Pence’s rule for his marriage perpetuates religious and political ideologies based on false, dehumanizing ideologies about women that, when espoused by those in power, have manifested disastrous outcomes for all of us. If Pence cannot eat alone with a woman, it must be because when he sees a woman across a table, she’s not an adviser, she’s not a teacher, she’s not a leader, she’s not a constituent — she is only a sexual entity.
…If it feels like we are going back in time, perhaps it’s because rules like Pence’s invite us back to 18th century political ideology — and one of the oldest tricks in the patriarchal playbook — of separate spheres. Separate spheres based on purported natural makeup and the will of God, that a man’s place is in the public sphere (politics, commerce, the economy and law) while a woman’s God-ordained role is in the private sphere (housekeeping, child-rearing and domestic duties). This ideology historically justified women’s legal status as dependents until marriage, and stripped women of their legal existence — economic and property rights — after marriage.
…If powerful men are free to meet alone with other men, and to exclude women from the most powerful rooms in the country — how will women ever occupy those rooms in their own right? If powerful men are only able to mentor young men, where does that leave young women? If, as data suggests, the most mutually beneficial negotiations take place over meals, then doesn’t denying a woman the opportunity to break bread equate to denying her the opportunity to close a deal — to be heard? Access is power; access denied is power denied.
What if male professors stopped meeting alone with female students? What if male doctors refused to meet with female patients? What if a Vice President announced he would never dine alone with a black person? If any of these hypothetical rules alarms you, so should Pence’s.