Sunday, April 2, 2017

Not Really Chivalry

Herself speaks.

Let's talk politics for a little bit. Tangential politics, but politics.

::: shudder :::  OK, here we go.

It has been revealed that in 2002, the current Vice President, Mike Pence, indicated that will not eat a meal alone with a woman who is not his wife. Nor will he attend a social event at which alcohol will be served unless the accompanies him. (We shall, for our purposes here, assume his rule remains in place today.)

One of the reasons touted to explain his staunch prohibition is something along the lines of, "to avoid temptation/the appearance of impropriety" -- a chivalrous thing, a respect-for-marriage thing.

Eyeroll. Sigh. And gnashing of teeth.

Pence is cutting off the possibility of any woman earning his confidence in the workplace by refusing to participate in the nearly universal business activity of a "business lunch" or "business dinner". What? Apparently he cannot trust himself (or her? which is it, anyway?) to be alone together with a woman-not-his-wife. Why? Must everything have some kind of sexual undertones (or overt overtones) for him? How weak-willed and hyper-focused-on-sex are you, Mr. Pence, that you are unable to work one-on-one with a woman not your wife, or even to be present in a room full of people if alcohol is also present? Does your mental acuity and willpower dissolve in a drop of ethanol, or with a bite of carbohydrate?

In a male-dominated field such as politics, it is nearly impossible for any woman to advance without occasionally having a business meal with a man, or attending a function at which alcohol may be served and men may be present. Imagine if a woman had self-imposed rules like those of Mr. Pence. How far would she get in her career, do you think? I think we all know: not far at all.

How many women's careers have you stifled, Mr. Pence, by your behavior?

I find myself thinking, too, what if I were in Karen Pence's shoes? I'd be horrified at the thought that my husband was limiting his dining partners and his social-function-attendance in such a manner. What of co-workers, individuals who share his professional interests, of women who serve in the same organizations or on the same boards as he does? Surely a working meal is an effective and enjoyable way to conduct business? And if he had to attend a social function at which there would be alcohol, would that mean that I -- regardless of my desire to be there (or even, for example, if I had a cold and were under the weather) -- would also be required to attend?

Is this really a highly controlling relationship, disguised as some kind of "chivalry"?

A close marital relationship is certainly something to be admired; a codependent relationship, however, is less admirable. Marriage creates a union; it does not, however, erase individuality. Every marriage is enriched when the spouses periodically enjoy activities without one another, including having meals with peers, and spending time with others, including -- gasp! -- others of the opposite sex, with whom they have mutual interests.

It is possible for two heterosexual individuals of the opposite sex to spend time together, even alone together, without being overwhelmed by carnal desires. It boils down to trust. I trust the individuals with whom I spend time alone, and they trust me. Seems quite simple, actually.

Are you not trustworthy, Mr. Pence?

Come join us in the 21st century, Mr. Pence. You will meet many delightful people, some of whom will be women-not-your-wife, but that is OK. Your life will be enriched. And perhaps politics will become ever-so-slightly-less of an Old Boys' Club.

I dream.

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