10/22/15

Essential?

 I am slightly terrified to write this. I struggle with feelings of doubt, and fear being misunderstood. I worry about seeming petty and blind to the "bigger picture." But after a lot of consideration, I feel my perspective is important enough to take on the risks associated with writing this post. Perhaps more significantly, I've learned that you cannot rely on other people to write your story for you. As Laurel Thatcher Ulrich taught us in Well Behaved Women Seldom Make History, time is not kind to those who do not record their own history.

People who I consider friends and role models recently published a book- Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings. According to the introduction by Joanna Brooks, the book "offers and introduction to the Mormon Feminist movement through the words of the women who have lived and built it. It includes writings that capture key ideas, questions, concerns, and events in Mormon feminist experience from the movement's organizing movements in the early 1970s to the present." The book is an important resource for the Mormon feminist movement, and I am happy that so many excellent resources are available in one place.

The book is visually stunning. Cover artwork features the "Pants Quilt," Sunday Morning, created by Nikki Matthews Hunter, and made from pieces of pants worn by women to church in December 2012. I've seen the quilt in person, and it is a beautiful and important piece of artwork. The quilt is also being used as part of the promotional tour for Mormon Feminism, so that other women can see the results of their activism while learning about the key events in Mormon feminist history included in the book.

So it was surprising, and yes, very heart-breaking personally, to realize that there is no other mention of Wear Pants to Church Day in the book itself (outside a single reference regarding the cover and once in the introductory timeline.) A book of "essential" writings on "key events" in the Mormon feminist experience, a book featuring the visual representation of that event on its cover, yet no words from the people who lived and built the internationally recognized event and played a key role in inspiring future Mormon feminist activism.

There is no pain quite like the pain of feeling marginalized within an already marginalized community. It feels like infection in an already deep wound.

And as beautiful and inspiring as the cover artwork is, and as necessary and important each essay may be, it does not replace the erroneous and deliberate erasure of "Pants" from this version of Mormon history. I have no theories as to why this event was not included, or why, of the myriad of both academic and personal essays about the event, none were published in Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings. 

I do know it is a gross disservice to people who helped organize the event, future Mormon feminist scholars, and church members alike.

In 2012, Joanna Brooks described Wear Pants to Church Day as "the largest concerted Mormon feminist action in history. Thousands of Mormon women from the South Pacific to Europe to North America bucked convention and wore pants to church meetings on Sunday to manifest their support for greater dialogue on the status of women within the LDS Church, and Mormon men wore purple in solidarity. 

For Mormon feminists and allies, the event was a chance to step out of silence and fear and wordlessly say, “We are here. This faith matters to us. And gender inequality weighs on us too.”

Organized by a new Mormon feminist group called “All Enlisted,” the event set off strong positive and negative reactions within the world of Mormonism—including threats of violence and intimidation directed at organizers and would-be participants.”

And yet, just three years later, the book, edited by Joanna Brooks, Rachel Hunt Steenblik, and Hannah Wheelwright, contains no mention of the event’s founders, or even “All Enlisted,” the Facebook group I created to brainstorm ideas for potential activism. (Although, strangely, the group is mentioned for later activist action in 2013.) According to the sole reference in the timeline, the event occurred almost miraculously. Somehow, somewhere, women decided to wear pants to church. We all apparently received notification to do so through osmosis. Somehow, “the largest concerted Mormon feminist action in history” is now summarized in the following way: “first Wear Pants to Church Day” (December 16).

Readers unfamiliar with the event are never given any context for the causes, results, or influence of “Pants” in Mormon Feminism- information included in either the introduction or individual essays for every other significant act of feminist activism, including the creation of WAVE and Ordain Women, both organizations created before and after the creation of All Enlisted and Wear Pants to Church Day.

Though I do not have a pending book deal in order to create my own history of Mormon Feminism, and despite the obvious fact that I am not a significant player in the eyes of my Mormon feminist sisters, I will tell you a little bit about Wear Pants to Church Day, and why it deserves a fair place in history.


  • 1. It was not an event developed, or even initially supported, by “established” Mormon feminists. Despite being written about on nearly every Mormon feminist thought-blog, and by several Mormon feminist scholars, the event was created by a 26- year- old woman with no other influence than a vaguely popular blog. That itself is pretty remarkable, because it democratized the occasionally insular world Mormon feminism. You did not need to be a “veteran” Mormon Feminist to have influence or power in All Enlisted.


  • 2.     In fact, the “admins” for All Enlisted were all volunteers. If you volunteered, you could help. This caused some pretty significant problems with leadership, and created a lot of messes, but I still think it speaks to the core values of participants and admins, we wanted everyone, and we truly were “all enlisted” in creating a meaningful form of thoughtful activism.

  • 3.       It was a world-wide movement, with a low socio-economic barrier for participation and wide international and cross-cultural platform. Anyone could participate simply by attending their local ward. This eliminated the need for “proxy” participation, and allowed all interested parties the chance to be included. (I am not criticizing activist movements which included proxy alternatives, or actions which required participants to travel to one location, just noting an advantage of Wear Pants to Church Day) We provided a near universal opportunity to practice one’s faith as an activist, and it is something organizers did right.



  • 4.       It broadened the scope of Mormon feminism to include everyone. An admittedly accurate criticism regarding the event involves the lack of clear message or “branding” for what “Pants” symbolized. Was this about ordination? Or just wanting women to be including in Priesthood Executive Meetings? Could you be a faithful Mormon and still want to see changes at church? Could women who did not seek ordination find common ground with those who did? While it was definitely confusing to have different answers for these questions, I think it was also a source of power. Just as there was no socio-economic barrier to pants, there was no faith requirement. Inactive women (like me) participated. Active women participated. Ex and Post Mormons who wanted a chance to honor their former selves participated. That was beautiful.



  • 5.       It evolved to encompass other, equally important issues within Mormonism. By 2013, Mormon feminism had already evolved significantly. Under the leadership of Nancy Ross and Jerilyn Hassell Pool, “Pants” became an event dedicated to inclusion of all marginalized groups in Mormonism, and I think these changes and evolution helped make church safer for many members.



  • 6.       All Enlisted was created on December 6, 2012. Wear Pants to Church Day occurred on December 16. In 10 Days, All Enlisted significantly altered the landscape of Mormon feminism. I remember Kate Kelly talking to me on the phone after the event, and telling me that if “Pants” was such a big deal, Mormon Feminists might as well ask for real, significant changes. The stakes were already high, the rewards ought to be high as well. I’m not taking credit for Ordain Women, or their work, or even claiming I inspired Kate Kelly to found her organization. But I do think “Pants” helped create an eager and motivated population of activist Mormons, ready to tackle the challenges of gender inequality in the church.

There were lots of flaws in “Pants.” It wasn’t a perfect movement. When I say it ought to have been included more thoroughly in Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings, it isn’t because I believe I personally needed to submit an essay, or because I need personal validation for the event. It ought to have been included simply because it was the first large-scale mainstream act of Mormon feminist activism outside the literary or online realm in several years, possibly decades. That alone should merit its inclusion in any book proclaiming to be a “comprehensive” and “essential” guide to the movement.

But because the personal is political, I will confess to feeling a bit appropriated by the book. The results of my history, the image of the quilt made by the pants I encouraged women to wear, is being sold for profit, while my name remains absent from the history I helped create. If the adage “for most of history, anonymous was a woman” is true, then Mormon Feminism: Essential History, like the Mormon Church before, has given me a new name. I don’t think I like it.

 I am not anonymous. My name is Stephanie Lauritzen. In 2012 I organized All Enlisted.We organized “Wear Pants to Church Day.” It was essential to Mormonism. It was essential to me.








UPDATE: I didn't include the names of the All Enlisted admins, and I ought to have. I wasn't sure they wanted to be included in this part of the story. I shouldn't have made an assumption, and inadvertently continued the erasure of Wear Pants to Church Day from history. Each one of these individuals did just as much work as I did, and sometimes more, for Pants. They helped make the group and event successful. I recently spoke about Pants at the Ex-Mormon Foundation Conference, and I was very open in recognizing that everything good, thoughtful,and meaningful about PANTS was the result of the good, thoughtful, and meaningful people who helped. Admins were Sandra Durkin Ford, Emilie Holmes Wheeler, Jenne Erigero Alderks, Hannah Pritchett Sara Katherine Staheli Hanks, and Kimberly Brinkerhoff, with special help from Meli Curtis Penford and Chelsea Robarge Fife who helped with PR and media. 











In addition to the news and media coverage, (Pants was covered in several national and local news outlets, including The New York Times, LA Times, NPR, and Huffington Post, many people wrote beautiful essays and papers on the significance of Wear Pants to Church Day. Some other “Essential Writings” about Wear Pants to Church Day include but are certainly not limited to the following sources:

Nancy Ross and Jessica Finnigan published a paper in the Interdisciplinary Journal ofResearch on Religion titled “I’m a Mormon Feminist”: How Social Media Revitalizedand Enlarged a Movement. The paper, but not the events mentioned within, is recognized as a footnote in Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings. This paper provides a good history on the significance of “Pants” and activism via social media. 

All Enlisted member Curtis Penford wrote about the positive and negative reaction to Wear Pants to Church Day at Young Mormon Feminists. (pantsgate 2012)

Sandra Ford, All Enlisted administrator and creator/manager of the Wear Pants to Church Day Facebook page wrote an essay on Feminist Mormon Housewives advocating for Mormon feminists to wear pants. (Mormon Feminists in Whoville and Why You Should Wear Pants to Church this Sunday)

Writers from The Exponent blog shared their experiences on Wear Pants to Church Day (Our Experience with Wear Pants to Church Day)

SunstoneMagazine essay on the long-term impact Wear Pants to Church Day. ("Wear Pants to Church" Sunday Brings Attention to Women's Issues)
By Common Consent  blog compares Wear Pants to Church Day to secular silencing of female activists online.  (How to Silence an (LDS) Woman: You're Doing it Wrong.)

Princeton graduate Emmy Williams submitted her paper, "Apostates, Heretics, Tools of the Patriarchy: Defining the Spectrum of Contemporary Mormon Feminism" to the Department of Religion as part of her senior thesis capstone. 

Zelophehad's Daughters post on the politics of "Pants." (The Politics (say it ain't so) of Pants)

My good friend Courtney wrote an essay on her blog on the process of deciding to wear pants (or not.) (The Worst Thing is Pants)

The Juvenile Instructor post on PANTS. (Joan in Armor, Zone Leaders in Skirts, and Mormon Women in Pants.) 





18 comments:

Michelle Glauser said...

Stephanie, I am sad for you. It really hurts to be left out after hard work and dedication like yours. I hope there will be a second edition to the book that does a great job of including Pants Day.

Ru said...

Oh, Steph. This is disappointing. I remember lying in bed with my laptop on my stomach the night of December 6, getting your invite to the group, and reading through all the All Enlisted posts and seeing Sandy suggest something as simple as a "wear pants to church day." I remember thinking, "Gosh, that's almost too small" (silly Ru -- silly, silly Ru).

I'm really sorry that it was was skipped over in the book. It was so huge at the time, and so important for all the reasons you listed in the post.

Here's my most random Pants story, if we want some sharing time:

1. I must have spent hours on the All Enlisted page the week before the event, trying to respectfully engage with trolls. I doubt I changed anyone's mind, but a girl in my ward (who could apparently see my posts) told me that she appreciated my tone.

I think one of the angriest moments I have ever had in my life was when all the anti-Pants people (who had called pro-Pants people every nasty name in the book) tried to use the Sandy Hook shooting as a reason for us to shut the whole thing down. Because WE were being divisive and disrespectful.

It was that week that I realized the Pants idea was in no way small, though for the life of me, I still cannot understand why something so simple caused so much angst for rank-and-file members of the Church.

2. I wore pants to church on December 16. My cousin, who is inactive, came with me for the moral support. We were the only people in that ward who participated. During Sunday School, a guy who had never talked to me before or since came up to us and said, "I don't agree with why you're doing this, but I wanted to thank you for how respectfully you're doing it." And while I knew he meant well, I just wanted to reply, "You don't actually know why I am doing this, because you haven't bothered to ask me or her." I think my cousin did say something to that effect, and told him she hadn't been to church in years but had come that day. He quickly scampered back to his girlfriend without introducing himself or asking our names. I don't know why, but that always struck me as so funny.

Laura Pennock said...

I will print out a copy of this post and past it into my copy of the book. Thank you and I am sorry that this got left out because pants did make visible all the assumptions about women made in the church all the time.

La Yen said...

I have always watched and admired your work and integrity. I didn't wear pants because I didn't have any that fit and couldn't afford a new pair--but I feel like the pants movement started me on a journey to define my relationship with teachings and doctrines, especially with relationship to our Heavenly parents. Thank you for that. Your work is important to me.

La Yen said...

I have always watched and admired your work and integrity. I didn't wear pants because I didn't have any that fit and couldn't afford a new pair--but I feel like the pants movement started me on a journey to define my relationship with teachings and doctrines, especially with relationship to our Heavenly parents. Thank you for that. Your work is important to me.

Unknown said...

Stephanie, I received my copy of the book last week, and as I perused through it, I was struck more by the exclusions than I was necessarily by the voices represented. I flipped back several times, thinking it was impossible the quilt was ON THE COVER but there was no mention of what you did, or what happened because of what you did- both to you personally, and to the women of the church collectively.

I'm so sorry. You are right to speak up and claim what is yours.

(This is Tracy M- Dandelion Mama. OpenID won't let me sign in)

Meghan said...

It may have had less significance away from Utah. In my Midwest ward, a number of women routinely wear pants to church, and it's nothing out of the ordinary. Nor is it any kind of statement.

Jami said...

It ought to be in there. "Wear Pants to Church Day" absolutely sparked the fire that followed. I am sorry you were excluded and wish that you hadn't been. I hope those who inadvertently (I hope) excluded you are gracious about admitting their error.

Teacher Extraordinaire said...

Stephanie,
I have had a theory percolating ever since I countered Kate Kelly and John Dehlin on facebook as they started using their "fame" to encourage strange money-gatherings for their friends. I countered Kate Kelly when she was raising money for her friend to get IVF (I had at that time lost 4 pregnancies, and I was NOT in the mood to hear about someone getting a SECOND child because her influential friends could raise money for her to get IVF AGAIN -- and this was BEFORE her computer begging scandal). Kate Kelly immediately dropped me as a facebook friend and blocked me. I was devastated that the "Post-Mormon Elite"(TM) had rejected me. But there IS a Post-Mormon Elite. And to be honest, I actually lumped you in with them; to me, you are a mover and a shaker. I mean, Kate Kelly CALLED you during Pants. Whaaaa? You have, like, famous Post-Mo friends! It was so interesting to read your view of it and realize we all feel like outsiders. Is it an outsider thing? Do we just not know how to feel like insiders because we only know how to feel the opposite? So my theory isn't so much a theory - I guess I just believe that a Post-Mormon Elite exists and that they are a bit incestuous. And it makes me feel icky inside. And it makes me feel like I don't have anything to add or say to the "movement" because Kate and Johanna and John are doing all the talking for us. And frankly, it tires me because they aren't always saying what I want to say...but I don't matter enough to say anything. At what point do they stop actually representing us? I don't feel like Kate represents me, to be honest. Anyway, those are my ramblings. ~Katie Bullock

Kristine A said...

Stephanie, please add to your list the essay written at Juvenile Instructor by Andrea Radke-Moss:

http://juvenileinstructor.org/joan-in-armor-zone-leaders-in-skirts-and-mormon-women-in-pants/

Kristine A said...

Also, pants day was the genesis of my Mormon feminist awakening. So, thank you!

SGubler said...

This post is so honest. Yours always are, though. (I'm a long-time reader and admirer, law school friend of Kathleen Cannon. But I rarely comment because of my tendency toward being anti-social!)

Your movement was the first, in my experience, that gave rise to discussion and real consideration among a WIDE swath of mormons (when they weren't being horrible and threatening). It seems like many mormons otherwise see the feminist movement as a small, fringe group not worth their time. I was excited in my southern california ward to have a few of my favorite, but very traditional, mormons stop me and ask if I was wearing pants as part of the Wear Pants to Church Day. Because then conversation began, and we could teach each other.

I cannot believe this event is not covered in the book. In my mind, that oversight undercuts all acclaim the book receives--how can you believe the book's claim to "capture key ideas, questions, concerns, and events in Mormon feminist experience" when the same woman who said that left out what she referred to previously as "the largest concerted Mormon feminist action in history?!"

In any case, thank you for what you've done. That doesn't feel like enough, considering the roller-coaster that Pants kicked off in your life, while I have sat back and passively waited for interest to build and conversations to begin. Thank you, nonetheless.

Katherine Of It All said...

It's awesome that folks in your ward are unfazed by women wearing pants to sacrament meeting. If only the rest of the LDS world was so enlightened. The violent pushback from people not in your personal Ward to such a simple act illustrates how far we have to go.

Ashley said...

This upsets me, especially because you were one of the first Mormon feminists I "knew". I haven't read the book yet. I still plan to, but I really hope Pants can be added to a later edition, or else gets the attention it (and you) deserve in some other publication or platform. I wore pants that day--it was a nerve-wracking decision and experience, but so many cool things came from it. And that was just in my small little circle. I absolutely believe it sparked a larger MoFem fire, without which, the MoFem community would not be where it is, making the progress that it is, today.

Clara Molina said...

Dear Steph,
I am in the library, and running late for a tutorial so I'm afraid I'll just copy and paste the posts I've written in several Mormon Feminists groups (accept my apologies, as this is quite long). However, I would like to quickly add, that if you were up to it (and have the time), I would love to discuss it further with you (even if there are some things that you believe should be mentioned). This is my e-mail : cm596 (@) exeter.ac.uk

HELP FOR RESEARCH (This will be crossposted in other groups)
Dear everyone, I am planning to write an essay to later present it as a proposal paper for a post-grad colloquim on "Wear Pants to Church Sunday", in relation to the exploration of silence as a form of expression (I am aware there was much written on the blogsphere/ bloggernacle, however, I would argue the actual event was pretty much a silent protest).
I have hundreds of links from bloggernacle at this point (though if you believe specific ones are a must, by all means, please post them), so I am mostly looking for writings of the event in more academic (in lack of a better term) journals, and also looking at other protest events (if there are any) within the LDS church prior 2013 as well as their repercussions.
So far (as a matter of fact, so early, I only started thinking about this last week), besides the blogs (FMH, Rational Faiths, The Mormon Bride Child, etc) I only have a copy of Mormon Feminisms, and I have just stumbled upon "Voices for Equality: Ordain Women and Resurgent Mormon Feminism" (though I am not sure if it will work as it mostly deals with Ordain Women).
Any and all recommendations are welcome smile emoticon
Oh, please excuse how poorly this is written and how little cohesive this is, but what I want to explore (from an interdisciplinary performance studies perspective) is how the Church (the institution) seemed to respond quite well to a silent protest that didn't question the status quo and didn't disrupt in any way regular dominical services (I believe silence is important here as the Church does not offer any "official safe spaces" of dissent or questioning, and I see the form (aka performance) here, as important as the content).
Finally, this is the call for papers that ignited the idea:
We are excited to announce *Silent Voices,* the *10**th** anniversary *of
the postgraduate colloquium organised by the Sociology of Theatre and
Performance Research Group at Goldsmiths, founded and led by Professor
Maria Shevtsova. We warmly invite postgraduate students with
interdisciplinary perspectives from the UK and internationally to examine
silence and the multiple ways in which it manifests itself.
This may include, but is not limited to: explorations of silent forms of
expression (theatre, dance, visual arts, architecture), how individuals or
groups are silenced (censorship, repression, marginalisation), silence as
the erasure of histories, who has the right to speak or to be silent,
silence as a form of protest, protection and the use of silence when you
have nothing else to declare your freedom.
THANK YOU!!!

Sara said...

I have read your blog for many years. I was saddened when you got to the point where you felt you needed to leave the church. But I have kept reading. I don't have the same experience as you and don't agree with most of your ideas, but I am grateful to you for sharing your struggles and your journey. It helps me better understand the feelings of those who -do- feel marginalized or unimportant, (even to some extent, a few close to me) and I am grateful for the perspective. I do want to understand them and to be more empathetic and loving instead of just (unknowingly) judging them from my own viewpoint!

Leslie said...

I agree with you and have experienced similar things myself.

Lorie said...

Sorry to come to this so late. Just so you know, you might want to add my chapter on the birth of Ordain Women in the book Voices for Equality to your list of those who gave Wear Pants to Church a shout out. I mentioned you by name, quoted from the New York Times coverage of the event and noted that others who contributed significantly to Ordain Women's efforts had also participated in the All Enlisted action, including women like Nancy Ross, Danielle Mooney and Kimberly Brinkerhoff. I also very much appreciated All Enlisted's support for the All Are Alike unto God document/petition. (http://whatwomenknow.org/all_are_alike/) Collaboration and visibility are essential to the work we do as Mormon feminists.