This is a follow up to a post I made last night about Vice President Pence’s policy to not be alone with any woman who is not his wife. You can read the first post here.
In the conversation on Facebook about that post, people brought up sexual misconduct between clergy/priests and parishioners. They brought up abuse scandals in Boy Scouts. They brought up the recent and multiple allegations of workplace harassment by Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly at Fox News.
All of those things are real problems. And they cut across gender lines. Women and men need to both be protected from situations of unequal power and agency.
They are not the same as a policy to protect a marriage from other adults, which is how the Pences have categorized the policy.
Vice President Pence has never claimed his policy is intended to protect either himself or his employees from workplace harassment or misconduct. If that were the case, I trust he would have a policy to never be alone with someone, male or female, who works to him, over whom he has power to fire. Fox News could have used policies like this in the past. (Please tell me they’ve instituted them now, right??)
It is completely appropriate for churches, schools, and scouting organizations to have policies in place that protect children and adults from sexual abuse or even allegations of abuse. Because children and youth do not have the same level of agency, power, and decision making ability that adults have. If your church doesn’t have policies to protect children and vulnerable adults, get on that right now.
It is completely appropriate for pastors and other religious leaders (and doctors, therapists, and other professionals who have different levels of power over parishioners or patients) to have policies in place to protect all parties from misconduct and allegations of the same.
Not all sexual misconduct and behavior is the same. Women are not children. If a man with whom I’m having dinner somehow decides that we need to have sex, I have the power, the words, the agency to say NO. Any policy that insinuates I do not have that ability is insulting and demeaning.
If Vice President Pence would like to clarify that he won’t be alone with any employee, male or female, to protect them from sexual harassment or misconduct, I’d applaud him.
But to have a policy that treats ALL women as if they have the same level of power, and agency, as a child in a scout troop? Don’t even start with me on that. I’m skeptical it will actually protect a marriage. It certainly doesn’t protect the dignity of women and men.