The Billy Graham Rule and Self-Preservation

This puff-piece appeared on the Harvard Business Review website by Drs. W. Brad Johnson and David G. Smith, professors of psychology (mind-fucking) and sociology (Socialism) respectively. The article’s primary purpose to shill their new book, “Athena Rising: How and Why Men Should Mentor Women” (HA!), by excoriating who have enough wisdom to avoid putting themselves in compromising positions.

When U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said that he would never have a meal alone with a woman who was not his wife, he was invoking the well-worn “Billy Graham rule”; the evangelical leader has famously urged male leaders to “avoid any situation that would have even the appearance of compromise or suspicion.” Translation: Men should avoid spending time alone with women to whom they are not married. Graham has been known to avoid not only meals but also car and even elevator rides alone with a woman. The reason? To avoid tarnishing his reputation by either falling prey to sexual temptation or inviting gossip about impropriety.

Billy Graham also avoided handling the money of his ministry for the same reason. And guess what?

IT WORKED.

Have you heard of any scandals involving Billy Graham? Have you heard of Billy Graham doing meth or banging hookers? Have you heard of Billy Graham appropriating any unseemly amounts money from the ministry a la Creflo Dollar?

No, you have not because Billy Graham’s rule is successful.

Think Pence’s quarantine of women is unique? Consider a recent survey by National Journal in which multiple women employed as congressional staffers reported (and male colleagues confirmed) the existence of an implicit policy that only male staffers could spend time one-on-one or at after-hours events with their (male) congressmen. Cut out of key conversations, networking opportunities, professional exposure, and face time with career influencers, female staffers naturally are underrepresented in leadership positions and — not surprisingly — earn about $6,000 less annually than their male peers.

The Billy Graham — and now Mike Pence — rule is wrong on nearly every level. Lauded by some as an act of male chivalry, it is merely a 20th-century American iteration of sex segregation. When women are, in effect, quarantined, banned from solitary meetings with male leaders, including prospective sponsors and career champions, their options for advancement, let alone professional flourishing, shrink. The more that men quarantine women, excluding them from key meetings, after-hours networking events, and one-on-one coaching and mentoring, the more that men alone will be the ones securing C-suite jobs. The preservation of men and the exclusion of women from leadership roles will be perpetuated everywhere that the Billy Graham rule is practiced. Score another one for the old boys’ club.

Chivalry is not the issue. The issue is self-preservation, for your career and your mission. Billy Graham and his associates imposed the rule on themselves to protect the ministry they were building because they understood that they could not build a Christian ministry without the confidence of their parishoners that they were morally upright. And why? Because once a woman puts the mouth on a man, “He touched me/spoke to me/looked at me/paid me/etc.” that shadow hangs over him forever. See Casey Affleck, who can win an Oscar, but the rumor mill still churns up an eight-year old unproven accusation against him.

Let me put it even more plainly: If men do not choose to associate with women professionally, it is because women have become a professional hazard to men.

Whether codified or informal, sex quarantines are rooted in fear. At the heart of it, policies curbing contact between men and women at work serve to perpetuate the notions that women are toxic temptresses, who want to either seduce powerful men or falsely accuse them of sexual harassment. This framing allows men to justify their anxiety about feeling attracted to women at work, and, sometimes, their own sexual boundary violations. It also undermines the perceived validity of claims by women who have been harassed or assaulted. Although thoughtful professional boundaries create the bedrock for trust, collegiality, and the kind of nonsexual intimacy that undergirds the best mentoring relationships, fear-based boundaries are different. By reducing or even eliminating cross-sex social contact, sex segregation prevents the very exposure that reduces anxiety and builds trust.

A claim is not valid that is not supported by evidence or reason. But one has to love how the authors snuck that little attempt at creating an unjustifiable obligation. “A woman you don’t know what done wrong by a man who isn’t you; therefore you are obligated to give women you don’t know access to what you have, despite it being against your interests to do so.”

To build closer, anxiety-free working relationships with members of the opposite sex, thoughtful men will be well-served by having more, not less, interaction with women at work. In a classic series of studies, psychologist Robert Zajonc discovered that repeated exposure to a stimulus (such as a gender group) that previously elicited discomfort and anxiety helped reduce anxiety, and actually increased the probability of fondness and positive interaction. Termed the mere exposure effect in social psychology, the principle has been particularly useful in changing negative attitudes about previously stigmatized groups. Excellent leaders initiate positive developmental and collegial interactions with as many types of people as they can — deliberately, frequently, and transparently.

Can the “mere exposure effect” be applied to “rape” porn or even porn in general? Seems to being working in Japan.

Perhaps the most disingenuous and deceptive quality of the Billy Graham rule and other forms of sex segregation at work may be their superficially honorable and chivalrous nature. This “benevolent sexism” includes evaluations of women that appear subjectively positive but are quite damaging to gender equity. In their pioneering research on the topic, psychologists Peter Glick and Susan Fiske discovered that women often endorse many benevolent forms of sexism (e.g., that women are delicate and require protection, or that sex quarantines at work help preserve women’s reputations), despite the fact that the sexism inhibits real gender equality. This may explain why many women applauded Pence’s stance as evidence of his character and commitment to his marriage. But sexism always diminishes and disadvantages women at work; even benevolent sexist policies, which lack transparent hostility and appear “nice” on the surface, lead to lower rates of pay and promotion, regardless of how many women support them.

As pointed out above, the Billy Graham rule has little to do with “chivalry” and more to do with “CYA” (Cover Your Ass).

Here is something most men fail to consider when invoking sex quarantines at work: What does their unwillingness to be seen alone with a woman say about them and males more generally? When a man refuses to be alone with a female colleague on a car trip or in a restaurant, owing to fear of something untoward happening, we must ask: Dude, do you, or do you not, have a functioning frontal lobe? Sex quarantines reinforce notions that men are barely evolved sex maniacs, scarcely capable of muting, let alone controlling, their evolved neurological radar for fertile mates of the opposite sex. Sex quarantines paint men as impulsive, sexually preoccupied, and unable to refrain from consummating romantic interest or sexual feelings if they occur in cross-sex relationships. The “sex-crazed” male stereotype is often reinforced in the process of male socialization, and there are plenty of men who, at least on some level, fear breaking rank and violating these expectations of male behavior. This is where moral courage comes in. The fact is, many men choose not to fulfill this stereotype; many men have close, mutual, collegial relationships with women and never once violate a relational boundary.

This whole paragraph is a stunning piece of academic shaming language, the trust of which is “we will call you names (sex maniacs, sex-crazed) if you do not give us what we want. But if you show ‘moral courage’ (give us what we want), we will not carry out the threat that we claim you should fear.” This is emotional blackmailing with excess verbiage.

The frontal lobe, as my “dudes” referred to it, is where problem solving takes place. Women accusing men of bad acts is a hazard. The most cost-effective solution to a hazard is to go around it. Some men have chosen to bypass the hazard of a false accusation by bypassing the typical false accuser (a woman).

Simple, logical, and practical.

Of course, the Billy Graham rule and other efforts at quarantining women suffer from a number of logical inconsistencies. For instance, there is the efficacy problem: Rigid efforts to eliminate cross-sex interaction in the workplace have not proven effective. Even in the most conservative religious denominations, nearly one-third of pastors have crossed sexual boundaries with parishioners. Then there is the uncomfortable truth that the Billy Graham rule denies the reality of LGBT people and that sexual and romantic feelings are not limited to cross-sex relationships. The logic of sex quarantine thinking would dictate that a bisexual leader could never meet alone with anyone! Finally, the truth is that sex-excluding policies are rooted in deeply erroneous dichotomous thinking: Either I engage with women at work and risk egregious, career-threatening boundary violations or I avoid all unchaperoned interaction with women.

Sirs, did these pastors accept the Billy Graham rule? Did they practice it? If the answer to one or both of those questions is “no” then they cannot be held as examples of its inefficacy.

Thanks.

So what’s an evolved male leader to do? In the simplest terms, become what we call a thoughtful caveman. Healthy, mature, self-aware men understand and accept their distinctly male neural architecture. If they happen to be heterosexual, this means they own the real potential for cross-sex attraction without catastrophizing this possibility or acting out feelings of attraction, to the detriment of female colleagues. Thoughtful cavemen employ their frontal cortex to ensure prudence and wise judgment in relationships with women and men.

Is “thoughtful caveman” the latest colloquiallism for New Soviet Man New Feminist Man?

Translation: Give females things, don’t ask females for things you want (sex), and don’t worry about females accusing you of things because…why would a woman ever lie about sex?

Here is a final reason why even devoutly Christian men like Mike Pence and Billy Graham should be dubious about isolating and excluding women at work: Jesus himself was known to meet alone with women (e.g., the Samaritan woman at the well). It seems that showing kind hospitality and elevating the dignity of women was more important than any threat of gossip.

That’s funny.

The Samaritan woman attempted to trickle-truth Jesus (lie by omission). It is only after Jesus calls her out on her bullshit (You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.) that she SUBMITS to his authority as a Rabbi and as the Messiah.

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Mike Pence and the Truth That Dare Not Speak Its Name: Male Disposability

Hopefully I can get this done without political tribalism rearing its ugly head.

For those unfamiliar with the situation, here’s the rundown:

Current Vice President of the United States, Mike Pence, gave an interview to the Hill in 2002 in which he stated that he does not dine alone with any woman other than his wife and he doesn’t attend parties where alcohol is served without his wife present. The interview was resurrected last week when the Washington Post did a profile of his wife, Karen Pence. His reasoning was:

It’s about building a zone around your marriage.

“I don’t think it’s a predatory town (Washington D.C.), but I think you can inadvertently send the wrong message by being in [certain] situations.

”I’ve seen friends lose their families. I’d rather lose an election.”

What outdated, Patriarchal thinking, respecting one’s spouse and protecting one’s own reputation from the poisoned tongues of gossips and scandalmongers. What a jerk this guy is.

And my God, the deafening sound of cracking as Feminists collectively shit a brick into the toilet across America.

Olga Khazan:

But, especially in boozy, late-working Washington, the eating thing rankled. Sure, during the day, you can grab coffee instead of a sandwich. But no dinner? Doesn’t that cut an entire gender off from a very powerful person at roughly 8 p.m? To career-obsessed Washingtonians, that’s practically happy hour—which, apparently, is off-limits too.

And that’s too bad, because according to the Harvard study and some others, women prefer male sponsors, perceiving them to be better-connected and more powerful. And they’re right: According to some analyses, men hold more than 85 percent of top management positions in big companies.

Ashley Csanady:

At its core, Pence’s self-imposed ban is rape culture.

Nor is that a label I assign lightly. “Rape culture” is a phrase so overused it’s become almost meaningless, like calling someone a Nazi on the internet. But it has a very clear meaning: the notion, whether conscious or unconscious, that men can’t control themselves around women because “boys will be boys.”

The explicit reasons for Pence’s restriction are religion and family, but the implicit reason is that he must avoid alone-time with women lest his stringent religious moral code fall apart in the presence of a little lipstick and décolletage.

That is rape culture.

Paul Waldman:

I’m sure Pence would say that he’s just being careful. But I wonder if he realizes the discriminatory consequences of his rule. Over his career, he has had many colleagues and employees. With the men, he can have complex relationships that traverse work and social contexts, build trust, and eventually help their careers. A woman who hoped Pence would be a mentor to her, on the other hand, wouldn’t be able to avail herself of those opportunities, since he can’t even have lunch with her.

Casey Quinlan:

When co-workers meet with each other alone in any professional context, whether they are eating a meal or not, they have a chance to forge a professional bond that could stay with them for their rest of their careers. It is particularly important that people have the opportunity to meet with their supervisors and foster a relationship of open communication and mutual respect. Some industries have cultures where dining out during or after work with colleagues is very common. Women are at a disadvantage if they are shut out from that culture, whether they aren’t invited to one-on-one dinners as their male colleagues are, or aren’t welcome at group events because men think a woman’s presence would dampen the festivities.

Jessica Valenti:

While Republicans swoon over Pence’s supposed old-school propriety, the rest of us were simply reminded that you don’t need to brag about “grabbing pussies” to be a misogynist.

Never mind what it means for the (very few) women who work in the White House, who apparently can’t count on business dinners or mentorship over a meal. The underlying message of a rule like Pence’s is the same one that’s taught to teens in abstinence-only education classes: men can’t control themselves when alone with women.

It’s an insulting view of men, a limiting role for women—we’re there to either entice or domesticate—and an archaic take on gender roles more generally.

The universal objection that cuts across all of these complaints is that a man (Mike Pence) has a resource (power/status/connections) that he is not freely making available to women in general. Accordingly, he has no right to give or withhold his time from women; he has no right to associate or dissociate from anyone he chooses. He is not acting as a resource for women, he is not putting himself or his career at hazard for women, so to Feminists, he must be shamed and scolded into compliance.
The same people criticizing Pence vigorously handwave concerns about false accusations, declaring the number to be so small as to be unworthy of concern (in the absence of evidence). They ignore that for any number to exist, someone, some man, has to have been the victim of a false accusation. Like the game of Russian Roulette, eventually, someone has to be that 16 2/3%. For the loser, there is no comfort that he lost, no matter how statistically insignificant the odds.

A sexual harassment claim leaves the falsely accused with a host of collateral damage and few legal remedies.

And for those men who actually do dip their pens in the company ink, for those who actually do engage in impropriety, never expect a woman to hold water. This goes to the related question of why these powerful, connected, high-status men, are reluctant to take these power-hungry, career-minded women into their confidences: No matter how personally or professionally close a man is with a woman, she will, under the right circumstances, betray a man’s secrets. Bill Clinton was torpedoed by gossiping by Monica Lewinsky and Linda Tripp. Anthony Weiner had his business put out by Sydney Leathers. John Edwards political career was ended by Rielle Hunter. Eliot Spitzer was brought down by Ashley Dupre.

And all of these women, once the scandal train started, feverishly shoveled coal into the engine’s fire. Interviews were given. Tell-all books written. Once their 15 minutes of fame were upon them, they embraced it as eagerly as the men whose ruin they facilitated.

Notice that Mike Pence has not refused to “mentor” women. He has not refused to associate women. He has not refused to promote women. He has done what any reasonable man ought to do: he made sure that his interests were protected first before he advanced anyone else’s. To his Feminist critics, a man protecting his principles, the sanctity of his marriage, and his professional reputation before advancing the cause of WOMEN IN THE BOARDROOM is not only unacceptable…IT’S RAPE CULTURE.