Last week, the Independent Women Forum, a conservative nonprofit of which Kellyanne Conway is a board member, announced that Vice President Mike Pence will be receiving its “Working for Women” award. This is the same Mike Pence who once signed a bill requiring women to have funerals for their aborted fetuses. The Mike Pence who, as a member of Congress, led the fight to defund Planned Parenthood and tried to ban abortion, even in the case of genetic abnormalities. The same Mike Pence who once got so mad watching the children’s movie Mulan that he decided to write an op-ed on the subject, in which he concluded, “Women in [the] military, bad idea.” He supports working women so much, in fact, that in a 1997 letter to the editor of The Indianapolis Star, he wrote that working mothers “stunt the emotional growth” of their children.
When I read this bit of news, it rang a bell. I guessed at first that he was being trolled or that a women’s organization was engaging in some clever satire. I may have felt that way because there is an actual episode of Parks and Recreation in which Leslie Knope, played by Amy Poehler, is passed over as her city’s “Woman of the Year” in favor of her boss, Ron Swanson, a man. Yes, at this point, the achievements of our elected government leaders more closely resemble satirical comedy than than they do reality.
To be fair to Pence, the Independent Women Forum, which states that the award is given to 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,” is a conservative organization, so his values probably match up with theirs. Still, I have to wonder what “valuable contributions” Pence has fought for. He doesn’t want them to have jobs. He doesn’t think they’re cut out for the military. Is this an award for men who have generously allowed women to remain housewives? Because Pence seems to actively lobby against everything else.
Shouldn’t the Independent Women Forum be recognizing other women for their hard work? The point of that Parks and Recreation episode is to lampoon the organizations—and our society as a whole really—that recognize men for women’s achievements. In Leslie’s world, she and Ron eventually decide that the award is pointless and toss it in the trash. In the real world, Pence’s award affirms how women aren’t even recognized in spaces created specifically for their own advancement. This honor needs to go in the garbage, too.