Recently, Mike Pence got mocked and accused of being sexist for his policy on being alone with women. Some even referred to it as “revolting” at the time:
Maybe if you spoke to a woman who wasn't defined by her husband, your gender views could enter the 21st century.
— Jason VoorheesBailey (@jasondashbailey) March 30, 2017
The revolting thing about Pence's no-meals-with-women rule isn't prudishness. It's that he's limiting key professional opportunities to men.
— Ian Millhiser (@imillhiser) March 30, 2017
This is actually pretty common practice for many ministries, including my church, and my Dad actually wrote a book about it years ago, called “Hedges: Loving Your Marriage Enough To Protect It.” Even before I worked at my church, my own personal practice was to never do public meals, car rides, or private closed door/window meetings one on one with a female.
It sounds onerous, but it really isn’t a big deal. Basically, I don’t meet alone with women in a situation where: one, no one can see us through a door or window, or two, we are in a public setting that could easily look like a date. And I also don’t lodge alone when traveling. This policy protects the woman and me from temptation, it protects me from false accusations, it protects outsiders from having suspicions, and it protects my wife from having questions or looking like she’s not the only woman with private access to me.
You can call it over-corrective or silly if you want, but the Harvey Weinstein/Bill O’Reilly/Bill Cosby stories have made this standard seem even smarter.
That’s because these rules aren’t just to keep men from making a mistake, and they’re not just to prevent two consenting adults from falling prey to temptation, and they’re certainly not sexist policies to keep women from having advantages in the workplace (our church has multiple women in some of the highest positions on our staff)…
They’re also to prevent even the appearance or accusation of inappropriate behavior, AND to keep women from ever feeling uncomfortable. In reading these Weinstein stories, so many women were put in difficult positions where they were asked to a private dinner or meeting or car ride, and they felt like saying no would hurt their career or, in some cases, put them in a very awkward situation.
If these harassers had a policy like ours, women in their circle would feel safe and considered, without fear of an abuse of power. And multi-million dollar settlements to keep quiet a legitimate OR false accusation? Never an issue. In my world, you get reprimanded or outright fired for even being in a situation where that was possible.
And yes, the policy applies to both married women and men, and no, I’ve never seen a anyone denied a job or opportunity because of the policy; the policy is a minuscule price to pay for getting the best candidates.
We keep hearing about the power that men have over women, whether through their position or their size/strength, and how egregious it is to abuse that power. So instead of mocking a policy like that of Mike Pence, maybe it’s time to applaud it as ahead of its time and realize that no woman with this policy has ever once had to feel awkward or uncomfortable or concerned that she might be put in an uncompromising position?
Dallas Jenkins is a filmmaker who has directed short and feature length movies for twenty years that have been distributed around the world. He is also a writer, speaker, and social media blogger who is a frequent guest on TV and radio to discuss the intersection of popular culture, politics, media, and faith. Follow him on Twitter: @dallasjenkins