I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. More commonly known as LDS or Mormon. My religion means everything to me. I sometimes wonder how I would make it a day without the precious knowledge I have of who I am, where I came from, and where I'm going.
On December 16th, just last Sunday, some LDS women chose to wear pants to church. The event was created by All Enlist, a group dedicated to gender equality within the LDS church.
If you were to ask those who are close to me if I, Kelsey Keller Weller, am a feminist, I think many who know me would say yes. I am not a "man hater" by any means. I'm married to a man who I love very much. However, I believe that women are just as capable as men at many things.
I've been a feminist ever since I was a little girl. In grade school, I was big into Nancy Drew mystery books. Every time I had my nose in one, some adult would mention to me, "Oh, you like Nancy Drew? You should read the Hardy Boys then. You would love them." Then, nine year old me would try my hardest not to rudely glare at said adult. I was a Nancy Drew girl through and through. I would never betray her for the Hardy Boys.
I was also ready to challenge any boy who ever picked on me to a foot race. I could outrun every boy in my class, so they usually respected me. When I approached their game of football, they would let me join even though I was a girl. Eventually though, we all hit puberty. Then the boys in my class became men and some of them grew to be faster than me.
With puberty came high school, and with high school came dating. I rarely let my dates open the car door for me. I never would be kissed on the first date. I constantly thought strategically when it came to the dating game. I hated the word "boyfriend". As boys I dated turned 19 and left on LDS missions, they would ask endearingly, "write to me?" And I always gave a half-hearted, "sure". I was such a brat. Let's be real though, you know they all asked about twenty other girls to write them as well :).
Now I am married. It can be quite a juggling act to add another person's desires and dreams to your own. It can get messy. But it can also be very rewarding. And fun! Even though we haven't been married that long, I feel like Brian and I haven't fallen into the gender roles of husband and wife. We both work hard outside of the home. While at home, we work hard too. We often do dishes together, take turns making dinner, and I'll be honest and say that I think Brian does more laundry than me. We are a team. I really truly feel that I am Brian's equal. At the same time though, I also value my womanhood. I like being a lady. I like the feeling of curling my hair, twirling around in a dress, and putting on my favorite shade of lipstick. I like the feeling of looking hot for my husband. And I don't think there is anything degrading about that at all. It's actually quite empowering. The older I get, the more I realize how empowering womanhood is, and I feel that I gather that understanding through the gospel and from an all-knowing Heavenly Father.
So on Sunday morning, I put on a glittery dress that made me feel like a lady. I don't need pants to prove how bold, or capable, or strong I am. My dress was purple though. Purple is historically associated with the suffrage movement. I didn't do this on purpose. What it really comes down to is that I try to dress nicely on Sundays to show respect to my Savior. And if I have a nice pair of dress pants, fine. I can wear those to worship in. But I wouldn't want to wear them to church just to make a statement. The three hours I spend at church on Sundays are hours I come to focus on worship and focus on my relationship with God. For those three hours, I can stand to set aside my opinions and wants.
I asked a family member if anyone wore pants to their ward on Sunday. She replied, "Yes, one lady did. . .but she always wears pants. It's all she has." In my religion, we are merely encouraged to dress our best for our Sunday services. Best can be a dress, skirt, or pants.
I do feel bad for women who are members of my faith who have experienced inequality. It does happen. However, I don't think the problem stems from the church. I think it starts in the home. I was blessed enough to grow in a home where my parents viewed one another as equals. My mom was a stay-at-home mom, but only because she chose to be. My dad cooked dinner when he was not at work. They both had a say in finances and where money would be spent. Also, my parents never ever made me feel like I had to do "girl" things and could not do "boy" things. When I was eight and told my mom I wanted to quit gymnastics to play basketball, she was fine with that. When I continued playing basketball into high school, guess who loved coming to my games and always gave me pointers at half-time? That would be my dad. I think he loved that his daughter was into sports. Heck, I even played in the alumni basketball tournament a couple years ago. I think I was the first girl to ever do so. It's always just been men, but the boys my age were short on players, jokingly asked me if I would play so they wouldn't have to forfeit, and I seriously answered yes. Before the first game of the tournament, I remember feeling stupid and almost not playing. Guess who told me I better not let all those men make me chicken out? My mom.
My siblings and I don't fit any kind of gender mold either. Some argue that women of the LDS faith are too encouraged to be submissive, kind, and mild. Well, out of my siblings my one and only brother is definitely the most submissive, kind, and mild one out of all us crazy sisters. My two sisters and I, we are the aggressive, bossy, risk-taking ones (considered to be more male traits). My parents are fine with that. They have always encouraged us to be ourselves. To be different.
I am not saying the way I was raised was the ideal way, I just feel like the way my parents allowed me to shape myself was a very healthy thing. A healthy thing for myself, and for my relationship with my parents. I feel no resentment toward them, only love and respect.
I do know of many families within my faith who were not raised this way. I have seen parents enforce rigid gender roles, and it can be scarring in the long run. Do I think these parents learned these gender roles at church? No. I think it's more likely they learned them from their own parents.
I recently was on the bus with a girl I knew. She was asking me about my classes. When I asked her how her classes were going, she quickly replied she wasn't going to school anymore. She had dropped out to work after she married her husband. That's very noble of her. I just hope it's really what she wanted. She then said something like, "I don't need to go to school anyway. I need to work to put my husband through school. Then he can work and I need to stay home."
The thing that scared me is the way she said this. It's almost like she'd heard it said to her and it was something she felt she needed to believe.
I am grateful for a husband who puts up with my stubbornness. I am grateful we can both finish school together. And I am grateful for a husband who will support my dreams as well as his own. I know he will support me whether I start a career or choose to be a stay-at-home mom. I believe there is nothing wrong with either. We are a team now and I hope we remain a team as children one day come into the picture. If anyone is still reading this very long post, congrats, you must have a lot of endurance. And if any of you ladies out there who may be LDS are experiencing gender inequality, I pray that you can find peace and know how very special you are. Now I'll end this with a quote I sort of love. . .