The fallout from Mike Pence’s comments about his dinner companions has been predictable, sad, and yet another galling rollback under this administration
Thursday 6 April 2017
There’s a line in the 1989 hit movie When Harry Met Sally where Billy Crystal’s character insists: “Men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.” Thus begins the push-pull of one of the most famous romcoms of all time; a film that ends, of course, with the title characters getting married.
Platonic relationships between men and women may be ripe fodder for romantic storylines, but it’s a shame that in real life we’re somehow back in a place where male-female friendships are seen as unrealistic. Or, even worse, a danger.
In the wake of Mike Pence’s no-dinner-with-women-alone rule – a mandate that conservatives defended as good sense for honoring a marriage – a conversation has re-emerged on the right about proper roles for men and women. The short version seems to be that those of us who believe people of the opposite sex are capable of being in the same room without immediately engaging in intercourse are just fooling ourselves.
The most talked-about (and mocked) argument in this vein this week comes to us from Federalist writer and Lutheran pastor Hans Fiene, who insists that women don’t actually have any male friends – just men who want to sleep with them that they’ve “friend zoned”.
“Every year, countless young men find themselves trapped in the Friend Zone, a prison where women place any man they deem worthy of their time but not their hearts, men they’d love to have dinner with but, for whatever reason, don’t want to kiss goodnight.”
Setting aside the contention that a friendship without sex is a prison (perhaps referring to relationships as such is why women aren’t eager to kiss?), the important piece of this strange article is Fiene’s worry that male-female friendships are “an inarguable drag on fertility rates”.
“[A] man who spends several years pledging his heart to a woman who will never have his children is also a man who most likely won’t procreate with anyone else during that time of incarceration,” he writes.
And that’s the rub. To some conservatives, still, relationships are not about joy or friendship, mutual admiration or common interests – they’re about creating new citizens. “Get pregnant a bunch of times and give birth to a bunch of beautiful little future taxpayers,” Fiene instructs women.
That’s why I can’t feel too badly for men like this, who are missing out on rich friendships and connections with women. Because the reason they refuse to see us as friends is that they don’t really see us as people – just potential wives or objects or desire, virgins or whores.