A wave of sexual misconduct accusations against powerful men in Hollywood, Washington and beyond has gotten a lot of people thinking about how to stop misbehavior in the workplace.
Those thinkers apparently include Fox News contributor Rachel Campos-Duffy, who seized an opportunity Tuesday to suggest that Vice President Mike Pence might have already solved the problem by adhering to his strict rules for meeting with members of the opposite sex.
Such rules keep women safe, Campos-Duffy said.
Pence’s customs gained attention after The Washington Post published a profile of his wife, Karen, back in March. The vice president reportedly “never eats alone with a woman other than his wife” and “won’t attend events featuring alcohol without her by his side.”
In a panel discussion on the harassment accusations against Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) led by “America’s Newsroom” co-host Bill Hemmer, Campos-Duffy declared Pence “a man ahead of his time,” Media Matters reported. Campos-Duffy has appeared on ABC’s “The View” and MTV’s “The Real World: San Francisco.”
“There are two people in the White House. One of them, the left is quick to point out, has had allegations pointed to them,” she began, referencing sexual abuse accusations against President Donald Trump.
“But there is another person, which is Vice President Pence, who has very strict rules and decorum around the way he interacts with women in a professional setting. And when that came to light earlier in the year, he was excoriated ― mostly by the left ― for these rules.”
Pence’s rules come from evangelical pastor Billy Graham’s 1948 “Modesto Manifesto,” which suggests a man could maintain his moral integrity by refusing to eat, travel or meet alone with any woman other than his wife. It’s a custom that’s not unheard of on Capitol Hill.
Campos-Duffy continued: “There was a feminist in The Atlantic, for example, saying these rules and these decorums about how to interact with women in the office were interfering with women’s progress, that they were actually interfering with their advancement, and that they were antiquated and Victorian.”
“I actually think some of those women ought to rethink, maybe apologize, or maybe even thank Vice President Pence, because I think that he’s a man ahead of his time,” she said. “I don’t think this is antiquated. I think we need to rethink the way men and women interact in the office to make sure things remain as professional and as safe as possible for women.”
A March 30 piece in The Atlantic titled “How Pence’s Dudely Dinners Hurt Women” cited research that suggested limiting contact between genders “can hold women back from key advancement opportunities” in politics and business. That’s because women often require male mentors to advance in the workplace, since men hold the majority of top management positions, writer Olga Khazan explained.
A number of others have noted problems with Pence’s rules, too. Aside from grossly underestimating men, the philosophy hints that interactions between men and women always have sexual undertones. As HuffPost’s Emma Gray observed, “the underpinnings of this belief system are what allow men to view women as ‘other’ rather than equal.”
Gray went on:
The ability to refuse to be alone with someone who is not the same gender as you and still climb the professional ladder is a privilege that is simply not afforded to women. Imagine if Elizabeth Warren or Kamala Harris or Nancy Pelosi refused to attend political functions where alcohol was served without their husbands in tow to supervise them. Imagine if they never took one-on-one meetings with potential campaign managers or fellow lawmakers who happened to be men. These women’s careers would have been over before they started.
Concrete steps to eliminate workplace sexual misconduct are still being debated as signs that the most effective mechanism for preventing misbehavior point toward a broad cultural shift.
Pence’s rules are clearly not a solution. And as Vox points out, putting limits on how workers of different genders interact may even be illegal.