Pence-Weinstein Phenomenon Exposes Contradictions of Feminism

By | 2017-12-08T13:01:06+00:00 December 8th, 2017|
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Time has bestowed its “Person of the Year Award” to “the silence breakers”—those who, according to USA Today, “triggered a #MeToo national outcry over sexual harassment.”

This #MeToo campaign is a peculiar thing to behold.

First, so many of the men who have been accused of sexual improprieties are left-leaning men, while their accusers appear to be “progressive” or left-leaning women. Some of the accused and their accusers have explicitly and repeatedly put us on notice as to their politics. As for the others, given that dozens and dozens of these incidents and alleged incidents occurred in Hollywood, it doesn’t take a genius to infer the politics of those involved.

Nor need we do much detective work to discover the political orientation of those famous media and Washington, D.C. figures who have resigned their long-held positions of authority because of allegations leveled against them.

In short, this explosion of allegations of sexual abuse appears to be largely (though not solely) a left-wing phenomenon.

Second, this last point is relevant because, being “progressive” or “feminist” is supposed to make one immune to such temptations; it is the good-think that society needs, we are told, to improve itself and rise above these old patriarchal ways. These are the absolute last people who we should expect, or so we are told, to see caught up in a scandal of a sexual nature.

After all, the men in question are left-liberals who—faithfully parroting the feminist line that women are perpetual victims of patriarchal, misogynist, oppression—style themselves champions of “women’s rights” and enemies of all things “sexist.”

The accusers, particularly many of those with higher-profiles, depict themselves as empowered, “liberated” women who in all respects—physically, intellectually, emotionally, and professionally—are at least as capable as their male counterparts (I am Woman. Hear me roar!).

To hear the way this cast of characters has been telling it for years, these men would never so much as think to harm women, and the women who traveled in their circles wouldn’t let them if they tried.

But wait! There’s more. These men and women are the same men and women who, for decades, have spared no occasion to mock, ridicule, and, in some instances, demonize traditional sexual morality as—what else?—a species of bourgeois repression. The proponents of the old sexual mores they dismissed as prudes or, worse, “sexists.”

Remember the ‘Billy Graham Rule’
And it wasn’t all that long ago when the self-appointed guardians of this politics of sexual liberation found as the poster boy for their bogeyman Vice President Mike Pence.

Recall that Pence had said in a 2002 interview that he never dines alone with any woman (outside of female family members) other than his wife. When his comments resurfaced in March, Pence was taken to task by feminists.

Jia Tolentino of the New Yorker wrote Pence’s ability to “rule out meals with a person of the opposite gender over the course of an entire career . . . speaks to an incredible level of inequity in the workplace,” for “no successful woman could ever abide by the same rule.”

Tolentino, speaking in the standard leftist parlance of our time, attributes Pence’s policy to “gender essentialism,” a belief—deeply “entrenched” in the minds of “people of all political orientations, including women”—that “women are sources of sexual danger.”

In “avoid[ing] all women as a group and as a rule because of the abstract possibility of sexual temptation,” Pence is guilty of “subscribing wholesale to an idea about gender that calcifies women as secondary,” thus denying that women are “fully human.” (emphasis original)

Tolentino, borrowing a line from Christian evangelicals, refers to Pence’s policy as “the Billy Graham rule.” The world-renown Christian preacher—at 99 years of age undoubtedly the most famous living representative of his kind—made it a rule never to be alone in a room with any woman other than his wife. Graham was married for 64 years until his wife’s death in 2005. Together they built a family of five children, 19 grandchildren, and numerous great-grandchildren.

Mind you, this is the same Billy Graham who enjoys the distinction of having carried the Gospel over a career spanning six decades to more people than any other person in the history of Christianity, a man who served as a spiritual advisor to every American president from Harry Truman to Barack Obama.

This is the same white Southern Christian who repudiated Jim Crow, bailed Martin Luther King, Jr. out of jail, and invited the latter to join him at the pulpit during his New York City Revival meeting.

Despite his many years in the public light, Graham never generated a scintilla of personal scandal or controversy, and his children continue to carry on their father’s legacy by presiding over Christian charities that tirelessly help untold numbers of needy people around the world.

This is the man whose example Pence made it a point to follow.

And feminists blasted him and the Billy Graham rule as “sexist.”

Of course, if Pence is “sexist” for following Graham, then so too is Graham “sexist.” So too is the admired Christian preacher Rick Warren, the Christian actor Kirk Cameron, and, well, legions of other Christian men whose fidelity to their wives drive them to remove so much as the potential for trouble.

Living the Life 
Though there will always be Christian men (and women) who fail to live up to the standards of their faith, this doesn’t change the fact that their faith, considered as a system of beliefs, does indeed have standards. Christianity offers its 2 billion living practitioners a worldview according to which sexual activity is permissible only within the bounds of monogamous (heterosexual) marriage.

This belief isn’t just moral in character. Christian morality is inseparable from Christian ontology or metaphysics, i.e. its “Big Picture” of the world, of what’s ultimately real. For the Christian, the cosmos is the handiwork of a personal Creator, a God who produced its crown jewel, humanity, from an endless and unconditional love. The Creation He endowed, not just with purposes, but with meaning.

The universe, in other words, has for the Christian a sacramental nature: It is a visible sign of God’s invisible grace.

Marriage in this view is a sacrament. Marriage is not a contract, but a covenant, and though this covenant binds husband and wife, it binds them in God. Husband and wife covenant with the source of their being as individuals and as a spiritual unity. Through the act of marriage, a constitutive change occurs and the two, in a fundamental, spiritual sense, they become “one flesh.”

To engage in sexual activity in any other context outside of marriage, then, is to treat oneself and one’s partner as a “mere means,” as the great philosopher Immanuel Kant put it. If it’s extramarital or non-marital sex, even if consensual, this requires that persons, or subjects, regard themselves and others as objects. The sex consists in the sexually active treating persons as instruments to the end of sexual gratification.

To all of the details of this traditional Christian account of sexual morality, even a contemporary Christian could take exception. Nor need any non-Christians accept it. The point, though, is that it is this vision of sexual morality that Christianity has promulgated for 2,000 years. As such, it has been the dominant sexual ethic of the Western world for nearly this same time period (until relatively recently). Far from degrading women, it has affirmed in both women and men an equal dignity, and it has affirmed that which is “above all price,” to quote Kant once again—for it refuses to reduce people to their bodies, to mere pleasure-maximizers.

It is this vision of the world that gave rise to the so-called “Billy Graham rule,” a rule which generations of Christian men had been observing for centuries before Billy Graham.

If Everything is Sexist, Then…
In blinding contrast, the worldview of contemporary feminists is grounded in a fundamental contradiction:

Liberated women are as strong, savvy, and capable as men—and they are the perpetual victims of male oppression, forever at the mercies of predatory men.

That the self-contradictory root of feminism pervades the whole tree is made that much more obvious in light of what, for convenience’s sake, we may call the Pence-Weinstein phenomenon:

The Pences of the world are guilty of dehumanizing women insofar as they honor their wives by refusing to place themselves in situations that could lead through illicit sexual relations to what they take to be the real degradation of women and themselves.

So, too, are the Weinsteins of the world guilty of dehumanizing women by sexually harassing and assaulting women.

Those men who cheat on their wives and sexually assault women are “sexist” in doing so, but so too are those men who are faithful to their wives and refrain from doing anything that could so much as lead to the charge of sexual impropriety. Is this clear?

Everything is “sexist.”

But if everything is “sexist,” then nothing is “sexist.”

The Billy Graham rule looks wiser than ever in light of the #MeToo campaign, does it not?

About the Author:

Jack Kerwick
Jack Kerwick earned his doctorate degree in philosophy from Temple University. His areas of specialization are ethics and political philosophy, with a particular interest in classical conservatism. His work has appeared in both scholarly journals and popular publications, and he recently authored, The American Offensive: Dispatches from the Front. Kerwick has been teaching philosophy for nearly 17 years at a variety of institutions, from Baylor to Temple, Penn State University, the College of New Jersey and elsewhere. His next book, Misguided Guardians: The Conservative Case Against Neoconservatism is pending publication. He is currently an instructor of philosophy at Rowan College at Burlington County.