Well, that was a lot, wasn't it?
Nobody wants to talk about the damn Pants thing anymore, except maybe me. Mostly, I just want to work through some thoughts, confess some sins, offer penance (ten hail Heavenly Mothers?) and move on.
Here are some things I learned about internet activism:
1. I am not always good at being in charge. I feel like I get a lot of undue credit for the pants thing. The day and event were certainly a group effort, and honestly, All Enlisted has some wonderful administrators who made the entire thing possible. From managing press stuff, moderating group interactions, a mysteriously crashed Facebook page, and fielding thousands of comments and questions from all over the web, the volunteers for this event made everything possible.
I mostly tried not to make things worse, and even then, didn't always succeed.
I think the hardest part was the suddenness of everything. Suddenly, my world was on fire, and there were moments where I dealt with pants stuff from the moment I woke up, until late into the night. This was the case for all the group administrators, and it is just not sustainable. I don't care what the cause is, martyrdom helps no one.
So I thought I did a reasonable thing, by asking someone to step in and co-run some things with me. The person seemed enthusiastic and on message, and more importantly, able to spend the time helping while I worked (remember, that thing I do?) and took care of a very upset baby who doesn't give a shit about pants.
Turns out homegirl was straight-up nuts.
2. So, I learned to be less trusting. Isn't that a sad lesson? But it's true. You can't trust everyone. You can't trust people on the internet to be kind, but you also can't trust kind people to be sane. I learned to be a bit more discerning, because nothing is more humiliating than emailing/calling people you really respect and letting them know you made a mistake. It was really hard and tricky to feel like you were loosing on all fronts.
3. In expressing my feelings of frustration with the Mormon Feminist movement, I'm afraid I did not give due credit to other organizations that shaped me, and helped make Pants Day possible. This article on FMH set me straight, and I apologize for being one sided in my analysis of Mormon Feminism. Yes, I am frustrated with the movement at times, and I think that is okay. But the movement has also made incredible advances for my MoFem sisters, and I acknowledge and respect that. Consider me rightly called to repentence. As the linked article above states:
"... Feminism is just as much internal as it is external. Searching through beliefs you didn’t know you had, choices you made that you didn’t understand, reactions that took you by surprise. And as you excavate your true self out from under the weight of patriarchy, you can join the generations of women who have kept putting one foot in front of the other to get you where you are today. And then you can get walking down that road in preparation for the women who are coming."
Here are some thoughts in general:
1. A lot of people had really valid criticisms of the day, to which all I can say is: of course it wasn't perfect. But it was meant to be an exercise that unified a lot of people. It was also meant to be a place of brainstorming so naturally some of the ideas were a little nuts. Especially some of mine. My brainstorming process goes from nutty to normal, not the other way around.
In the end, the message was deliberately broad, so that lots of people felt comfortable participating, and we could rally the troops, and start conversations. Nobody expected women to be ordained to the Priesthood by December 17th.(Although Clara did play baby Jesus in my family's Nativity Story, so, there's that.:) )
So when our event went viral: NY Times! NPR! Daily Mail! We did the best we could in a short period of time, and dang it all, I think we did well.
2. Despite some very, very difficult feelings I still maintain, I think this was a good thing for many people. Conversations happened, relationships happened, and in my very darkest moments, people came out of the woodwork and helped. Just helped. My mom came and cleaned by bathroom. Friends brought cookies and ice-cream, (which made me feel like I was recovering from a break-up, which, now that is is all over, I realized I was.)
Friends sat and listened to me talk, and tell them I didn't want to talk about it anymore, and then listened as I talked about it more.
People emailed and messaged and even snail-mailed me love and support even though I am not perfect. Even though I am not very good at being in charge, and am perhaps too trusting, and speak without thinking sometimes. People loved me through it, and even though I have a much more guarded heart these days, I can't ignore the outpouring of love and support from friends and strangers.
If Pants Day helped create the that love and support for anyone else, I consider the day a success.
For me, this was an end of something, and I'm not sure what. I'm wary and hurt by my church, I feel rejected and abandoned and a lot more guarded in my relationship with Mormonism. It's the end of a lot of idealism, trust, and yes, participation for me (and for now,) but I think it must be a beginning of something wonderful too. Something happened. All at once, people stood up and confessed to feeling hurt and isolated and in pain because of practices many other people say are not just good, but divine. That dichotomous relationship can only lead to questions, and I think questions are a good thing. It all started from a question in the woods.
That's not true. Classical religious mythology tells us it all stared when a women, not a man, asked a question, broke a rule, and started it all. :)
Lastly, I'd like to address a frequent comment I received in regards to social activism. I got it from really angry people, and I even got it from a friend (who is still my friend, and who I respect, even when we disagree.)
"You can't petition God/the church. God/the church will change in it's own time."
I genuinely don't understand this perspective, from an organizational, theological, or personal stand-point.
If people tell me constantly that the "Church is true, but the people are not," then is seems reasonable that we can petition the people in charge for changes. We can all participate in making the people more perfect.
Furthermore, it works. Living in Salt Lake* the past few years, I've watched people actively petition for changes in the way the Church interacts with the LGBT community. I've seen the rhetoric change from the very painful and damaging approach exhibited in 2008 with Proposition 8, to a new church-sponsored website (which is far from perfect, but also a huge improvement,) in which we are told to love and accept our LGBT brothers and sisters.
That change was petitioned for. Literally. But also figuratively as Mormons marched in parades, made video campaigns, protested, prayed, and yes, even left with their feet in an act of solidarity.
Beyond the LGBT movement and the Priesthood extension in 1978, some of the biggest changes to the church have stemmed from members openly petitioning for a better church. This is a good thing, not something to be afraid of. We shouldn't live in fear of questions or "petitions."
During the pantstastrophe, some truly horrific things happened in the world. I will not pretend to know why these things happen under the watch of a loving God. I don't know. I don't know why, and I cringe every time someone shares a story of successfully praying to find their keys, because it seems to mock the pain of those who pray for safety and peace and are continually left abandoned.
All I know, and the only thing I truly believe at this point is a quote by Elie Wiesel. "Mankind must remember that peace is not God's gift to his creatures;peace is our gift to each other."**
If there is a divine power in the universe that loves us, I do not doubt that they want a better world for their creatures. For men and women to be recognized as equal partners in the human experience, defined not by anatomy, but by spirit. For men and women to somehow learn to live together without inflicting so much pain.
But I think it is our responsibility to act as God's creatures and give the gift of peace (and equality, and safety, and love,) to each other. I think it is morally irresponsible to assume that if God wants something to happen (or not happen,) then he/she/they will cause it or prevent it. God is waiting for us to act, not necessarily the other way around.
So yes, I petition. I've been calling it prayer all these years, and while I hope someone is listening, I hope more that I can become a person who offers the gift of peace through my actions. One day, my actions included wearing pants to church. I only hope I can do more.
*Stuff happened outside SLC, too, that is just where I live.
** I know. I've said this before. Whatever. You say the same thing every time you bear your testimony too.