In April 2017, Vice President Mike Pence was roundly ridiculed for saying that he would not be alone with any woman except his wife.
Six months later, allegations against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein became the launching pad for the #MeToo Movement. Men were being targeted and taken down with allegations — many unsubstantiated. Careers and reputations were ruined — some justifiably.
People began to take sides based on gender or political affiliation. There were no facts to judge most of the situations by because is was just a woman’s word against a man’s word.
For the most outspoken among us, a gut feeling was enough to persecute the alleged perpetrators if they couldn’t prosecute them. It all reached a fever-pitch during the Senate confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. It was a low point in recent history as elected leaders to that esteemed body aligned themselves with shrill activists to discuss a party the nominee may have been at when he was a teenager and a girl who thought he was too aggressive. It was a classic “he said, she said” situation that created even more division in our already fractured country. Zealots on the sidelines were speaking in absolutes ... when even the people who were there 30 years earlier couldn’t!
It was around that time that Pence began to look like the smartest guy in the room. He was gentlemanly in his reasoning for not wanting to be alone with a woman other than his wife, saying he didn’t want to “give the appearance” of infidelity. Pundits spun it to speculate that he couldn’t control himself. Or even worse, he didn’t think the women could control themselves.
But what he meant with that personal policy — and he didn’t want to sound rude or accusatory — is that he didn’t want to give a woman an opportunity to accuse him of doing something he didn’t do. He wanted a witness around him if he happened to be with another woman.
That’s where we are in America today. And that’s exactly what happened with Mississippi Republican gubernatorial candidate Rep. Robert Foster. He refused to spend the day alone in his pickup on the road with a roving reporter who just happens to be a woman. He politely suggested that she should bring a colleague who’s a man along with her.
He said he was concerned about the appearance and opponents being able to make him look like he’s up to no good out on the campaign trail ... and that may well be true. But the main concern, these days, is an unsubstantiated allegation, which can end a career before it gets started. He doesn’t know if she has an agenda. Conservatives often find themselves in the crosshairs, and we all know how nasty Mississippi politics can get — especially for a young, non-establishment man seeking higher office before it’s “his turn.”
Foster was playing defense so he wouldn’t put himself in an that position. It’s that simple. One would think that would be celebrated. For far too long, women were preyed upon by men who were in power. There’s no denying that. But now when a man tries to be respectful and aware of the changing times, he’s ridiculed. It’s tough being a guy these days.
The story has gone national, making Foster — and Mississippi, of course — look like a backward state of bumbling Bubbas.
Like Pence, he has been lampooned for pointing to a vow he and his wife made to never be alone with someone of the opposite sex.
Some say that sounds prudish. We say it sounds prudent.