Wednesday, December 12, 2012

We Are All Enlisted

We are all enlisted till the conflict is o’er;
Happy are we! Happy are we!
Soldiers in the army, there’s a bright crown in store;
We shall win and wear it by and by.

A week ago, someone wrote a blog post
In 1848 the first Women's Rights Conference was held in Seneca Falls, outlying the goals and concerns of American women. In 1866  Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony formed the American Equal Rights Association, an organization dedicated to universal suffrage.

It wasn't enough. The conferences, the petitions, the marches, none of them granted women the right to vote…

But by 1920, a mere three years after Alice Paul's first act of civil disobedience by picketing the White House, women gained the right to vote.

As it turns out, the Suffragists weren't traitors, but liberators. 

Can you imagine what would happen if the Mormon Feminist movement stopped playing nice? If faithful, devoted women stood as Silent Sentinels outside the gates of the Church Office Building. If the women who loved the church enough to face accusations of apostasy and potential excommunication organized a sit-out, so that one Sunday no Mormon Feminists came to church. If we stopped organizing Friends of Scouting banquets until our daughters sat at the table, likewise recognized for their own accomplishments.

History has proven that civil disobedience works. Martin Luther King Jr., Alice Paul, Harvey Milk, and countless others faced accusations of treason when they apostatized from the status quo because they loved their country. 

"Remember the dignity of your womanhood. Do not appeal, do not beg, do not grovel. Take courage, join hands, stand beside us, fight with us." 

Mormon feminists, I think it is time for some good old-fashioned Civil Disobedience.

Haste to the battle, quick to the field;
Truth is our helmet, buckler, and shield.
Stand by our colors; proudly they wave!
We’re joyfully, joyfully marching to our home.

Within a day a Facebook group, All Enlisted, had been created, and had over 200 members. Because that is the speed of life now in the internet age.  They--we--began to discuss ways that we could practice civil disobedience. (Lookout world, never underestimate Mormon women’s ability to organize massive productions overnight!)


We are all enlisted till the conflict is o’er;
Happy are we! Happy are we!
Soldiers in the army, there’s a bright crown in store;
We shall win and wear it by and by.


Hark! the sound of battle sounding loudly and clear;
Come join the ranks! Come join the ranks!
We are waiting now for soldiers; who’ll volunteer?
Rally round the standard of the cross.


So, the first act of civil disobedience that was chosen: Ladies wearing pants to church. Nice pants. Dressy slacks. En masse, on December 16. There is not a church policy against this. In fact, the long-standing official church policy is that church attendees should dress nicely and respectfully. No specifics in length, style, or number of leg holes have ever been laid out.
As one friend discovered when she went to the temple directly from work (in a pantsuit), and sheepishly asked at the front desk if there was some kind of rule... The elderly worker looked her right in the eye and said  "the rule is that you come to the temple whenever you can!"

Hark! ’tis our Captain calls you today;
Lose not a moment, make no delay!
Fight for our Savior; come, come away!
We’re joyfully, joyfully marching to our home.

I am joining this movement because I want to fight for our Savior and for His counsel to love one another, and judge not.
I remember a time when I was about 9 when one of the children's leaders wore pants in church. They were not even pants so much as a split skirt--I remember staring at her for at least half of the class time before concluding that, in fact, this was not a skirt. I was appalled at her. I couldn't believe she would wear pants to church. How wrong and bad!
I now look back at my nine-year-old self with sadness. I know that my parents never taught me to be so judgmental about the way a person dressed. So why did I feel so judgmental? I can only guess that it was pervasive in the culture. Actually, I know that fixations on how other people dress IS pervasive in Mormon culture. If you disagree, think about the last time you noticed someone's garment line (or lack thereof). Now I ask, why were you looking?! How is someone's underwear ever anyone else's business?!
I have never ever worn pants to church. It so happens that I love wearing dresses and skirts, and often wear them on weekdays. I don't particularly want to wear pants to church. BUT, I will be doing so because of this experience. I will be wearing pants to church to be an example to my children that I really do believe that "the lord looketh on the heart [rather than the outward appearance]." I believe in walking the talk. Is wearing pants to church a big deal? No. Will this single event bring about any of the other changes that the All Enlisted movement is hoping for? Not really. But we hope that it will help people to take a look at themselves and their socio-cultural prejudices, and take the opportunity to practice a little non-judgment.

We are all enlisted till the conflict is o’er;
Happy are we! Happy are we!
Soldiers in the army, there’s a bright crown in store;
We shall win and wear it by and by.

So come, wear pants with us. I know we might look small now, but this is starting to get attention. There was a very perceptive blog post at Feminist Mormon Housewives, another at Like Unto Eve, another at Zelophehad's Daughters, and we got some attention on SLC's ABC news and in the Salt Lake Tribune (which includes an official statement from a Church spokesperson. Guess what, according to official sources, wearing pants to church is still a non-issue, just like it was in 1971).

Fighting for a kingdom, and the world is our foe;
Happy are we! Happy are we!
Glad to join the army, we will sing as we go;
We shall gain the vict’ry by and by.

This seemed like such a little thing. Wearing pants? What is this, 1942?! Some of the people in this movement want to see major changes (including female ordination). But most want smaller things, things which don't even touch doctrine, but merely policy or tradition. (Some of these things include women sometimes saying prayers at Church General Conferences, calling the Relief Society president "President" instead of "Sister," or women being asked if they will support their husband's callings in the same way that husbands are currently asked if they will support their wife's calling.)
And yet, the kickback has been enormous. Around 600 people have "joined" the event page, but dozens have also posted negative responses, suggesting that participants are unfeminine, disrespectful, apostate, and more. Who knew this was such a big deal?!

Dangers may gather—why should we fear?
Jesus, our Leader, ever is near.
He will protect us, comfort, and cheer.
We’re joyfully, joyfully marching to our home.

It seems to me that nothing has summed up this whole "thing" as well as this recent thread on the event page. 

persons herein have given their permission for me to post this, those left not-anonymous asked to be so


We are all enlisted till the conflict is o’er;
Happy are we! Happy are we!
Soldiers in the army, there’s a bright crown in store;
We shall win and wear it by and by.

5 comments:

Cheryl said...

Our bishopric calls all the auxiliary presidents by the title of "President" every week.

Aliy Hurd said...

I really enjoyed reading this. I don't know if maybe because I live in a very liberal area things are different here. I'm asked if I will support my husband and if I think it will have any negative effect on our family life. I have worn pants and no one has said boo to me. Usually it is just my thoughts that change what I am going to wear :)

Jenni said...

Mom, you have a wonderful (and unusual) Bishop. Good for him.
I wish more people in more places showed balanced respect that way. I have never heard the general relief society president referred to as "President ___" during conference though. I think that's where it needs to start if it's going to become typical.

Sarah Familia said...

Yay for pants, Jenni. This is a great post. The most wonderful part of this to me is the women who have not been attending church, but have decided to go back for this event. Because in spite of whatever has happened to them in the past they love the church, and they care about making it into a space that doesn't push people like them away. For me, I am wearing pants as an affirmation that I believe there is "room at the table" for all of us, even if we are a little different from the Mormon cultural norm.

The Doctors Wife said...

I'm not sure how I feel about this. I've never been appalled by seeing a female in pants at church, usually because the sisters who do are converts, investigators or less active and they are not in the habit. While there may not be an official rule for not wearing pants in the chapel, when a member of your stake presidency or bishopric asks you to wear a dress in the chapel then, you should out of respect and sustaining of your local church leader. I for one am not comfortable wearing pants in the chapel because I wear pants every other day of the week and like to dress up for church because it is something I enjoy doing and I feel shows respect for a place of worship. I fear that when sisters begin wearing nice dress slacks that some could eventually start dressing more and more casual to church. Casual dress...casual attitude.
You are right, the Lord looketh upon the heart not what is on the outside. I just hope the heart is in the right place and sisters aren't going to start wearing pants to church just to rock the boat and cause a little controversy. Because it will stir the pot a bit and contention is of the Devil. Yup I just said that.

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