There are few things that Vice President Mike Pence holds dear that I share, but then, so what? He’s allowed to have different values than I do. Or you do. Or anybody does. And that’s particularly true when it comes to how he conducts his personal affairs, no matter how weird they are to you. Why? Because you are no more entitled to dictate his beliefs than he is yours.
I know, how is that even possible? After all, your values are right and his are not only wrong, but bizarre and outrageous. Is he a perv or just sexist?
No one will be surprised to learn that Vice President Pence is not a loose, casual, fun-lovin’ guy. But many people were surprised to read this little tidbit in Ashley Parker’s recent Post profile of Pence’s wife, Karen:
“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.”
It’s easy to make jokes about, and it’s also easy to argue that this is nobody’s business but the Pences’. But there’s a deeply troubling worldview at work here, one that has profound implications for policy — and we’re already seeing it play out at both the state and federal levels.
A “worldview at work” with “profound implications for policy”? Sounds serious.
He obviously thinks that every interaction he has with a woman is so sexually charged that it’s safe to be around them only if there are other people there, too.
“Obviously”? If it was so obvious, why bother to inform everyone of it. “So” sexually charged? Is that what’s “obvious”? Oh wait, that’s how it looks when you have an agenda to push, a soapbox from which to push it and shit for brains.
I’m sure Pence would say that he’s just being careful. But I wonder if he realizes the discriminatory consequences of his rule.
Are you really sure? Because you know him *so* well, that you can see within his soul to his deepest beliefs?
With the men, he can have complex relationships that traverse work and social contexts, build trust, and eventually help their careers. A woman who hoped Pence would be a mentor to her, on the other hand, wouldn’t be able to avail herself of those opportunities, since he can’t even have lunch with her.
If a woman “hoped” the Vice President of the United States would be her mentor, is she entitled to it? But I digress.
Pence is old school. The “Billy Graham Rule” was one of propriety, of how men interacted with women. I don’t subscribe to it. I think it’s pretty asinine, but that’s me. And here’s the difference: it’s okay that Mike Pence has different values than I do. It’s even okay that he holds old school values. Even old school values informed by his religious beliefs.
But it’s not acceptable to others.
At its core, Pence’s self-imposed ban is rape culture.
Nor is that a label I assign lightly. “Rape culture” is a phrase so overused it’s become almost meaningless, like calling someone a Nazi on the internet. But it has a very clear meaning: the notion, whether conscious or unconscious, that men can’t control themselves around women because “boys will be boys.”
So it’s “rape culture”? No, it’s the intolerance of the self-righteous, who can’t seem to grasp that anyone who doesn’t hold their values might not be intrinsically awful. What’s striking about these beatings inflicted on Pence is that they not only demonstrate ignorance about norms of behavior they don’t share, but that they impute purpose into them as if it reflected Pence’s beliefs, when all it suggests is that those doing the imputing are intolerant narcissists.
The inability to grasp the distinction between objective reason and subjective values has made thoughtful discourse impossible. If someone else doesn’t adhere to your orthodoxy, they’re wrong. Worse still, they’re evil as well as wrong.
You believe that your values are right and true or you wouldn’t believe in them (except for those of you who can’t withstand peer pressure and go with the flow of your fellow travelers so you won’t be shunned). There’s nothing wrong with holding your values dear. You’re allowed. But so are other people, even when those values aren’t yours.
Is Mike Pence’s value of avoiding unchaperoned women odd? By my way of thinking, you bet. But then, it’s also protective of things beyond sexual temptation, the go-to assumption of the rape culture crowd. It protects him from false allegations of impropriety. It protects him from any concern that he might be perceived as straying from his value of his marriage. And from the very old-school, deeply prudish perspective, it’s simply the proper way for a gentleman to be around ladies.
But this doesn’t comport at all with the current notions of gender equity. And indeed, it doesn’t. So what? Just because you believe that men and women should behave in certain ways doesn’t mean everyone else must believe as you do, guide themselves accordingly and live out your gender narrative.
Tolerance. It’s a nice word. You use it all the time. You have no clue what it means. You are intolerant. You are the person you hate.
If you don’t care for Mike Pence’s personal values, then don’t vote for him. I know you didn’t, but enough people did to elect him as vice president. And if enough people don’t find his value as repugnant as you, perhaps the problem is with your values rather than his. Or perhaps it’s time to get over your self-righteousness and accept the premise that everyone who doesn’t share your values isn’t evil. Maybe you’re the one who’s wrong. And even if you are, you’re still entitled to your values. Tolerance.