The Sexism Of Pence’s Virtue

Virtue seems to mean something different to different people. For Mike Pence, it involves a strict code of conduct, sharing no meals with any woman who is not his wife. Pence cites his evangelical Christian faith as the reason behind this decision, a considered virtue that carries over into many other religions. Pence’s stance on this matter was given in an interview back in 2002, then brought up again in an article on Karen Pence, recently published by The Washington Post. Since Pence now works beside President Donald Trump, a man known for his harmful actions when it comes to women, this assertion is attracting a lot of attention. Pence is also perpetuating sexism. Pence’s refusal to be alone with women other than his wife suggests that men and women are incapable of having platonic relationships. Heteronormativity aside, this ignites several problematic issues that continue to hinder male-female relationships on all avenues.

Photo by Gage Skidmore from Flickr

In order for women and men to work together effectively, they must meet face-to-face and (gasp) potentially one-on-one. Arguably, this might not be such a big problem for Pence since the Trump administration is the most white male-dominated one since Reagan. However, professionals are expected to act professionally. That sentence might seem redundant, but if someone is dedicated to their job, respects their position and their coworkers as humans, working with members of the opposite sex is not problematic. Sexualizing something simple, like a ride offer, as explained by evangelical university professor Karen Swallow Prior, is damaging and shameful to women as well. Men refusing to be alone with women on moral principle sexualizes the very existence of females and normalizes the ancient and biblical belief that women are temptresses. This “virtuous” stance also perpetuates the pervasive idea that boys cannot control themselves around women. If a man is committed to his significant other, women or alcohol do not re-calibrate his moral alignment.

On the other hand, women are accountable for this as well. Toxic relationships are often defined by lack of trust which fosters unhealthy demands. Women asking their significant others not to be around other women contributes to the problem. Similarly, if women avoid being alone with men, it is assumed that all men are not trustworthy. Avoiding certain situations because of potential negative outcomes discredits virtue, not the other way around.

Photo by Steve Dickerson from Flickr

Not only does this situation bring into question the virtue of our current political leaders, it prevents women from advancing in our government. I mentioned earlier that Pence’s vow not to be alone with women other than his wife is probably not a hurdle for this administration, but it’s important to discuss how Pence was able to advance so far in our country without breaking his own rules. Women are already a minority in government positions. Pence, and leaders like him, are hampering the advancement of women in government positions, making it that much harder. Throughout his career, Pence required any aides working late to be male in order to uphold his marital promise. This direct violation of anti-discrimination laws prevents women from holding important roles and furthers the gender divide.

 

By: Sabrina Canepa