The Pants that Rock the Cradle

Some disjointed thoughts on the coming Pantspocalypse:

(1) In my conversations on Facebook, numerous individuals have indicated to me that a belief in hierarchical gender roles stands as an innate part of Mormonism, citing the Family Proclamation. I agree that the Family Proclamation lays out hierarchical gender roles and, as such, is problematic for the goals of Mormon feminists working within the church. That said, the Family Proclamation has not attained the binding status of canonization just yet. It is but one of five official proclamations of the church—a fact that Boyd K. Packer mentioned in General Conference just over two years ago—and few Mormons could name the other four. (Can you?) [1] Furthermore, current Mormons seem quite content to disregard some of the things declared by former proclamations. Just ask my biology teacher at BYU who freely taught evolution to our class, contra one such proclamation. While I tend to think that the Family Proclamation will have more staying power than former proclamations, unless and until it is canonized, anything can happen. It may be that in 100 years, the notion of the husband presiding over his wife will have gone the way of young earth creationism in Mormon thought.

(2) The event’s organizers have repeatedly stressed that Pantspocalypse is not about pants, but a plea for equal treatment of women in the church. The LDS church has a long way to go. [2] However, I want to say that Mormonism has two distinctive teachings which give it a potential advantage over other Judeo-Christian faiths in addressing this problem. One is found in its teaching of Heavenly Mother, a possible answer to Mary Daly’s conundrum, “If God is man, then man is God.” The other is found in its teachings on Eve, holding that her choice in the garden was not a grievous sin but an insightful step towards progress for humanity. Christian religions have often justified their subordination on women by hanging women’s status on Eve’s actions in the garden. This is theoretically not a problem for Mormonism. Currently this potential is untapped, as Mormonism (for the most part) treats its women like any other hierarchicalist Christian religion would. However, the tools for women’s theological liberation are present in Mormonism, waiting for the right person or persons to make use of them.

(3) The vitriol that Mormon anti-feminists have directed at the organizers has been astonishing. For instance, on Thursday morning, I was stunned to click onto the event page and find a current BYU student telling the organizers that all “minority activist[s]” ought to be ” shot.. in the face… point blank…” (ellipses his). Us evangelicals largely dealt with internal strife over women’s ordination in the 70s and 80s, ultimately fragmenting into three camps: the Evangelical & Ecumenical Women’s Caucus (largely mainline and more liberal feminists now, also advocates for LBGT), Christians for Biblical Equality (conservative evangelical feminists, does not advocate for LBGT), and the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (anti-feminists). Currently most of the theological sparring takes place between CBE and CBMW, and any evangelical who takes either position can find a considerable amount of erudite “ammunition” on the Web site of one group or the other. I have to wonder if part of the reason for Mormon anti-feminist frustration and devolution into talk of violence has to do with the lack of a CBMW-equivalent organization to guide them to a more erudite counter-argument to Mormon feminism. After all, Mormon feminists have already thoroughly considered and countered the Church’s major Scriptures and talks on the matter, as well as the most common lay arguments. Sputtering platitudes about how men have priesthood because women have babies does not get your average Facebook anti-feminist very far.

In any case, I will be visiting my husband’s LDS ward tomorrow sporting both pants and a purple tie, in solidarity with my Mormon feminist cousins. I applaud the event organizers for taking a tangible step towards opening a dialogue on this matter and wish them the best of luck.


[1] Boyd K. Packer, “Cleansing the Inner Vessel,” October 2010 General Conference. Interestingly enough, in the spoken version of the talk, Packer called such proclamations “revelation,” but this was downgraded to “guide” in the written version of the talk. See my post at ClobberBlog, “Guide is the new Revelation.” I still wonder whether or not the prospect of declaring all such past proclamations to be “revelations” constituted part of the reason for the switch.

[2] For a more complete assessment of the status of women in Mormonism, see my article, “How Wide the Divide, and Can Biblical Equality Bridge It?” in the Autumn 2010 issue of Mutuality.


The Pants that Rock the Cradle — 3 Comments

  1. Pingback: Sunday in Outer Blogness: Pants on the Ground edition! » Main Street Plaza

  2. Mormon Priesthood is a tall tower, and it stands alone. It is the Power to speak. But real power is elusive. It hides silently in soft places near the wild mustard plant.

    Now, the wall of the fortress of Power has been breached, and laughter and free dialogue have cautiously come to His temple. Pants are more eloquent than words. I hope that it will soon be safe in my ward to ask questions and listen. If a sanctuary is not safe in times of war, what is it good for?