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Friday, April 04, 2014

A Note from the General Women's Meeting

**Edited with added updates below**

I’m not sure why I feel the need to share this, but I do feel it, so I’m guessing maybe someone needs to read it:

Last Saturday I took my three oldest daughters to Salt Lake to attend the first General Women’s Meeting. It was a good experience, and I’m glad we went. There’s a lot I could say about it, but what I feel inclined to say just focuses on one aspect. I’ll attempt to be brief.

Something happened repeatedly that afternoon and evening. It happened only to me and not my daughters (thank goodness), but it happened. As we rode the train, as we walked the sidewalks of the city, I saw it—watched it happen, over and over again. It was subtle, but I can’t pretend it wasn’t real. And the more I think about it the more I’m surprised…not only that it happened, but surprised that I found myself surprised that it was happening.

Women, one by one, looked at me, did a double-take, and looked me up and down. After that, with pursed lips, they’d do one of two things: either make an effort to make eye contact with me and deliver a scowl, or whisper to their friend(s) who would, in turn, do the exact same thing.

It did not happen with men (except for when a man was the recipient of the whispering I mentioned). One woman, after making eye contact with me, rolled her eyes (this was the hostess of the restaurant at which my daughters and I dined). Another woman was staring at me with such intensity that I initially mistook her stare for that thing where you’re just kind of zoning out and don’t see what’s in front of you, but after several seconds she blinked and I felt her intention.

I presume that the objective was to make me feel uncomfortable and/or out of place. I didn’t feel either of those things.

The one place/group of people with whom it (consistently) didn’t happen was at the Conference Center, with those who were on-site hosts. From those women and men I felt nothing but sincerity when they said to my daughters and me, “Welcome to Conference.”

I don’t think my girls noticed, but I haven’t asked them. It might be an interesting conversation to have.

What’s my point of writing this? I’m not sure. Like I said, maybe someone needs to read this. Maybe it’s someone who can be comforted that they’re not alone. Or maybe it’s someone who might think twice before being so inconsiderate in their reaction to what another person is wearing to a church meeting. 

When I wrote this last night, it was in a bit of a rush, and, like I said, I didn't know why I should share it other than the feeling that it might have been for someone else's benefit. It hadn't been my intention to share it immediately after it happened (which is why I didn't, duh), mainly because of potential misunderstanding that this is Just Another Pants Post: it is, and it isn't.

I shared it on facebook, where some friends added their thoughts (and even more, I suspect, didn't). While the discussion continues there, I do want to add more thoughts here (maybe mainly so that I can come back to my blog post later if I want to, which is often easier than trying to find an old facebook post). I'll begin with a comment I made on fb:

'So, yes: I was wearing pants. And maybe it was because I was Making A Statement, and maybe it wasn't. It doesn't matter. What matters is that we BE NICER to each other For The Love. More kindness, por favor. If you are inclined to scowl at someone for what they are wearing (and the presumptions which accompany) please reconsider that sort of thing.'

Also, in response to another friend who commented: So you went dressed knowing you could get a response from some people, and you did, so now what?, I said the following: 'I don't really know what you mean by asking, 'now what?'. Maybe I wasn't clear in the point that I was not, in fact, dressed in an effort to get a reaction. I have my reasons for why I dressed the way I did, but getting a reaction is not one of them; taking a political stance isn't even one of them, unless you consider teaching my daughters by example that it really is okay to wear pants to a church meeting despite what people around them might (and do) say to be a political stance. Neither my dressing a certain way, nor my writing about it, are a part of any sort of agenda or plan with an outlined next step. When I feel inclined to share my thoughts on certain larger, pressing issues I will, and likely on my blog. But for now, my aim is to share my thoughts about how we all really should incorporate more kindness into our lives, perhaps especially with those with whom we disagree (and, of course, not make assumptions - but instead ask questions - about what one does or does not think based on what they are wearing, when they are wearing it, and where they are wearing it.).'


Unknown said...

Jenny, I have tried and tried to warn you that, no matter how modest, a bikini is going to stand out in the conference center. It just is. Also, your 'prove you're not a robot' thing has more numbers in it than pi. Also, I don't remember any scriptures that read, "Jesus rolled his eyes." Also, I love you, no matter what you wore to women's conference.

Stepper the Mighty said...

I'm in awe and admiration that you scored tickets! But I admit - I don't understand...were you wearing something strange? Or smelly? A loud headdress, perhaps? The ugly Christmas Sweater with the blinking lights? 'cause I sorta hafta stare at those, too.

Anyway, I do think it's odd that the overarching message of the conference seemed to be finding our commonality, and you were made to feel separate.

liz said...


liz said...

Please tell me you were wearing a chicken suit!

Paul said...

So what exactly were you wearing? I'm so curious. Ok, I might have some idea...

I'm with DeNae, it's probably not a good idea to wear a bikini to a church conference.

Blog on

Naomi said...

Were you wearing trousers by any chance? I am so frustrated with some Mormons being obsessed with cultural nuances and self imposed rules that they think all other Mormons should follow. Many have forgotten that all the gospel boils down to is loving each other. Judging someone for ther clothes rather than enjoying seeing a family go to be spiritually uplifted together is a sad, sad example of missing the point. It seems we talk often about acceptance and loving each other, but the reality is far from that at times, and the judging of others is unbelievable.

Unknown said...

I'm glad to say I failed to notice lol! I saw your lovely instagram photos and I didn't even notice the pants. I just saw how great you and your girls looked, your lovely heels, and how much fun you must have had together! I'll admit I hoped to be there with my girls someday experiencing such an evening. I hope the good far outweighed the judgement; I'm sure it did. Great insight into unnecessary alienation.

Unknown said...

I must admit I failed to even notice your pants lol. I saw your lovely instagram photos, how nice you and your girls looked, your lovely heels, and I hoped to someday create such memories and evenings with my girls. You truly looked lovely and I hope the good far outweighed the judgement; I'm sure it did. Thank you for thoughtful insight into unnecessary alienation of others.