They laughed, how they laughed, at the man who’s got to be the odds-on favorite to be our next president. Comics and progressive left-wingers had a field day, snickering about the Pence Rule, Vice President Mike Pence’s commitment to never meet alone with a woman who isn’t his wife. The rule was ridiculed as puritanical, paranoid, and an indication of Pence’s antiquated morality, his misogyny, even his sexism.
Who’s laughing now?
From media, to Hollywood, to the Beltway—where a secret congressional fund pays off accusers with taxpayer dollars—how the mighty have fallen. Lauer, Keillor, Conyers (not Franken, not yet). The list reads like a who’s who and vies in incomprehensibility with government waste in the billions—you can’t wrap your mind around it.
Thankfully, Captain Kangaroo did not live to see this.
The problem with the Pence Rule is that it seems like the only concrete rule, and it’s pretty Draconian. The rule protects men who can follow it, but what about other men, men who from time to time must necessarily be alone with women as part of their professional life? What is and isn’t appropriate, allowed, or punishable (and to what degree)? Who goes, who stays? When does the presumption of innocence apply, if ever, and what about due process?
If women are always to be believed, Pence is right: men take a risk being alone with them.
Here we’ll look at four rock classics for insight into this cultural upheaval that is proving perilous, almost exclusively, for men. That fact of the matter is, there are few set rules, and the rules keep changing. Is the Pence Rule the only surefire way to stay out of trouble?
Styx: “Queen of Spades”
“Her love means only your death.”
Substitute the word “claim” for “love” in this lyric, and you get the picture.
Styx was one of those heartland bands that now ideologically and journalistically bankrupt Rolling Stone castigated as “corporate rock” back in the mid-seventies (along with Kansas, REO Speedwagon, and others). But you don’t have to be from Omaha to love Styx. They routinely sold out my hometown Oakland Coliseum at the height of their popularity, and remain in multi-million-selling rotation on classic rock radio stations to this day.
“Queen of Spades,” one of Styx’s heaviest tracks, is an obligatory take on the “evil woman” theme. A metaphor for women who seduce, cheat, psychologically torture and then destroy men, after the men have become addicted to their pheromones. It is not about sexual harassment, abuse, or violence, in the workplace or anywhere else.
But ask any man who has attained wealth or position which they would prefer: (a) having their heart snuffed out and thrown into a trash compactor, or (b) having a former associate, coworker, or intern come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct.
The vast majority of men would rather be in Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band than draw the bad luck card dealt by the queen of spades and her career-killing accusations.
Rule: Since you can never know which woman might end up being your Queen of Spades, assume they all have the capacity to play a hand that might clean you out.
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: “Don’t Come Around Here No More”
A monumental loss to pop culture and rock music came with the passing of this songwriter/vocalist and guitarist. Tom probably wouldn’t have wanted this haunting track to be interpreted as follows, but great art is open to interpretation. This song conjures the sense of a woman whose return is marked by foreboding—perfectly apropos for our times.
Specifically, for the purposes of this discussion, the kind of woman who seeks professional favors or advancement from a man or who seeks to have her prospects enhanced by association with a man of stature or power. A woman who, after being denied, becomes embittered, and starts looking for ways to damage the man. A woman who, even after she is unable to grasp the brass ring she’d hoped for, continues to publicly respect said man, and then at some point, years or even decades later, calculates that turning on him with spurious allegations will work to her advantage.
Rule: Note to accusers who’ve made post- “abuse” public statements in support of men you now accuse of abusing you: Don’t come around here no more. You’re done.
Spinal Tap: “Bitch School”
Whatever rock fans may think of Hollywood success story Rob Reiner and his far-left activism, they’ve got to give a nudge and a wink in acknowledgment of the excellent mockumentary he brought to fruition.
In Spinal Tap, Reiner brilliantly satirized the European privilege, throwback sexism, and marginal talent of the most famous send-up band in history. In the derivative rocker “Bitch School,” we can extrapolate much about the culture of film and television that made All in The Family’s’ “Mike Stivic” a household name.
It turns out that box office superstars, film moguls, and liberal media mainstays like Dustin Hoffman, Harvey Weinstein, and Charlie Rose have engaged in behaviors that might make David St. Hubbins and Nigel Tufnel stand up and say, “Pardon, mate, but we’re just not comfortable with this.”
With Spinal Tap, the women were acquiescent; in fact, they typically scratched and clawed like banshees to get backstage. Bassist Derek Smalls never had to worry about coming out of the shower without a towel. (On second thought, perhaps maybe he did.)
In Tap’s rollicking ode, the threat to women is being sent back to school to learn how to be a proper groupie. For women negotiating advancement with leftist power brokers like Harvey Weinstein, the threat is being sent back to Podunk, USA, to star as Willy Loman’s wife in a community theater production of Death of a Salesman.
Rule: While we can look back nostalgically at a time when the battle of the sexes didn’t seem so down and dirty, that was then. Now, however much we enjoy watching the hijinks of Reiner’s creation, those days are probably gone forever. You won’t get away with it.
Nirvana: “Heart-Shaped Box”
Here’s a Kurt Cobain reality check.
Here’s where it gets unhappy. This mordant number from Kurt Cobain’s nihilistic oeuvre may not speak directly to what happens when a man faces sexual harassment charges, but the mood captures what it might feel like. Imagine being confronted with such accusations, or worse, to lose everything over unsubstantiated, exaggerated, or absolutely untrue claims.
“She eyes me like a Pisces when I am weak. I’ve been locked inside your heart-shaped box for weeks”
Item (Without comment on the veracity of the charges, we’ll probably never know.): Kentucky state lawmaker kills himself after denying sexual misconduct accusations
Rule: If you know a man who is facing sexual misconduct (or worse) charges and the evidence against him is coming anecdotally from a questionable source or sources, give him as much of the benefit of the doubt as you feel is prudent.
Final Rule: When in doubt, go to the Pence Rule, the best rule for men who are respectful of women but don’t have firm footing on the shifting sands of sexual politics in the professional arena. The next time you’re tempted to compliment the appearance of a female client, coworker, associate, intern or whomever, remember the vice president’s timely rule, which now seems to carry with it a prescient wisdom. Let it inform your every interaction.