The XX Factor

So What if Mike Pence Won’t Dine Alone With Women, Say a Surprising Number of People

Mike Pence and his wife, Karen Pence, take the first dance—alone—at the Indiana Society Ball on January 19, 2017, in Washington, D.C.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

After this week’s revelation that Vice President Mike Pence prefers not to dine alone with women who are not his wife—or at least didn’t as of a 2002 article in the Hill—many members of both the entire sex he has snubbed and the sex that is still afforded the privilege of sitting across from Pence at a Chili’s have expressed their dismay on social media. How could the second most powerful man in our government treat men and women so differently?

But not everyone is outraged, or all that surprised, to find out Pence never eats in the solitary presence of a woman he’s not married to and won’t attend events where alcohol is served without his wife. Some even found it admirable!

Other people thought the reaction to Pence’s restaurant habits also showed the disconnect between liberals and the rest of America—“the Billy Graham rule” is par for the course among evangelical Christians, a group that makes up a solid quarter of Americans, including the Pences.

Twitter users also took care to make the distinction between “dining alone” and other activities, perhaps implying that one rule specifically about meals wouldn’t affect every interaction between Pence and women.

OK, some interesting points, everyone, but … Mike Pence refusing to dine alone with any women, in a world where a lot of work gets done over one-on-one meals, is a textbook example of unequal treatment of men and women. If Pence made up for it by being an extraordinary advocate for women in other ways, maybe we could let it slide. But given his tie-breaking vote on Title X funding on Thursday, if Pence doesn’t want to eat alone with women, maybe it’s because he wouldn’t be able to look most of them in the eye.