As we noted yesterday, The Washington Post released a lengthy profile on Karen Pence, America’s new second lady. Tossed into the profile was a little note about how Vice President Mike Pence never has dinner alone with any woman who is not his wife or attends any function that serves alcohol without her. Christian culture scholars may recognize this as a variation of the famed Billy Graham Rule, so-named for the globetrotting evangelist’s strict rules about who he was alone with.
But not everyone is a Christian culture scholar, so the Pence’s rules raised some eyebrows across Twitter and also ignited a debate well worth having. The rule’s proponents maintained that the Billy Graham Rule could go a long way towards protecting marriages and squashing rumors of infidelity. But some detractors pointed out that the rule has a tendency to fall into the old trap of reducing women to sexual traps for hapless men, and can also hinder professional advancement for women who may not be able to build connections in a patriarchal power structure if they can’t meet one on one with the gatekeepers in their fields.
Here are a few thoughts from the Twittersphere.
Among other things, the "Billy Graham rule" seems like a GREAT way to hold women back professionally.
— Santa Bae O'Connor 🎅 (@LoveMyFriendz69) March 30, 2017
Right on queue, the progressive police misunderstand, decontextualize, and demonized the Billy Graham Rule.
— Kevin Sheahan (@kdsheahan) March 30, 2017
The Billy Graham rule was for Billy Graham by Billy Graham. It shouldn't be elevated to the status of Biblical command for gender relations.
— Nate Pyle ‘O Presents (@NatePyle79) March 29, 2017
1/ If Pence won't eat dinner alone with any woman but his wife, that means he won't hire women in key spots.
— Clara Jeffery (@ClaraJeffery) March 29, 2017
Telling that the same men who brag about sticking to "the Billy Graham rule" shrug off Trump's bragging about sexual assault as NBD.
— Rachel Held Evans (@rachelheldevans) March 30, 2017
On Pence's marriage rules, I'm torn. I've seen the way those rules marginalized women in church settings. But I support protecting marriage.
— Merritt and bright (@JonathanMerritt) March 29, 2017
Billy Graham's big tent would have included those who love and those who hate his weird rule.
— Richard Clark (@TheRichardClark) March 30, 2017
Seriously what's the appropriate reason for a married person to go out for a meal alone with a member of the other sex (outside of family)?
— Matt Walsh (@MattWalshBlog) March 30, 2017
No one says, "you are a depraved glutton if you remove iced cream from your freezer to make a diet work." https://t.co/OmwiaNGGzC
— Michael Brendan Dougherty (@michaelbd) March 29, 2017
I'll take the Billy Graham rule over the Donald Trump rule every day of the week and twice on Sunday.
— Rachael (spelled like Denhollander) Starke (@rachaelstarke) March 29, 2017
I'm a straight, married, normal man, and so every time I look at another woman I freeze up and hide my face like that ghost from Mario
— Edcrab (@Edcrab_) March 30, 2017
Poses an interesting challenge for women religion journalists – sourcing is different for men who can meet with similar leaders privately https://t.co/71gJGkeMuJ
— Elizabeth Dias (@elizabethjdias) March 29, 2017
It’s a good conversation with some interesting nuances. No doubt a lot of faithful adherents to the rule had never considered the ways it might end up inadvertently holding some women back. Likewise, a lot of people who object to the Billy Graham Rule may not be aware of some of the marriages it’s protected.