Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Dramatic Gestures to Inspire Change

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.

So it is in this transitional emotional state that I have approached this whole wearing-pants-to-church thing.

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.


  1. I agree with your post. My feeling on the subject is that by turning it into an all or nothing proposal: "you're either with us or you're against us." They have alienated people who might have otherwise supported them. I agree with you about the fact that the pants thing has not done much to solve the cultural problem at the heart of this controversy, in fact it has only served to steel the resolve of those who disagree with the members of this movement. It's all been rather pointless though since the church doesn't forbid women from wearing pants in the first place.

    Oh, and a little plug for my blog:

  2. Not to take anything away from the seriousness of this post, but I think I have a girl crush on you.

  3. That is bold and I love it! I wrote something similar but not so bold and real. You are amazing! And I agree!!

  4. Thank you for this, SilverRain. It's hard doctrine for us all -- it's so much easier to focus outside ourselves. Feminists in pain are certainly not the only ones who need this. We ALL do. And ironically, that is what I believe could unite us -- once we all realize how much we need Christ rather than insist that other people or the culture or anything else will be the solution to our problems, we'll all be on truly equal ground with each other and our hearts can be knit together through His grace.

    To me, that is what Zion will be about. Not about gender issues or even monetary issues. It will be about conversion, about people who know Christ because they needed Him and leaned on Him more than anyone else, and that conversion will be the Source from which everything else will flow.

  5. I'm trying this again. I love this post; wish I'd said it.

  6. I don't think that wearing pants was a "dramatic" gesture. I also don't think it was "divisive."

    I think it was a respectful way to acknowledge some very important and sincere questions that many members share.

    I didn't want to "irritate" anyone when I decided to wear pants that Sunday. I wanted to acknowledge pain.

    It's great that you are focusing elsewhere to bridge the gap, but I don't think it is right to insinuate that the women who choose to wear pants need to "Open (our) heart(s) to the uncomfortable and challenging promptings of His Spirit."

    Funny thing is, you and I both could claim that our approaches "take responsibility for (our own) pain."

  7. You're, right, Jessica. If people have already opened their hearts to the Spirit, they don't need to concern themselves with what I'm saying, because they're already doing it. I trust you aren't saying that people DON'T need to open their hearts to the promptings of the Spirit? I'm not insinuating it. I'm saying it straight out. I don't insinuate very often, being a rather blunt individual.

    I'm glad you didn't want to irritate or shake up anyone. But there are plenty who did. In fact, that is one of the most-cited reasons by participants for choosing the gesture of wearing pants; to shake people up and to get attention for the cause. While I have seen several who, like yourself just "want to acknowledge pain," I believe that is a rationalization and afterthought, a way to justify the challenge of the thrown gauntlet that this movement is issuing.

    Which is why it certainly qualifies as dramatic.

  8. Your last paragraph says "after you've completed your dramatic your heart to the spirit." If you don't think that this insinuates that pants wearing women stand in need of a spiritual course correction you are kidding yourself.

    It seems a bit disingenuous to proudly own up to your to your "blunt" assertion that ALL people need the Spirit. You weren't saying that in your last paragraph and you know it. You were directing it towards pants wearing women.

    I was concerned with the judgemental/negative things that you were saying about some women's decision to wear pants.

    You then replied to my comment with this: "if people have already opened their hearts to the Spirit, they don't need to concern themselves with what I'm saying, because they're already doing it."

    ??? So anyone who concerns themselves with your opinions is in need of the Spirit. I know you didn't mean this but I really can't grasp your point here.

    I AM concerned by the things you are saying. That does NOT mean that I'm not open to the Spirit.

    You want to view the pants decision as a tantrum/attention-ploy/attempt to irritate others/or even a "critical volcano explosion point" driven by fear and anger.

    I completely disagree.

    It's hard to argue with your assurance the the pants movement is "certainly dramatic" because it "is issuing the challenge of a thrown gauntlet."

    You're great with in-your-face pithy shut downs but you don't really make clear arguments.

    I'd ask you to elaborate on this "gauntlet" but frankly I'd rather not hear all about the sinister and rebellious attitudes that I must have (unknowingly) been projecting that day.

  9. Well, I don't make clear arguments because I'm not arguing anything.

    I'm actually not directing my post to everyone who wore pants, but to those who are frustrated, angry, and feeling insignificant or shut down. I'm pleading with them to turn to Christ to heal, and not to hold their healing hostage to someone else's behavior.

    I'm speaking as someone who has done just that, and found my way to peace. There are many women, I would guess the bulk of those who participated in this movement from what I have seen said and written about it, who are coming from this place of pain.

    I empathize with them, and want them to know two things, that healing is in Christ, and that there are those of us who do not participate in these staged movements who still love them and care about their pain.

    It is clear that you are reading things into what I'm saying besides these things, perhaps from a painful place of your own. Hopefully this comment clarifies my intentions for you.


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