Vice President Mike Pence stated that he does not dine alone with female colleagues or attend parties with alcohol without his wife in a 2002 interview with The Hill. Some people might not realize that these statements are harmful, sexist, and reflect the exclusion of women in politics. But should we really expect anything less from our VP, who has signed bills to imprison same-sex couples who apply for marriage licenses in Indiana?
Although the beliefs of tolerance and equality have not followed Pence in his long political career, it is important to discuss how his discriminatory views will hurt women in politics and across the country and what we can do about it.
A lot of business – and politics – happens after hours. It’s common for executives to discuss plans and build friendly relationships over dinner in order to push their agendas and get things done.
When the VP of the United States excludes women from his after-hours fraternizing, they can’t share their ideas about future policies Pence might have a say in. This could directly harm those women’s careers, and more importantly, fail to have them adequately represent the millions of women in the country who live under the policies of a predominantly male-dominated government.
If silencing female voices in government doesn’t concern you enough, Pence’s statements also show what he thinks of women in general. By refusing to even meet and talk alone with female colleagues, he is implying that he believes women cannot have professional relationships – or any relationship – that isn’t somehow sexual.
That is grossly unfair and demeaning to women. Publicly expressing these old-fashioned, misogynistic views should have ended Pence’s professional career. It is not okay for the second most powerful man in the country to refuse to take women seriously. Everyone has a right to fair and equal representation in government.
Unfortunately, teenagers don’t get to talk personally with Pence and tell him how concerned we are with his views. However, we can denounce sexism in our own lives and fight for fairness. The real injustice of Pence’s statements will occur only if the rest of us stay silent, instead of speaking out in opposition.
Maybe for Pence, a fair solution could be no private dinners with anyone – male or female – but we as citizens cannot allow the exclusion of women in government or business.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.