Over the past several months, we have seen countless victims of sexual harassment and assault step forward, bravely tell the stories of their abuse, and finally expose their violators’ true characters.
However, these victims’ time of healing has been rudely disrupted, as many news outlets have come forth and begun praising Vice President Pence for the ways in which he conducts himself to avoid sexual misconduct. This, as we have learned over the past 11 months, is known as the “Pence Rule.”
In light of these developments, Elissa Levan has reflected on not only the general implications of this practice, but on the ways in which it harms women’s professional development as well. Please continue reading to learn more.
I cannot seriously believe that expressing our outrage at the frequency at which we are harassed, embarrassed, or belittled because of gender is now being used as an excuse to exclude us from normal business interactions. This has been caused by the so-called “Pence Rule,” a practice that Vice President Pence crafted and follows religiously, which entails never being alone with another woman who is not his wife — even if their meeting solely pertains to business or other pertinent issues that are impacting the United States.
These experiences are critical to women’s business advancement, and the implementation of such a rule means that men will continue to hold meetings, debrief information, and mentor amongst themselves. Such a shift could give certain men the opportunity to exclude women from business dealings entirely.
We are not changing the rules as a society so that business is conducted differently by everyone. Mike Pence did not say, “I never have lunch or a drink alone with anyone because it might seem to be inappropriate in some circumstances.” (Hah!) Instead, he directly marginalized women, making it seem as though we are all temptresses with no career aspirations, no desire to succeed or advance — like we are only concerned with seducing married men.
There is a bonus, too: If this is the universal rule, whenever you do see a woman alone in a restaurant with a man, you can safely assume they are having an affair.
It is so outrageously, ridiculously unfair. It is almost as though men are throwing their hands up and saying, “We cannot frigging figure out how to conduct ourselves like human beings, so we are just going to revert to an older form of the game.”
Is this middle school or actual life? It makes me just want to give up and lie down on my closet floor and never come out.
I am so angry and sad I can hardly speak.