Pence: When does Christian virtue become sexism?
It turns out President Trump and his straitlaced VP Mike Pence have something in common, said Jia Tolentino in NewYorker.com: They share “a stated inability to resist women.” Trump, of course, is on videotape attesting to his lack of self-control in the presence of beautiful women. Thanks to a profile last week in The Washington Post, however, we’ve learned that Pence, too, is evidently helpless in the face of female temptation. A devout Christian, the vice president refuses to eat alone with a woman not his wife, or work late with a female aide, or attend any party where alcohol is being served unless Karen Pence, his spouse of 31 years, is at his side. The Pences are entitled to run their marriage as they see fit, said Heather Schwedel in Slate.com. But their embrace of “the Billy Graham rule”—named for the evangelical leader who came up with it—does “point toward a pretty radically retrograde mindset” about women in the workplace. Pence, who calls his wife “Mommy,’’ seems to see women “primarily as sexual temptations,” rather than as peers whose ideas might be worth discussing over a sandwich, or even—heaven forbid—a glass of wine.
“Good for Mike Pence,” said Charles Cooke in NationalReview.com. Despite a loud, collective “Yuck” from the liberal media, Pence’s personal code makes sense in a town where marriages and careers are routinely destroyed by the explosive mixture of alcohol, long hours of close collegiality, and lust. Far from being a sexist oddball, Pence clearly just thinks that in Karen “he has a great thing going,” and he’d rather err on the side of caution to minimize the risk of messing it up. In case you hadn’t noticed, “men and women are sexually attracted to each other,” said Mollie Hemingway in TheFederalist.com, “and alcohol lowers inhibitions.” Infidelity is easily stumbled into, which is why cheating—and divorce—are so rampant. The Pences’ model may not be for everyone, but every married couple that wants to stay that way should “develop their own guidelines to protect their marriages.”
Men can take whatever steps they need to defend their marriages, said Jill Filipovic in Cosmopolitan.com, but “it crosses a line when those steps handicap the women you work with.” Pence’s view of women as sirens and his fear of his own sinful nature put the women who work beneath and around him at a huge, albeit very familiar, disadvantage. Like “women across America,” his female staffers are excluded from the bonding and mentoring that occur when the boss grabs a beer or dinner or golf game with the boys or an individual male protégé. This is one big reason why “it’s still men who run the show” in our society. Pence’s “‘No Girls Allowed’ dining rule” would ensure it’s kept that way.
This liberal outrage rings hollow, said Jonah Goldberg in NationalReview.com. If Pence were Muslim and followed the same rule, “as devout Muslims indeed might,” would liberals be so open in expressing their scorn? What if he were an Orthodox Jew? I suspect the negative reaction to the Pences is less about feminism than about anti-Christian bigotry, and liberals’ “self-loathing of America’s traditional culture.” Nevertheless, said Olga Khazan in TheAtlantic.com, treating people in workplaces differently based on their gender inevitably hurts women’s careers. Besides, Pence should be aware that in 2017, forgoing cocktails with opposite- sex co-workers is no longer a guarantee of fidelity. In the age of sext ing, you can always just “hit her up on Snapchat.”