According to reports, Vice President Mike Pence recoils in horror from one-on-one interaction with any woman other than his wife.
A Washington Post story on Pence’s wife Karen revealed that the relationship between the Vice President and the Second Lady is close. Really, really close. Unusually close. Somewhat unnervingly close.
For instance, Mike Pence will not attend events where alcohol is served unless his wife is with him. That’s a little old-fashioned, but not bad. Maybe Mike needs a designated driver or something.
But it gets a little extreme. Pence reportedly cannot eat or spend any time alone with any woman besides Karen. Ever. That means no business discussion over lunch. That means no policy consultation over a dinner of well-done Trump Steaks with Kellyanne Conway. That means no Starbucks run with a female colleague.
We already thought Mike and Karen Pence’s marriage was a little odd (he calls her “mother,” after all), but this is a bit much. Monogamy is one thing, but forbidding your spouse from grabbing a snack with a friend? Are they afraid that stopping at In-and-Out Burger will lead to, uh, “in-and-out?”
Well, yes, apparently. Gender segregation is a common practice among Evangelical Christians. They’re afraid that chomping a corn dog at a county fair with a buddy presents too much temptation for infidelity. Preacher Billy Graham’s “Modesto Manifesto” forbids men and women from being alone together, even in platonic settings, in order to avoid allegations of “impropriety.”
The rule is based on the assumption that men and women can’t eat burritos together without wanting to bone. We’re guessing that the Pences don’t have many gay friends, but even so it’s ridiculous to think that splitting an order of chicken wings with a straight person of the opposite sex will automatically lead you down a path of sin. Don’t they have any self-control? Are they that insecure? Don’t they trust each other?
What’s wrong with it?
Religious people have a right to live how they choose, but Pence’s puritanism could cause some real problems. This is the 21st century; women can leave the kitchen now. There are women working in all levels of government, and Pence’s paternalistic sense of propriety means he is unable to meet with them without an escort. He can’t have a one-on-one with Angela Merkel, even though she’s probably not in any danger of becoming overwhelmed by an uncontrollable lust for Mike Pence.
Plus, gender segregation makes it much harder for women to take part in public life. If the sexes must remain separate at all times, then a working woman can’t go on a business trip with a senior colleague or meet privately with a male client, which hurts her chances at advancing her career.
The worth of women
Conservatives have jumped in to defend Pence’s rule.
Quick, let's all pretend men and women who do business and drink alone are never sexually attracted to each other in order to bash Pence!
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) March 30, 2017
We’re terribly curious about the strange, lust-fueled world these people live in. They see sexual peril in every plate of nachos, marital catastrophe in every cocktail weenie. They also seem to think that all women, everywhere, find them irresistibly attractive. We’re guessing that’s not the case.
— Steven Crowder (@scrowder) March 30, 2017
Many of these same conservatives denounce Islam for its negative attitudes about sexuality and women. But here, they are defending the same beliefs and practices that lead Saudi Arabia to separate men and women in restaurants.
Yes I'm a straight, normal, married man so I don't go out making friends with women, nor do I have any desire to https://t.co/7DUHEAeXj2
— Matt Walsh (@MattWalshBlog) March 30, 2017
The quotation from conservative blogger Matt Walsh suggests an ugly view of women: he doesn’t have “any desire to” make friends with a woman.
To these men, women have nothing to offer but sex. They think women don’t have interesting personalities, or sharp insights, or funny jokes, or anything of value beyond base physical pleasure.
What it comes down to is this: these conservatives don’t really think women are people.
(Header image via Gage Skidmore)