Why Are People Bothered by Mike Pence’s Policy to Only Dine Alone with his Wife?

Mike Pence has an unlikely ally today: a socially-liberal feminist (me) defends Mike Pence’s policy not to eat dinner alone with a woman other than his wife.

This article appears on BuzzFeed, as well as on Quora.


Photo via The Sun

I completely disagree with most of Vice President Pence’s views on social policy — other than that about dining with women. In a world where rumors run amok, fake news is taken as gospel, spreading like wildfire, tabloids (and even reputable publications) use click-bait for advertising dollars, and extramarital affairs are incredibly common, it is smart to avoid attracting any and all of the above. More importantly, though, the Vice President feels he is being respectful to Karen Pence by having the personal policy to “never eat alone with a woman other than his wife.”

I’m a fiercely independent woman with a love-whomever-and-however-you-want attitude, but I do think it is a good idea to never put one’s fidelity in doubt. My late fiancé and I had a similar policy. It stemmed from my having dinner with an old friend, a man. I came home immediately following dinner, and my fiancé said, “How was your date?” This led to a discussion during which he said if any of his friends or coworkers had seen me out to dinner that night, there would probably have been whispers that I was cheating on him. He felt a bit insecure and disrespected.

At first, I resisted change — not because I didn’t understand what he was saying but because, frankly, I did not want to give up solo dinners with my male friends. I put myself in my fiancé’s shoes, though, and realized he was right. From that point on, we had a policy to not have dinner alone with a member of the opposite sex (lunch with coworkers was fine). It made my late fiancé feel more secure, and it made every dinner we had feel more like a date, which was fun! It worked for us, and it works for the Pences, but that personal policy is obviously not going to be right for everyone.

There is a big difference between personal policy and public policy, but those lines sometimes get blurred with a public figure living in a fishbowl. The left judges judgement, which is typically a reliable barometer for social policy positions, but we are also developing a reputation for hypocrisy in situations like dinnergate.

In judging the behavior of others with varying viewpoints — for instance, different behaviors within someone else’s marriage — aren’t we doing exactly that which we denounce? We rail against the right’s opposition to women’s rights and gay marriage, but then we are outraged when we hear Mike Pence might call Karen Pence “mother.” Why in the world should we care what terms of endearment they use for one another?

Why should Mike Pence’s marriage idiosyncrasies bother anyone? His wife seems to be loved, safe, and happy with him. Call it old-fashioned, sexist — say what you will — but if Karen appreciates that he only dines alone with her, who are we to judge? How does Mike Pence’s treating his marriage with deference, and his wife with dignity, hurt anyone? Does it erode society? Does it destroy the institution of marriage? Does it oppress all women? No, no, and more no!

And neither does a female breadwinner or a gay marriage.

Which brings us back to judging judgment. We don’t live in a one-size-fits-all world. Marriage comes in many shapes, sizes, colors, and genders.

The unnecessary onslaught of judgment about the Vice President’s marriage could have a positive impact if it causes him to develop even a slight bit of empathy and respect towards the many different kinds of “other” relationships in modern society. I respect Mike Pence’s marriage, and I would like him to respect (and acknowledge) the marriages of others.

On the off chance that he reads this, I’d like to ask him to remember how it felt to be judged for what seems perfectly natural to him inside his happy home. Americans are not as different as it seems. We all simply want to live our lives free from judgment — and with the equal rights necessary to cultivate the pursuit of happiness.

Written by Shannon Fisher


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