Let me explain a bit about where I was when this whole wearing-pants thing started. Once upon a time, I really, REALLY cared about what others thought and felt. To the point where I doubted my own perceptions, thoughts and feelings in favor of theirs. Such an approach reached its culmination in the realization that I had been abused in my marriage, and going through all the many stages of grief. Many times.
But I'm over that, now. I'm currently in a frame of mind, unfortunately, where I have realized that most people haven't figured anything out any better than I have and I kind of resent it. It's sort of the pouty phase of the disillusionment. I'm not proud of it, but I recognize the need to go through it. I'm about at the point now, where I want to start caring what people think again. Not because I think their perceptions have much to offer me, but because I want to understand them, to listen for THEIR benefit rather than mine.
I find it unfortunate that those who profess to want more freedom in choice without certain consequences (ie. disapproval from others) have chosen to organize a day to wear pants to show each other support. Most of the people I've heard who did it participated under the assumption that it is merely to show support for those who feel marginalized in the Church, or for equal pay and that women's thoughts are valid, etc. Pretty low-key feminist issues that nearly everyone agrees with.
But let's get real, folks. The pants-wearing gesture is not designed only to show support to those who feel marginalized in the Church or to demonstrate one's agreement with equal pay. Were that the case, it could have been anything from just wearing purple, to encouraging people to go up and honestly bear testimony about their difficult experiences in the Church and how that has helped them grow closer to their Savior and reach out to others. But, no, the pants thing was specifically chosen in order to irritate people, to "shake them up." I just don't find that tactic very useful for the stated purpose, or for healing.
I'll admit, I reacted with disdain for the whole thing, which is probably why the Spirit directed me to keep my mouth mostly shut about it until now. Remember, I said I'm in a place where other people's opinions and drama tend to incite a distinct lack of charity and patience in me. Of all the ways to try to get others to be aware of the pain that some feel, challenging their assumptions and inflicting that sort of pain on THEM is not the best way. Sure, it might make you feel better because you can hit back, but it doesn't SOLVE anything. It only makes things worse. Trust me, I have reason to understand this dynamic very, very well. And I didn't like it any better when I caught myself doing it.
I recognize that for some, lashing out in pain is probably a necessary step to go through. It was for me. When someone has felt silenced and oppressed for so long, sometimes the only way to get the courage to start speaking up for oneself is to let it reach some kind of critical volcano explosion point, Heaven only help whoever gets in the way. But as someone who has always tried to own my own pain, I know that IF real change is wanted, if people really want to heal the divide between those who love the Church the way it is, and those who want to see change, there will have to come a time when both sides take responsibility for their own pain, and stop looking for the other side to change or leave before they will allow themselves to be happy.
Sure, such civil disobedience type of protests worked to force change legally. But as anyone who has spent much time in the South knows, there are still scars from that even now. Was it necessary? Probably. Do I admire the people who did it? Wholeheartedly (especially the ones who just quietly took a stand for themselves, like Rosa Parks or those kids who went to the all-white school.) But in the case of women's place in the Church, we aren't talking legalities here, for one, we're talking about cultural change in a private, voluntary institution. Forcing cultural change under such circumstances breeds resentment, not healing. I don't believe that those sorts of tactics have place in the Lord's Kingdom.
Thankfully, there is a really great built-in solution to the problem of encouraging change in the Church. But you're probably not going to like it, because it takes REAL work. It's not so easy as wearing pants to Church, carefully examining other people's reactions, snapping a few photos and blogging about it. It requires no longer pointing fingers at all the outward things that need to be changed, and developing charity instead. It means owning your own pain, and not blaming it on the actions of others. It means being patient with people who don't see things your way. It means letting go of the pain and letting the Savior take care of it for you. It is the Atonement.
No matter what changes the Church makes, no matter how much acceptance "the others" make in order to keep you from feeling pain, the pain will never, NEVER go away until you learn to let it go. No one can take that pain from you against your will, no matter what they do and how compliant they are to your will. It is yours, to do with whatever you will. You can lash out and cause pain or discomfort in others. You can convince yourself that their pain is never as bad as yours, that they deserve everything they are getting. Or, you can use that pain to motivate your prayer for peace. For understanding. You can let yourself be loved by the only One who really does get it, all of it, unequivocally and without convincing. You can stop looking for saviors in other people (because trust me, they will ALWAYS disappoint) and start looking to the only Savior.
If you need your dramatic gesture, by all means take it. But don't believe that just because others don't join you in that gesture that they don't care. Some of us have found other ways, many of us are focusing elsewhere to bridge the gap.
The problem with being moderate, with seeing both sides, is that both sides hate you. I get that. I understand that some of the things I have to say might make you feel trapped and angry, and give you a need to lash out at me. I won't allow such attacks to be posted, but I'm not going to hate you for doing it. Remember, I get it because I've been there, lashing out at people. There's a chance I may be there again, I'm only human and a relative child when it comes to wisdom and patience.
But after you're finished lashing out at me, the Church, the Patriarchy, or what- and whoever, after you've completed the dramatic gestures that you need to get out all your frustration and fear and pain, look to your Savior. Open your heart to the uncomfortable and challenging promptings of His Spirit. Consider that what I have to say might actually help you, the way it's helped me. And once you've done that, I'll still be here, waiting to show you that I love and support you.
Even in a dress.