Vice President Mike Pence speaking in Mesa, Arizona. Photo by Gage Skidmore.
Mike Pence, Vice President of the United States, is notorious for his views and comments on social issues like LGBTQ+ rights, abortion, education, and more. Having said this, it’s not surprising that yet another remark has been widely publicized within the past week. Recently, The Washington Post wrote a story on Pence’s wife, Karen Pence, entailing details about the beginning of her political career in the White House, and her relationship with him. In the profile, The Washington Post brings back a quote from 2002 where Mike Pence says that “he will never eat alone with a woman other than his wife and that he won’t attend events featuring alcohol without her by his side, either.” Even President Donald J. Trump has commended Mike Pence on his relationship with Karen Pence, once saying at a White House press conference: “He has one hell of a good marriage going.”
Since the Washington Post article, Pence has been under fire, especially by democrats. His comments, however, were not necessarily criticized because he’s “traditional,” or “old-fashion.” Mike Pence’s refusal to eat dinner with a woman alone, or to consume alcohol without his wife, is an act of sexism.p
Dinner -especially in hustling Washington D.C. -isn’t necessarily a candle-lit spectacular, adorned with glasses of red wine and classical music in the background. Dinner can be as simple as ordering in while at a meeting, or stopping for a quick bite. Either way, by Pence saying that he would never be alone with a woman if she isn’t his wife, he is restricting female politicians, journalists, public relations employees, and more workers from doing their jobs. By not permitting a woman to have a quick dinner in the office with him to discuss private matters, Pence is degrading women from authority positions, and that is unacceptable.
Not only does Pence limit women’s roles in government, but he also implies one thing: men cannot control themselves around women. What does Pence believe is going to happen when he shuts his office door to talk to a woman? If anything, Pence continues to carry the stigma that women cannot be friends with men without a sexual relationship. He carries the stereotypes surrounding women being nothing but sexual or desirable objects. While he does not say this directly, cultural stigmas,especially in American society, degrade women in situations such as Pence’s.
As someone who has such a high position in government, Pence is using his authority to further exclude women from the political arena. Pence’s comments are some that will definitely cause problems when he will need to discuss topics such as women’s healthcare and equality. Pence better prepare for the next four years, as he’s going to need his wife by his side more than ever.