Kick in the Pants

Pants? Dresses? Who cares? It's what underneath that counts.

(See what I did there? Underneath? And this is a picture of undergarments? Ha! Meg in Progress never fails to stimulate intellectually.)

Big reveal, here. I am a Mormon.  A member of that religion you may have heard a little something about in the last election. I mean, you know, if you ever turned on the TV or listened to the radio or walked outside. Yeah, one of those. Shocked? No? What gave me away? My love of casserole? Man. Every damn darn time.

And yeah, I drink a lot of diet coke, waited to have sex till I got married and know every line of Goonies, The Princess Bride and The Man From Snowy River. Which is all just so Mormon of me. Gosh, predictable much, Meg?

I love my religion, I love my God and I love the role both play in my life. It is so much of who I am that I would have difficulty separating it out from every other part of myself. It is woven into the fabric that makes my head and heart and soul.

While I often talk about spirituality here, I have deliberately played the whole "Mormon for Life" bit way, way down. Because I want this to be a place of connection. I know that at their core the things that truly matter, the things that truly connect one person to another and another and oh my goodness, another!- transcend creed or background. So I believe what I believe and you believe what you believe and if we just hold each others hands along the way we will all make it to the place we all hope we are going.

But today with a little hesitancy, I am going to talk about Mormons and I hope you will be patient with me. Over the past week, a few small pockets of my big religion have been knocked back and forth by a seemingly little thing. A group of Mormon feminists have asked for this Sunday be a "Women Wear Pants to Church" Day. I am reading that sentence and realize that it sounds ridiculous to the uninitiated. Quick explanation. Women of course, are allowed to wear pants to LDS church services. But for the most part, because of tradition and cultural expectations, LDS women wear dresses to church. Of course, the "wear pants to church" idea is not really about well, pants. (And how could it be? I will never choose something that showcases the extra five pounds in my thighs over a delightfully flattering circle skirt.) Rather it is a group of women asking the people around them to consider what aspects of our culture are inspired and what aspects are merely tradition. I agree with these women on some of their observations and heartily disagree on others. And my goodness, isn't that what makes a good conversation? This Sunday I will be flouncing about my church's halls in a little number from the oh-so-oppressive 1950's. But despite all the twirls I will be doing in that dress (so ruffly!) I can while appreciate what this group is striving to do. They are seeking. As we all are.

I fully intended to keep my mouth shut about this kerfuffle. But then I saw how angry a very few people within the church became because these women are concerned their voices are not being heard. Isn't life about questions and growth and doubt and answers and hope? The Lord wants to hear us, every bit of us - the good, the bad, the confused, the certain. My goodness, our faith started with one big question. I think the rest of us are allowed many, many little (and big enough to touch the moon) ones.

And then I read an article about it on Jezebel and the UK Daily Mail and a few dozen other outlets. Each one more inaccurate and smug than the next. Oh, those poor little Mormon women. Fighting for the chance to wear pants. How delightfully quaint. Well, this Mormon woman says all of them can take their knowing condescension and shove it....somewhere a good Mormon woman would never say.

So much for watching the whole thing as a quiet bystander.

Here is what I think. (And yeah, I have plenty of spit and fire for both camps.)

It is easy to take the symbol of a movement and make it (and the people within it) seem ridiculous.

It is easy to be angry about questions you have never had or don't understand. That does not make those questions less valid.

It is easy to feel above a world, people, religion, culture of which you have never been a part. (Although, heaven knows we welcome you. What's your number? I'll send the missionaries over. I kid, I kid!)

And it is easy to claim feminism is an umbrella defined by your own narrow terms, something just small enough it leaves the rest of us out in the rain because our definition of equality, respect and happiness doesn't fit yours. Since when did your definition of woman outstrip mine? And how pro-woman is that? Can't their be room for both of us?

That of course, is the true heart of the matter. Women. Who are we? Where do we belong? How can we find fulfillment, balance, respect, understanding and the absolute fill of our potential? Many of the articles I read acted as if this female search for the more-ness of life was a journey they had already reached the end of and could all the provincials catch up already? The answers are here, they seemed to say. Stop asking the question.

I think they are wrong.

As a society our  definition of "woman" is schizophrenic at best. Woman is liberated. Woman is down trodden. Woman is can do. Woman is doesn't have to. Woman is better than men. Woman is can be just like men if she damn well pleases. Woman is the right to the life of her choosing. Woman is the right to the deaths of her choosing. Woman is career and I can pay for my own dinner, thank you very much. Woman is health reform and federally funded birth control. Woman is wide eyed innocent sprayed in sparkle. Woman is nothing shocks her red lipstick and leather.

And in it all, I find myself wondering...can't woman just be me?

And you? And her? Can we let go of the labels and certainty and expectations? Can we be allowed to search and push and pull and step back and run forward? Perhaps this is not the easy thing, but the right thing rarely is.

Yes. Some (many!) women in the Mormon Church have questions about their place in this world. But those questions are not unique to the people within my religion. In every sector of society, the roles of women  are growing, stretching, falling down and getting back up. I do not think that a set of unusual beliefs (Mormon's don't drink coffee...ever!) restricts our right to respect for growth in our own time and in our own way.  Because at the end of the day - feminist, traditionalist, any-other-number-of-ists - I  believe we all have the same basic basic needs, the same basic questions. We want to know we have value. We want to know we have a place. We want to know who we are.

The fact that those questions exist within my religion do not make it untrue or irredeemably oppressive. It simply means that our pews are full of people starred with flaws and a hope for understanding.

So I have a proposal. What if I believe what I believe and you believe what you believe and we all hold hands along the way and make it to that place we all hope we are going? Who knows, we each might learn something from each other along the way.

Dress code optional.