The Pence Effect Is A Paranoid Response to #MeToo
By Sophie Wilkinson Posted 8 days ago
Male paranoia following from #MeToo has led to women losing out on mentoring positions, a new report suggests.
Last week, #MeToo’s founder, Tarana Burke, said the movement had totally transformed and was ‘unrecognisable’ to her now. ‘Suddenly, a movement to centre survivors of sexual violence is being talked about as a vindictive plot against men,’ she said in a TED Talk.
And if a long-ranging report on Wall Street on the Pence Effect is anything to go by, well, she’s not wrong. As many of us were reminded in 2017 after he became the US’s Vice President, Mike Pence famously refuses to dine alone with any woman other than his wife, because, as he reportedly told The Hill in 2002 ‘he never eats alone with a woman other than his wife and that he won’t attend events featuring alcohol without her by his side.’
Whether this was to do with Pence’s interpretation of his Christianity, or out of concern that someone seeing him eat dinner with a woman other than his wife would lead to spurious rumours about what else they were sharing other than a meal because you know, hunger, is by the by. In essence, women’s inherent sexuality, as perceived by one Mr Pence, meant they were cut out of his professional and personal life.
The Pence Effect, where other guys have taken up Pence’s rule, or other similar ridiculous ideas, in order to, post-#MeToo, avoid wrongful accusations, leaving women wanting for mentors, has been explored by Bloomberg.
In the report, over 30 senior executives on Wall Street gave their two cents. One manager in infrastructure investing said he won’t meet with female employees in window-less rooms anymore. He also stays away in elevators. Another private equity worker said he has been advised by his attorney wife to not have dinner with a woman aged 35 or younger. An investment advisor said he considered scrapping his one-on-one meetings with junior women, either by inviting a third party into the meeting, or leaving his office door open during. Eventually, though, he realised ‘just try not to be an asshole.’
The result of restricting women’s access to men’s spaces means that they can’t one day replace men in those spaces. It means they’re shut out of progression, especially in industries where women role models are thin on the ground.
A message to those Pence Effect men, then, because #MeToo, if responded to adequately, shouldn’t give rise to anti-woman paranoia, but pro-women’s safety. How about installing structures which ensure that people don’t get abused by those with power? If bigwigs are all so innocent that they’re more likely to be wrongfully accused of hurting someone than actually hurting someone, why don’t they put as much effort into making sure everyone else is as clean and good-hearted as them as they proclaim to be?
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