Thursday, March 30, 2017

Benevolent Sexism Is Just As Nasty As Overt Sexism

Today Twitter went nuts over a Washington Post article about our "Christian" VP Mike Pence and his "Prayer Warrior" wife Karen.  It seems the article reminded everyone that Pence had once declared that he never eats a meal alone with a woman who is not his wife and that he will not attend events with alcohol unless she is there with him.
His fan club, conservatives, and other regressives jumped on this to lash out at progressives, liberals, and Democrats, saying that no one is allowed to be negative about the fact that Pence is faithful to his wife.  They contrast him to trump (lack of capitalization is not an error), saying that #45 is sexist with his "grab them by the pussy" remarks, but that Pence is just being a good "Christian" husband.
I say they're both sexist and both attitudes are equally harmful to women.
You see, I'm entirely too familiar with the Pence brand of benevolent sexism disguised as Christian devotion and fidelity to marriage vows.  Mormons are really big on 1 Thessalonians 5:22 "Abstain from all appearance of evil."  Mormon men are never supposed to be alone with a female who is not their wife or near relative.  They are required to go in pairs when paying official visits to women, giving blessings, doing acts of service, etc.  There are strict rules about other men being nearby when a woman needs to have a confidential chat with her bishop.
I've known LDS male school principals who were extremely uncomfortable when a female staff member closed the office door to talk to them without being overheard.  I know single/divorced women whose assigned Home Teachers (men who are supposed to check up on members' well-being monthly) refused to enter their home (would only speak to the woman from her front porch) or refused to visit at all (even with their partners). I know an unmarried woman who purposely asked for the assistance of an unmarried man, yet he refused to be alone with her during the time it took to give her a blessing (some 10 minutes or so).
I was so used to this that I perceived it as somehow normal -- until I lived in Scotland, where Mormons are few and far between.  Male university professors there met with female students one-on-one without fear or shame. The window washer for my dorm did not feel the need to prop the door open when he spent 3 minutes in my room with me while cleaning the window. Male students met with female students for study groups -- and they studied.  Imagine that.
Yes, our 45th President is a sexist pig who thinks it's OK to grope and grab women he finds attractive and to belittle those he finds unattractive.  This is overt sexism.  It reduces women to objects of male gratification and all men to potential sex offenders.
But Pence's benevolent sexism is no different. It presumes that all women are either sluts or temptresses and that men cannot control themselves around them.  Women are still objects; men are still all potential rapists.
Just because Pence is only on wife #1 doesn't mean he's any more likely to value women than trump is.  And Pence's record of controlling and demeaning women's rights bears that out.
Pence may be monogamous, but that doesn't mean he's not sexist.
UPDATE 4/1/17: This is an excellent article on this subject.

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