Gage Skidmore / Flickr mike pence...
Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Not surprisingly, Fox News is deifying Mike Pence, calling him “a man ahead of his time.”  If we are in the Stone Age, then yes, Pence would be a man ahead of his time, he’s Medieval. Here’s the gist of the right wing argument:

RACHEL CAMPOS-DUFFY: There are two people in the White House. One of them, the left is quick to point out, has had allegations pointed to them. But there is another person, which is Vice President [Mike] Pence, who has very strict rules and decorum around the way he interacts with women in a professional setting. And when that came to light earlier in the year, he was excoriated, mostly by the left, for these rules.

And there was a feminist in The Atlantic saying these rules and these decorums about how to interact with women in the office were interfering with women’s progress. That they were actually interfering with their advancement and that they antiquated and Victorian.

And I actually think some of those women ought to rethink, maybe apologize, or maybe even thank Vice President Pence. Because I think that he’s a man ahead of his time. I don’t think this is antiquated. I think we need to rethink the way men and women interact in the office to make sure things remain as professional and as safe as possible for women.

Right, keep it “safe” for women. There are entire cultures that insist upon hiding women in garments that conceal them from head to toe, and don’t allow them to go out into public unless with a husband or other male relative. Maybe we should try that in America?

The problem with these simplistic notions, and praising Mike Pence, is that the ball is missed by a country mile. New York Times:

But reasonable people know the difference between a business meeting over breakfast and drinks at a hotel bar at night. And what the Pence rule fails to grapple with is that the Weinstein story wasn’t, at its root, about attraction but abuse of power. The producer’s behavior wasn’t fundamentally about lust gone wild. It flowed from male consolidation of power in Hollywood, and the lack of opportunity and influence that women have there and in many other industries. Mr. Weinstein could prey on women because of his undue influence over actresses’ careers. He knew they would have little recourse if they spoke out. Those women wouldn’t have been helped by greater isolation from men. They needed a stronger voice in the industry and greater agency over their careers.

The Pence rule arises from a broken view of the sexes: Men are lustful beasts that must be contained, while women are objects of desire that must be hidden away. Offering the Pence rule as a solution to male predation is like saying, “I can’t meet with you one on one, otherwise I might eventually assault you.” If that’s the case, we have far deeper problems around men and power than any personal conduct rule can solve.

Most female Christian leaders I know find the Pence rule frustrating. (All the people I know who keep the rule are men.) Imagine a male boss keeps some variation of the rule but is happy to meet with a male peer over lunch or travel with him for business. The informal and strategic conversations they can have is the stuff of workplace advancement. Unless there are women in senior leadership positions — and in many Christian organizations, there are not — women will never benefit from the kind of advancement available to men.

The answer is not to ask women to leave the room. It’s to hold all men in the room accountable, and kick out those who long ago lost their right to be there.

There is a lack of women in senior leadership positions, period, not just in Christian organizations. The “Pence rule” is no answer, it’s just a throw back to the dark ages.

If Mother Pence is so paranoid that Mike can never be alone in a room with a woman because he might forget himself and do God only knows what, Mike Pence has a serious self-control problem and Mike and Mother need couples counseling. To praise Mike Pence for his “rule” especially at a time like this, is complete madness and totally misses the point.

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