It’s common knowledge at this point that Vice President Mike Pence refuses to eat (or otherwise meet alone) with any woman who is not his wife in accordance with what evangelicals call “The Billy Graham Rule.” The goal is to avoid temptation — or even the appearance of scandal.
It’s one thing for a Christian man to live by that rule in his personal life, but when the Vice President abides by it, he’s essentially making it more difficult for women to be in positions of power. If they can’t even speak to Pence in private, it’s much harder for them to have any say in what the administration does.
That’s just one valid criticism of the rule. Forget power. What about the implication that women are nothing more than sexual objects? Why can’t these men just have some self-control?
Pence isn’t alone. You won’t be surprised to learn that religion has an effect on this mindset.
The New York Times just published the results of a poll conducted by Morning Consult about this very issue. And while more than half of women (53%) say it’s inappropriate to have dinner with a man who is not her spouse, and a quarter (25%) say they wouldn’t have a work meeting alone with a man, the numbers are very different when split by religious beliefs.
The women who said religion wasn’t important in their lives were more likely to say it’s okay to have dinner or a work meeting with another man. And the older they were, the wider that difference became.
Non-religious men (68%) were also more likely than religious men (57%) to say it was fine to have work meetings with another woman.
To be sure, even those numbers are too low. There shouldn’t be any concern about having a work meeting with a colleague of the opposite gender or dinner with a friend of the opposite gender. I understand taking precautions (and I understand why women especially might have concerns), but I would hope few people are avoiding these meetings entirely. It is really so hard to just tell your spouse, “I’m seeing this person” for dinner or work? That sort of honesty, you’d think, would prevent whatever worst-case scenario people have in mind. It’s much better, in any case, than writing off half the population because you can’t trust yourself — or the other person — to keep it in their pants.
I’ve worked with women. I’ve worked for women. I’ve had business meetings and dinners with women. Whenever they were professional meetings or friendly get-togethers, Mike Pence’s concerns were never my concerns. If I played by his rules, I would miss out on a lot of opportunities. Cutting myself off from women isn’t a reasonable option. But that’s also possible when you respect the context of the meetings.
Pence and those who think like him assume that sex pervades everything and there’s no way around it. What an awful way to think, much less run a country.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Kelsey for the link)