Mansplaining Pence

April 4, 2017 · 5 minutes read

At midnight I sit restless, bothered by a Facebook thread on a friend’s page. Let me say as I begin this half-drunken essay, I don’t know this friend well. I’d actually describe her more as an acquaintance, though I think she and her family are lovely. This is to say, I don’t know their personal lives well, and much of what I say below is as an outside observer.

I will refer to her as Betsy, since that’s not her name and I haven’t asked permission to post any of this publicly.

I assume in reaction to the recent news about Mike Pence’s strict marital rules, she said that she had just a business lunch alone today with a male employee, and managed to have a productive meeting without impure thoughts.

A number of us chimed in, my own comment perhaps not on the right line of tasteful:

I hope you got all the business taken care of post-coitus!

Then someone waded in who I will refer to as Coach, since that’s how others in the thread referred to him. Someone who I infer actually is, or was, a coach to some of these people, or perhaps their kids. In other words, someone who has a big influence over childrens’ lives.

Coach posted, in part:

Wow - Pence and Billy Graham are really offensive to you all? That’s a head shaker.

Okay, let’s put a pin on this one, Coach. I think it’s worth exploring what actually could be offensive about Pence’s rules, when we unpack their implications.

But Betsy spoke for herself better than I can:

Hey coach! My perspective here- as a leader including those you mention above or any other position of leadership) it’s my responsibility to treat my people with respect and value what they bring to the relationship. And therefore would not think of them as a possible physical attraction, but a valued equally contributing human being. To allow some people accessibility that I wouldn’t allow others because they are the opposite sex is in fact sexist and I think poor leadership. Limiting access because you think there may be potential temptation creates barriers/limitations for those you lead and reinforces sexist dynamics between men and women.


I am intrigued by all this limiting access nonsense.

Wait, what?

Coach, did you read what Betsy had to say? And you’re calling it nonsense??

She just got done explaining how she strives to value all humans as equally capable of contribution, and that limiting which genders are allowed to interact is a barrier and limitation.

Not only that, but this was in explanation to trying inform you on what the implication of Pence’s rules were to her. As a woman. And a leader.

Who started this whole thread informing you of a lunch meeting which was productive, yet violated those strictures. One which you seem to be arguing would be appropriate to disallow.

You just dismissed her informed, well-reasoned, articulate reasons as “limiting access nonsense”.

Coach went on:

Way too easy to throw out those neat little hot button terms.

Which hot button terms? Institutionalized sexism? Misogyny? No one said anything inflammatory.

I found it interesting to read through all the comments and thought it odd that this is at all worth bashing some good men over.

Bashing whom? Not a word was said bashing any man, that I saw!

Coach, I think you have some pretty thin skin.

So okay, I’m a little annoyed with this guy, but hey, it’s not my page. I’ll sit back and not stir the pot, since I already joked about Betsy and her employee fucking.

Betsy replied with:

Whoa Coach- I don’t call your thoughts/opinions nonsense. Maybe we should try this discussion another time.

The discussion continued a bit, with Coach defending Pence. And Betsy trying to explain why it was sexist, but still with deference and affection to Coach.

Well, myself, I have no affection for Coach. Nor do I feel deferential to him.

Coach, I don’t know you one tiny little bit, other than you are at least an acquaintance of an acquaintance.

Coach, I don’t know you, but I’ll bet you are not far from me in many ways. I am a white, middle aged, man, from a small midwest town.

Coach, I wish you would go back and re-read what Betsy said above. And think about the context of her meeting. And that if we accept your worldview, it means a lesser world for her.

Coach, I think we can both agree that we grew up in a male-dominated society. The twentieth century was one of patriarchy (as were most before). This is not controversial, one little bit, right?

Coach, let’s try to unpack a little bit the implications of just what has been said. You seem to be supporting the idea that it is acceptable, admirable even, that a man would have a rule against meeting, alone, any woman. I think this is a fair estimation, no?

Coach, please put these ideas together:

In other words, just as Betsy already articulated to you, this necessarily means that a woman’s accessibility to power is limited compared to a man’s.

Coach, your feelings may never change. However, I hope you have as much a sense of responsibility for the girls and young women you coach, as the boys and young men.

I don’t ask you to listen to me. I ask you to re-fucking-read what the women in that thread already told you.


You owe it to whomever you are coaching.