one of the many reasons why I kicked all religions and churches to the curb when I became a young adult, the fact that many churches treat women as second-class citizens. I commend the Mormon feminists for wearing pants to church, and I see nothing wrong with it. This is 2013, not the 1850’s. I thought were done with the “bloomer debates” by now. Apparently not, at least not in this church.

  21. Carol LaSalle says:

    This argument is more political than religious. Religious commitments means making choices that do not gel with the secular world. Just because some women make choices that are not understood by the popular culture doesn’t make them wrong nor are these women 2nd class citizens. We all have our roles to play and men and women are different therefore our roles are different as well. The lie that secularism wants us to believe is that we are all the same? We are different and equal, it’s possible to be both and be happy and contended. There are more important issues to be concerned about than whether a woman can wear pants or not.

  22. On the off chance that I could simply wear some decent dress jeans I would be a lot more agreeable. I have a received child who is schizophrenic and he doesn’t go in light of the fact that he was undermined by the other young men. My embraced little girl has darker skin and was called “filthy” and was beaten different circumstances after school by other youthful grown-ups even from our congregation. My issue isn’t about ladies’ equity

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