Jessica Valenti, Guardian - This week a Washington Post article about Karen Pence revealed that the vice-president will not eat a meal with a woman other than his wife. Those on the right are commending Pence’s marital devotion and moral fortitude, claiming that such a rule is a smart defense against sexual temptation.
One conservative blogger questioned where there was ever a good reason for a married person to eat out alone with a member of the opposite sex; the former CEO of the blog RedState chimed in to answer: “Planning your spouse’s surprise party or funeral and that is it.”
Why overwhelming sexual desire is only a danger over a plate of pasta, I’m not sure, but perhaps this explains the noticeable lack of women in White House photos – they’re all out to lunch!
While Republicans swoon over Pence’s supposed old-school propriety, the rest of us were simply reminded that you don’t need to brag about “grabbing pussies” to be a misogynist.
Never mind what it means for the (very few) women who work in the White House, who apparently can’t count on business dinners or mentorship over a meal. The underlying message of a rule like Pence’s is the same one that’s taught to teens in abstinence-only education classes: men can’t control themselves when alone with women.
It’s an insulting view of men, a limiting role for women – we’re there to either entice or domesticate – and an archaic take on gender roles more generally.
As the Black List founder Franklin Leonard noted, if Keith Ellison – who is Muslim – “refused to dine one on one with women and used his religion to justify it, the political right would lose their minds”.