Pence and Trump Are Two Sides of the Same Sexist Coin
We all know about Trump’s issues with women. The molester-in-chief has made countless derogatory remarks about women, and seems committed to rescinding their rights by revoking Obama-era workplace protections and advocating archaic abortion restrictions. It’s as if he sprung straight from the pages of the misogynist’s playbook.
Thank God then, some might say, for Vice President Mike Pence. Sure, his near-Puritanical values might make him incredibly regressive – he’s consistently voted against LGBT rights, and defunding Planned Parenthood during his time as Governor of Indiana was blamed for a surge in HIV infections - but at least his loudly-trumpeted devotion to Karen, his wife of 32 years, means he won’t be molesting anybody, right?
Perhaps not. But when it comes to women’s rights, he’s still no friend to the cause. A recent Washington Post profile revealed that he refuses to dine alone with any woman other than his wife, or attend any function involving alcohol without her presence.
On an ideological level, it’s absurd. It paints women as Biblical Jezebels, with men as defenceless testosterone machines unable to guard against their feminine wiles. On a purely practical level, it’s equally hare-brained. How does a woman feasibly rise up in Pence’s circles if she’s constantly treated as a temptation to be avoided; if she can’t so much as grab a quick lunch without a committee there to protect Pence’s marital integrity? You can just picture a female colleague walking in on an unaccompanied Pence, only for him to run away in a mad panic, arms flailing,“Away, temptress!”
It suggests there’s no role for women in Pence’s life other than as romantic or sexual interests. There seemingly can’t be female colleagues, assistants, rivals, superiors - women who are in his life because of their professional skills, women who may as well be asexual as far as Pence is concerned since their sexuality is none of his business.
It demonstrates the inability of America’s most powerful pair to view women in a way that’s divorced from their bodies. Take Trump. For him, women initially exist to be lusted after: he rates them out of 10, barges into their dressing rooms, grabs them “by the pussy”. Once they lose their sheen or invoke his wrath, he disregards them in strictly gendered terms – Rosie O’Donnell was a “fat slob”, Megyn Kelly was critical of him because of the “blood coming out of her wherever”. He rejected one assault claim not because he thinks assault is heinous but because he didn’t find the victim attractive. And when Hillary Clinton threatened his ambitions, he was virtually apoplectic.
Having men like Trump and Pence in power is, both in principle and practice, an offence to women
Pence might not be as abusive or vulgar but his views are similarly outdated, and he’s just as susceptible to seeing women exclusively in terms of their sexuality. This sexuality might scare Pence whereas it entices Trump, but either way it results in injustice for women themselves. The men are two sides of the same sexist coin.
This goes some way to explaining the images that have emerged from Washington since they took office. There they were, along with other smirking men, signing the so-called Global Gag Rule to block funding for any overseas organisation that discusses abortion. We also saw Pence, in a room stuffed with white men, deciding just how severely maternity care would be hit by their (thankfully doomed) heath bill.
This dominance of men in Trump’s cabinet is no coincidence. In 2017’s White House, women can be objects of lust, hysterical harpies or fat pigs. They can have their bodies legislated over with no say of their own, and now they can apparently be threats to Mike Pence’s marriage. Very rarely, however, are they there to run a country.
Coming after the prospect of the first female President, this is profoundly depressing. However, a recent study suggests that over 80% of calls to Senators and representatives – calls urging them to stand against Trump and vote down policies like the health bill – come from women. The biggest and most widely-covered single demonstration was the Women’s March. Senators like Elizabeth Warren have been leading the charge in Washington, with Maxine Waters notably prominent in chasing team Trump over its Russia ties. And, let’s never forget, it was a woman who bested Trump by 3 million votes in the election’s popular vote.
Having men like Trump and Pence in power is, both in principle and practice, an offence to women. It could yet be the case, however, that women are the very people most instrumental in bringing them down. Which would be the ultimate poetic justice.
About the author
Harry Mason likes to call himself a freelance writer, even if his tax forms say he's technically a waiter. He graduated last year from the University of East Anglia, and writes predominantly about social politics and film. He looks forward to the day when he's able to grow a beard; until then, you'll just have to blame his so-called 'bleeding heart lefty views' on youthful naivety.
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