If it seems absurd that a man who's long vigorously worked to defund Planned Parenthood and who tried to redefine rape would be the recipient of an award for his work with women, it’s because it is. And yet that’s what’s happening now that the Independent Women’s Forum has chosen to honor Mike Pence with the Working for Women award at a Wednesday event to celebrate Women’s History Month.
To be sure, the organization extolling Pence’s work with women is a conservative one, and Donald Trump’s adviser Kellyanne Conway sits on the board of the organization. Conway recently told a group of women at the Conservative Political Action Conference, “It’s difficult for me to call myself a feminist in the classic sense because it seems to be very anti-male and it seems to be very pro-abortion, in this context. And I’m neither anti-male or pro-abortion.” Considering the purveyors of the honor it makes some sense that Pence, who as governor of Indiana, signed a bill requiring women who got abortions to bury or cremate fetal remains, would be deemed a champion for women.
The Independent Women’s Forum grew out of a group formed in the '90s in support of Clarence Thomas during his Senate confirmation hearings to become a Supreme Court justice. During those hearings, law professor Anita Hill came forward to say he had sexually harassed her when they worked together. The women who formed the group proudly proclaimed that not all women believed Hill.
In a release about the honor being bestowed on Pence, the Independent Women’s Forum wrote, “The award recognizes an individual who values free markets, works to create a more dynamic and innovative work world, and celebrates the valuable contributions women make to society.”
If women like Conway eschew the word feminist because they are “neither anti-male or pro-abortion,” and they approve of Pence’s work to dismantle reproductive rights and to shame women for their choices, then consider that the Independent Women’s Forum must believe that creating “a more dynamic and innovate work world” means that women earn 73 cents for every dollar that men make. Despite telling the people of Indiana that he wanted women to make as much as men, when Pence was in Congress, he voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act three times, according to the Indiana Democratic Party's website. The act, signed into law by President Obama in 2009, expands the time period to file suits over wage discrimination.
Also, it’s difficult to understand how the Independent Women’s Forum defines “work world,” since the organization chose to honor a man who doesn’t actually believe that women should work.
"For years, we have gotten the message from the mouthpieces of the popular culture that you can have it all, career, kids and a two-car garage. The numbers in this federally funded study argue that the converse is true," Pence once wrote in a letter to the editor in The Indianapolis Star, objecting to the paper's positive characterization of a National Institutes of Health study.
"Sure, you can have it all, but your day-care kids get the short end of the emotional stick,” Pence continued in the letter, posted by CNN. But don’t worry, he had a solution to his perceived problem of working mothers:
“We should seriously rethink a tax code that makes it less and less possible for one parent to stay home with the kids and replace it with a family-friendly system of tax collection,” Pence put forth."Or we could just settle for another generation of adults with good language and cognitive skills but stunted emotional growth. Let's take these findings and put families first again."
Pence’s earning an award for his deeply troubling views and record of voting against women during Women’s History Month is another slap in the face to women since Donald Trump took office. Just three days into Trump’s presidency, and two days after the world-record breaking Women’s March protests, Trump signed an executive order that halts U.S. aid to overseas nongovernmental organizations that provide or advise on abortions. And that’s on top of the laundry list of hateful misogynist statements Pence’s boss has made about women.