An employee at my retirement center belongs to a religion that prohibits men and women from touching one another unless they are family members. I was warned of the taboo through the grapevine not as official written policy. Still, I have respected the stricture, though I balk at the notion of being “untouchable.” Virtue that survives by making someone else feel unclean is dubious, in my opinion. That’s why I paused over a recent article entitled, “When does Christian virtue become sexism?” (“Controversy of the week,” The Week, April 14, 2017, pg. 6.)
According to the article, Vice President, Mike Pence, who calls his wife, “Mommy,” makes it a practice never to eat alone with a woman who is not his wife, or work late at the office with an aide who is female, attesting to his self-confessed, “lack of self-control in the presence of beautiful women.” (Ibid pg. 6.) Apparently, Pence sees females primarily as sex objects and for his flaw, women are barred from taking part in work that could further their careers. His virtue becomes a passive weapon used to deny women equal rights. Behavior like his is not only unfair but hypocritical. Opportunities for infidelity extend beyond the workplace, as any divorce court docket will attest.
A woman tempted to respect Pence for his conduct fails to understand he asks women to pay the price for his vulnerability. The situation is similar in the Middle East. There, women wear black tents to prevent men from having lascivious thoughts, as if black tents could banish the fantasies of either sex.
An English professor at Northern Arizona University (NAU) made news, recently, for downgrading a young woman’s assignment when the student used the word “mankind” in her paper. The girl objected, insisting “mankind” referred to all people. “Not all people,” the teacher snapped. Then she invited her pupil to rethink her “preset” ideologies and resubmit the essay. (“Only in America,” The Week, April 14, 2017, pg. 6.)
Having served as a teaching assistant at NAU, I admit, “mankind” wouldn’t have raised my eyebrows. But my blindness testifies to the degree sexism passes for the norm in our society, and how hard we women must work to escape cultural blindness. (Blog 3/15/2017.) Hillary Clinton made a similar observation in an interview with the New York Times. (Click) She spoke of the ways women express sexual bias when they lead unexamined lives.
Melissa Hortman, state representative in Minnesota, isn’t one of them. I honor her wisdom and grit. You will, too, if you take the next 30 seconds to hear this woman roar. (Click)
(Originally published 4/24/17)