Leftist outlet Vox wasn’t impressed when Vice President Mike Pence talked about his standing rule to never be alone with a woman or attend an event with alcohol served without his wife by his side. The “Pence rule,” it doubted, “Doesn’t make women safer,” and is “disingenuous at best” because it does more to protect men in power from scandals than protecting female virtue.
In October, when Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein began his deep decent into the annals of sex abusers, Vox writer Tara Isabella Burton recoiled at former Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka suggesting that had “Weinstein… obeyed @VP Pence's rules for meeting with the opposite sex, none of those poor women would ever have been abused.” Not true, Burton said, criticizing Gorka for having a repulsive “smugness” like other right-wingers. At best, she added, the Pence rule might have saved some women from harassment, but not all. Burton suggested the rule should just be “not harassing women” in the first place — which is the Pence rule in a nutshell:
But we shouldn’t mistake the rule’s efficacy for unselfishness. It is a completely self-serving maxim, designed to protect men against women, and not the other way around. It does little for the women whose careers are stymied by a lack of access to good mentors and peers. A system in which private male-female interaction is treated as an automatic “red flag” is one that penalizes women for existing. In these scenarios, women may be more protected from harassment — just as their male counterparts are more protected from the specter of spurious allegations — but they are likewise barred from interactions that might benefit them professionally. Meanwhile, their male colleagues and superiors would suffer no such professional backlash, especially since men in the entertainment industry already tend to have powerful positions.
Sure, had Weinstein taken it upon himself to follow the Pence rule, it is true he probably would not have had opportunities to harm his alleged victims during meetings and audition-type scenarios. But plenty of other decisions Weinstein might have made — say, not harassing women — would have had the same effect.
But here’s a curiosity: Vox Media is having a “holiday party” this month and have decided to nix the open bar this time around as a way to hopefully stymie potential sexual harassment. You might call it a “Vox rule” of sorts:
Amid the wave of recent sexual harassment allegations against a number of individuals at media companies, and after firing its own editorial director for sexual harassment last month, Vox Media announced to its staff on Thursday that it will not have an open bar at this year’s holiday party.
As explained in an invitation sent out to Vox Media’s New York staff members Thursday afternoon, the reason for the change is to help curb any potential “unprofessional behavior.”
The invitation adds:
[I]nstead of an open bar, each attendee will receive two drink tickets with which they can get alcoholic drinks if they choose. After that only non-alcoholic drinks will be available.
We recognize that even though alcohol isn’t always the reason for unprofessional behavior, creating an environment that encourages overconsumption certainly contributes to it.
Ah, so, if Vox places certain restrictions on itself, then it could potentially avoid engaging in bad behavior? That makes a lot of sense. Surely, Pence would approve of such self-imposed control.