The NYT Headline About Mike Pence Is Misleading, You Need To Read The Whole Thing

Katelyn Beaty got it right about the "Pence Rule." She hit on the reasons why some men make women the problem, not sin. But the NYT knows most people only read the headline. You should read the entire piece.

Katelyn Beaty is editor-at-large at Christianity Today, covering women's issues. She's the author of "A Woman's Place: A Christian Vision for Your Calling in the Office, the Home, and the World." I admit I haven't read the book (being a man, it wouldn't really apply to me), but the reviewers on Amazon give it very high marks.

The New York Times published an op-ed by Beaty headlined "A Christian Case Against the Pence Rule." Upon reading the headline, my initial reaction was an eye-roll. I was fully prepared to read another piece slamming Christians for being prudes and hindering women's ambitions in the workplace.

I skimmed down to the paragraph where Beaty relates an anecdote about meeting a potential ministry contact for breakfast, and seeing two men seated at the restaurant, where she was made "acutely aware that my existence as a woman was a problem that needed to be managed in a public setting." More eye-rolls.

Then I read the article from top to bottom, beginning with Beaty's quoting of Erick Erickson:

“The very same left-wing activists and Hollywood stars now running away from Harvey Weinstein were assailing Mike Pence for having a rule of not dining alone or taking meetings alone with women,” said Erick Erickson, a conservative blogger and radio host. “The media and the left savaged Mike Pence for his principled stand, but they will never run stories about Mike Pence sexually harassing women.”

What's wrong with the "Pence rule," which has more commonly been known for decades as the "Billy Graham rule?" The NYT editors would like you to take away that the rule is the problem, hence their headline.

But that's not at all what I believe Beaty was conveying.

I know many Christians who keep some version of the rule. These men have good motives. Their stated intent — marital fidelity — is noble, and one that I respect. But the Pence rule is inadequate to stop Weinstein-ian behavior. In fact, it might be its sanctified cousin. It’s time for men in power to believe their female peers when they say that the rule hurts more than helps.

How would the rule hurt more than it helps? As a man, I look at it the same way many Christian men look at it. Who will see me? What will they think? Is this avoiding "the appearance of evil?"

But those rules seem to have the intent of protecting a reputation versus promoting living a holy life. And reputation can be protected my more than just a rule determining who sees you having dinner with a woman who is not your wife, or taking a meeting alone with a woman in your office (fear, intimidation, etc. are all sinful but effective ways to protect reputation, as we've seen).

What Beaty is saying--and this is a tough message for a man--is that the best solution to keep men accountable for their behavior is to allow women to have a larger voice and more power in the workplace. Strong. Godly women in business, entertainment, and (gasp!) ministry who aren't afraid to speak out and hold men accountable are a better solution than men holding each other accountable, and claiming women are nothing more than an opportunity for temptation.

By flipping the situation on its head, we can expose this well-entrenched "man-thinking." (I must admit, I am an inveterate man-thinker, having no other way of thinking available to me.)

If a woman propositioned a men or made an improper invitation that made the man feel uncomfortable, that woman would easily be called out by other men, because men would make it their business to hold her accountable. I'm talking about a Christian environment here, not Hollywood where men expected women to be promiscuous and sell their bodies to advance their careers. Men are expected to hold women accountable, but a woman holding a man accountable is suspect because it's an accusation.

That is what I think Beaty meant by this paragraph, which at first puzzled me.

Most female Christian leaders I know find the Pence rule frustrating. (All the people I know who keep the rule are men.) Imagine a male boss keeps some variation of the rule but is happy to meet with a male peer over lunch or travel with him for business. The informal and strategic conversations they can have is the stuff of workplace advancement. Unless there are women in senior leadership positions — and in many Christian organizations, there are not — women will never benefit from the kind of advancement available to men.

The root of the problem, if I might "mansplain" it, is that men do not like being held accountable by women. As a man, I can tell you I don't like it--I feel it's nagging, an attack, or some feelings-based weirdness. I'd rather be told by a man, or confess to a man.

Holding strictly to the Pence rule is a great way to protect reputation. I remember, when my wife and I were dating, I had outpatient surgery and came home very much drugged up and in need of care. She stayed at my house for three days--nothing happened because I was in a Percocet-induced haze--but one of the lady ministers at our church pointed out that my wife was not avoiding 'the appearance of evil" because people saw her car at my house for three days.

Now it's commendable to avoid the appearance of evil. But we are not to live to please others, but to please God. There comes a time when personal behavior versus perception is more important--that's called maturity.

Beaty's takeaway is the Pence Rule is a great rule of thumb, but it should not be an absolute, because it makes women into nothing more than objects of temptation. I have to admit, I've never thought about it that way.

There are indeed many women for which being a temptation is never going to be an issue. However, it seems more insulting to not show up with a man/woman chaperone in that case. Doing without a chaperone basically says you are so unattractive to me that no buffer is needed. Or it says the exact opposite and implies "I want you."

I know of at least one prominent Christian woman in ministry, Rebecca's St. James, who adopted a version of the Graham rule. Unfortunately I can't remember exactly where I heard/read that she had done so and I'm having trouble finding a reference to it, but I'm sure that I first heard of the rule as something she had adopted.

I think that the application of the rule is sometimes exaggerated though. The version of the rule that I heard is mostly things like keeping the door open (or for conversations that require privacy, have them in a room with a window that isn't obstructed).

I think Beaty is mainly making the point that, because the Pence rule discourages married men from being alone with a woman, the occasional one-on-one interaction with the boss man, which can lend itself to valuable impression-making (of the professional kind), is not available to her; only to other men, which clearly gives them the advantage in ladder climbing. And, in response to the first comment, as far as women being offended if they feel as though a man is implying they're not attractive enough to require a "buffer", I must tell you that most women are not going about their day wondering whether this man or that man is finding them attractive. In fact, women who are serious about their careers, would rather that their bosses NOT find them attractive, so that they can get on with their careers and pay their bills, without drama. Men are much more attuned to "tension" concerning the opposite sex...and thus the issue!

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I am male so I have the "man-thinking" mentioned in this piece. Man and woman have a "magnet" within that makes us attractive to each other; and I believe the female magnet is the stronger of the two. It seems to be the case that men pursue women more so than women pursuing men. It is about absurd to think the male will give up his "man-thinking"' as it is to believe the female will quit spending hundred every month for things that make her more attractive. Katelyn Beaty makes mention of her reaction in a restaurant meeting with a potential ministry contact, about two men who were in the restaurant at the same time. That, like "men-thinking" was "woman-thinking". In the workplace there are distinctions made based on sex; I am careful to say it is not discrimination. A female boss is more likely to hire an attractive female as receptionist rather than me! That same female boss is more likely to hire me as a mechanic than to hire the attractive female. A male boss would probably "think" the same way. Of course, the first thoughts could be changed based on work history and skills training. The Pence ala Billy Graham rule has merit. It is best for male and female to avoid private meetings. In an office environment, be certain the office has a window; many are now enclosed in glass. If meeting must be away from the office; make it in a public place; hotel rooms are not public. The back seat of the limo should definitely be avoided. I do not question the integrity of either party; but others may and that could be damaging to the career of either or both if it makes the six-pm news!

My mother was the VP of a large company and traveled a lot etc. She employed a form of the Pence Rule, she would do business lunches and always made sure there were not just 2 people there if one was a man. She took my dad or her assistant when she traveled. I run my own business and while I am often in the office alone with men I do not go 'out' alone with men. It isn't because I am afraid of them, it is out of respect for myself and my position and the certain knowledge that the world is waiting to gossip about perceived wrongs, including the Christian world. I understand that I could be having an affair even with the rule - but my business requires my clients trust me and that requires me to do my best to appear above reproach. This is just good business!

@kskg8s Great rule! I think it's important to maintain a reputation and be above reproach. I wonder how many other women would criticize a woman executive for having this position?

There are four potential issues when a man and a woman meet alone: The first is the man may do something wrong, and there is no one to stop it or witness it, in that case the Graham Rule protects the woman; the second is the man may do something that is innocent but is interpreted as wrong, and in that case the Graham Rule protects the man; the third is the woman may do something wrong, such as a false accusation, and there is no one to stop it or witness it, in that case the Graham Rule protects the man; the fourth applies to a public situation such as a meal or a social event, where a third party witness may see something innocent and assume something is not innocent, in that case the Graham Rule protects both the man and the woman.

The important thing here is only the first of these four is based on the man being a sexual predator and the woman being a sexual object. In my experience, the second and third hold the greatest risk. I have seen false charges levied against managers who mistakenly chose to hold a private, one on one meeting with a subordinate, and the subordinate claim harassment. The rule of including a neutral witness in a one-on-one meeting is useful even outside of a sex difference.

Also, the Graham rule does not prevent a man and a woman from meeting together one on one, as long as it is not private, and is not in a place where an external witness can misinterpret--such as a open area in the workplace. Traveling together on the same airplane or same train is different from driving together. Traveling together in a taxi or an Uber/Lyft is different from driving together, as there is an external witness. The advantage of an Uber or Lyft is you know the name of the driver, and could always contact them.

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