Gender issues pervade the political airwaves, from transgender bathrooms to whether Donald Trump really sexually assaulted women. The newest kerfuffle is that Vice President Mike Pence is practicing a kind of “soft misogyny” by refusing to dine with other women unless his wife is present.
Liberal pundits, commentators and bloggers took to their preferred media outlets to decry yet another example of the male-dominating patriarchy after the Washington Post published an article profiling the relationship between Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen. Tucked away in the lengthy article is a once-sentence paragraph that reads: “In 2002, Mike Pence told the Hill that he never eats alone with a woman other than his wife and that he won’t attend events featuring alcohol without her by his side either.” The general consensus from the left is that this view treats women as inherent temptresses, holds men to be inherently untrustworthy and excludes women from networking and mentoring opportunities that are so often vital to their advancement. One writer went so far as to liken this treatment to shaming and “victim-blaming”. Let us examine:
Preference is not Policy:
First, recognize that a personal preference is not the same thing as an office policy. The writers at the ACLU insist that Pence’s decision is akin to mandated policies. They devote half of their article to examples of mandatory school uniforms and the injustice of forcing girls to wear skirts. They then state that Pence’s decision is just as bad because it prevents women (with the implication of all women) from getting mentoring and networking opportunities. But the glaring difference that makes their example so inappropriate is that Pence has never set his personal standards as a policy for anyone else. Other staff members are free to associate, mentor and network however they like.
It is also important to note that the preference actually does not prevent women from getting mentoring and networking opportunities. Women coming into contact with Pence would still be able to eat with him, his wife would simply be present. Most of the eating opportunities would be at large functions anyway, so this policy would change nothing in those settings. Neither would it prevent networking with women, since most networking events are social gatherings where men and women co-mingle, and Pence’s wife would be just as appropriately placed there as anywhere else. His preference changes nothing, and harms no one.
Chivalry is not Misogyny:
The dictionary defines misogyny as “dislike, contempt, or prejudice against women.” Chivalry is defined as “the combination of qualities expected of an ideal knight, especially courage, honor, courtesy, justice, and a readiness to help the weak.” The ACLU and the Guardian both accuse Pence of practicing “soft misogyny” because his views portray women as temptresses, or alternately as being weak and in need of protection. In fairness, both can be true, but Pence’s view actually
hinges upon neither. How the
liberal commentators can intuit his motivations from a single-sentence description is unknown. But the only evidence from the article is that he chooses to do so because of his wife, relatively unrelated to any other influence. This would fall under the “honor” and “courtesy” categories of chivalry,
and has no resemblance to the “dislike” and
“contempt” qualities of misogyny. If the liberals cannot tell the difference between courtesy and contempt, they should get out of the commentating business.
Prudence is not Prudishness:
Pence’s personal policy prevents even the possibility of perceived impropriety. Whatever the liberal commentators may say about how it discriminates (see above for why it doesn’t), even they would have to admit the probability of a sexual scandal from Pence is very low with these precautions. The liberals seem to have a selective memory when it comes to scandals; Bill Clinton had no witnesses to corroborate what did or didn’t happen between him and Ms Lewinsky, which did nothing to dispel the accusations against him. Clarence Thomas was accused of sexual harassment, the charges conveniently appearing as he was being nominated for the Supreme Court, and Trump’s statements from years before his Presidential run appeared at just the right time to give his opponent an opportunity to exploit them. Pence’s decision would prevent any of this from happening to him. In an era of Trumps and Antony Weiners, we should celebrate that one man at least has put himself well beyond such reproach.