The Billy Graham Rule and #MeToo
“I am Woman, hear me roar in numbers too big to ignore…”
I loved that song as a little girl. I did feel strong. I did feel invincible. I did feel equal. I did feel like my gender could never hold me back from what I wanted to achieve. It was a battle cry in the battle of the sexes! Girls rule! Boys drool!
It gave me the courage to never be afraid to stand up for myself or to do what was right. I thought every girl and woman felt the same. Recent events have shown that not to be the case.
One can hardly open any social media venue and not be exposed to new accusations of sexual harassment against a celebrity, a politician, even a chef. The internet trend of #MeToo opened up a reservoir of emotions for millions of women, and millions of men are now flooded with the fear that they may be next in being accused.
Except, there is a segment of society who does not need to fear- those who have held themselves to a higher regard of interactions with the opposite sex. Or as some may call it “The Billy Graham Rule.”
In his autobiography, Billy Graham discussed his early career and what possible perils may fall upon evangelists. To avoid sexual impropriety or temptations, he decided to impose upon himself certain restrictions. These included avoiding traveling, dining or meeting alone with women other than his wife or family members.
There are many men and women in today’s society who follow these or similar personal rules of behavior, most often determined with their spouse and most notably Vice-President Mike Pence.
One would hope that a man who desires to hold himself accountable would be admired. Yet, this rule has undergone recent criticism, claiming it is actually discriminatory against women. It seems many see private conversations as the only way to create opportunity for job security and to avoid this situations is sexist.
Interestingly, Vice President Pence has no less than eight women in executive staff positions. I personally have worked with an elected official who holds a similar rule. His campaign manager has been a female, along with a predominantly female staff.
When this elected official reached out to me to participate in his campaign, he invited me to lunch. I had never met him and was uncomfortable eating with someone other than my husband. Before I could respond, he quickly noted his wife would be with us and encouraged my husband to attend. I suddenly felt at ease, and truly appreciated this arrangement. It also created an impression of this candidate of trust and respect.
When one holds themselves beyond reproach, it acts as a guardrail for any actions outside of the purveyance of the work at hand.
Many Christian couples have a hierarchy of relationships. At the top is God. Second is spouse. Third is children. Fourth is family and friends. And all else fits into the fifth level.
A marriage is a vow and contract. You promise to love and cherish the other person, forsaking all others, in sickness and in health. In the business world, a contract is signed by participating parties. In the marriage world, the contract is sealed with a kiss and consummation. Very physical acts, but with extreme purpose. These acts are meant to bind two entities into one before God. They are the reason He made both male and female. The reason one of His commandments, rules above all others, is to not commit adultery. Adultery is breaking a covenant made before God.
Another criticism of the “Billy Graham rule” is that women are seen as temptresses. That we all have an inherent evil due to our gender from which males must be protected and is disrespectful to women. This is a silly point. The rule can be used by both genders. Neither gender is more or less prone to lapses of propriety that may invite inappropriate interaction.
Both genders can experience harassment. I find it extremely sexist to think that males have more power than females. After all, females have all of the same protections in the workforce males do. No, the rule is there to place respect for all parties at the forefront. Disrespect is desiring more private and intimate settings in where it is easier to accomplish the types of deeds we are seeing in the headlines.
Which leads me back to the Helen Reddy classic “I am Woman.” Looking back at the lyrics as an adult woman, I can see that it had a different connotation than what I thought as a child.
It is about woman’s abuse. It is a desperation to change her circumstances. It is her desire to be seen as strong, to be seen as invincible. It is battle cry to turn the tide of power from the abuser to herself. It makes me sad that the woman in the song was treated so disrespectfully and had been so broken. It makes me sad that other women did not use it as I did, as a battle cry to truly feel strong and invincible.
If only that woman had been with a man who had held a higher regard for her. A man like Billy Graham.