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After Years of Undermining Women, Pence Will Receive 'Working for Women' Award

On Wednesday, a conservative women's organization that thinks the free market will fix institutional sexism will honor Mike Pence, a man who has tirelessly fought abortion rights and once wrote a very weird op-ed about "Mulan."

by Kimberly Lawson
Mar 21 2017, 7:25pm

Stunning image by Callie Beusman

On Wednesday, Mike Pence will be honored for his work, um, celebrating women. The Independent Women's Forum (IWF), a conservative nonprofit research and education institution, will bestow upon the vice president the organization's inaugural "Working for Women" award.

According to a press release, "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." (Notably, Kellyanne Conway is on the IWF's board of directors, though she's currently billed as being on a "temporary leave of absence.")

What's interesting about the organization's pick for the "Working for Women" award is that Pence has historically and consistently actually worked against what most consider to be women's interests. Last summer, when Trump first announced Pence as his VP pick, NARAL Pro-Choice America president Ilyse Hogue quickly denounced the decision. "For women, for LGBT families," she told Broadly, "and for the diverse families that make America great, our nation's potential future just got a lot scarier."

Read more: Some Absolute Garbage Ideas by Vice Presidential Nominee Mike Pence

The former Indiana governor is infamously known among women's reproductive rights advocates for signing what the National Network of Abortion Funds called "one of the most vicious omnibus anti-abortion bills the United States has ever seen." Had it not been suspended by a federal judge, the law would have required funeral services for fetuses, among other extreme measures.

During his time as a congressman, Pence supported a bill that redefined rape as "forcible rape," in an effort to more stringently prohibit taxpayer-funded abortions. (The Hyde Amendment only allows for abortion coverage in cases of incest, rape, and threat to the mother's health; the bill would have narrowed the rape exception.) He also voted against legislation that addressed gender wage gap, including theLilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act. And when given the opportunity to support paid family leave proposals, he repeatedly declined to do so.

"Mike Pence is no fan of paid leave as far as I know," Vicki Shabo, vice president of the National Partnership for Women & Families,told the Huffington Post.

His anti-woman advocacy extends beyond legislative action; in one particularly bizarre instance, he used the Disney animated film Mulan to illustrate a point that women should not serve in the military. "It is instructive that even in the Disney film, young Ms. Mulan falls in love with her superior officer!" Pence wrote in a 1999 op-ed, as uncovered by BuzzFeed. "You see, now stay with me on this, many young men find many young women to be attractive sexually. Many young women find many young men to be attractive sexually. Put them together, in close quarters, for long periods of time, and things will get interesting. Just like they eventually did for young Mulan. Moral of story: women in military, bad idea."

Even the IWF, the organization honoring Pence, is aware of his past statements disparaging women in the workplace: Last year, it reran a piece from the Washington Post on its website that pointed out he had mocked working moms who had to put their children in daycare. In 1997, Pence had written in a 1997 letter to the editor of The Indianapolis Star: "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."

"Sure," he continued, "you can have it all, but your day-care kids get the short end of the emotional stick."

It makes sense that IWF would celebrate Pence as a champion of women despite his repeated, strange sexist comments and his frequent attacks on reproductive rights and workplace equality; after all, this is an organization that believes that paid family leave and government-mandated pay equality "end up backfiring on women by diminishing choice and opportunity and creating a less flexible, dynamic workplace."

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