So Joe Biden’s not a pussy grabber. Is that really good enough? | Moira Donegan

After being accused of inappropriate touching, the excuses being made for Joe Biden are disappointing

The pretext that Joe Biden is not yet running for president is beginning to wear thin. Biden, who has lost two previous Democratic presidential primaries, has been the presumed frontrunner of the 2020 contest for months, with his name polling strongly alongside other candidates and his supposed status as the only Democrat who can beat Donald Trump in a general election repeated ad nauseam.

His camp has behaved in shortsighted ways that imply a frontrunners arrogance, from a botched rollout of a plan to appeal to progressives by floating the idea of having Stacey Abrams as his running mate (Abrams declined), to the drawn-out political stagecraft of Bidens postponed presidential campaign announcement, in which he has insulted the nations intelligence by pretending to be vexed or uncertain about doing something that we all know he is going to do.

That fiction, that Biden is not yet running a campaign, was all but abandoned this week, when the former Nevada state assemblywoman Lucy Flores published an essay in the Cut, alleging that at a Democratic campaign rally in 2014, Biden grabbed her from behind, deeply sniffed her hair, and kissed the back of her head.

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Biden promptly issued a statement that seemed calibrated by public relations specialists to say exactly nothing. He denied wrongdoing but did not deny the plainly inappropriate behavior alleged by Flores. He said that it was important for women to speak about their experiences, but made no commitment to reflect on or change his own behavior. He did not apologize.

Meanwhile, female surrogates were deployed to testify to Bidens respect for women, and to implicitly suggest that Flores was mistaken or lying. Cynthia Hogan, a former senior staffer to Biden in the Senate and as vice-president, described an encounter with Senator Strom Thurmond, the segregationist, who commented on Hogans looks; Biden, she says, defended her honor. Sheila Nix, a former chief of staff for Biden during the 2012 Obama re-election campaign, publicly said that Biden, treated women on his team with full respect. The statements had the feel of a coordinated publicity effort, less like spontaneous declarations of grateful colleagues and more like the machinations of a sophisticated political campaign doing damage control.

These women are probably sincere in their admiration for Biden and honest about their positive experiences with him, but their testimonies imply a logic deployed often in the defense of men who are alleged to have behaved in abusive, coercive, or creepy ways toward women: if he didnt behave badly toward one woman, the thinking goes, then he could not have behaved badly toward any women.

We already know that this is not the case. As Flores noted herself in her essay for the Cut, other accusations against Biden have been public for some time, and the public notice of his inappropriate behavior toward women has been accruing since at least his time in the Obama administration. On Monday, just days after Flores published her allegations, a Connecticut woman came forward with a similarly creepy story of an incident in which she says Joe Biden grabbed her by the neck and pulled her close to him to rub noses. If there are many women whom Biden has treated with professionalism and respect, there are also a concerning number of women whom he has not.

One predictable defense of Biden is that these allegations against him and the behavior that has been documented in photos and videos of Biden touching women and girls do not show explicitly sexual motivations by Biden. This strains credulity somewhat; are we really supposed to believe that there was nothing lascivious in Bidens deep sniff of Flores hair? But the line of argument by his defenders is that Bidens inappropriate touching is not as inappropriate as other mens inappropriate touching that he is not as bad, namely, as Donald Trump.

In this line of thinking, Biden is not being sexually aggressive when he rubs womens shoulders, rubs noses with them, or kisses their hair. He is merely being incompetent, his behavior a relic of an older and supposedly more innocent time when men could touch women without their consent and know that they would face no reprimand.

Again, this is not entirely believable it paints a picture of Biden as clueless and unthinking that does not align with his other public behavior. But the argument also fails on its own merits. It is unclear, for instance, why Biden has not adjusted to the social mores of this time, or why his persistent ignorance of them is deemed exonerating. If he is not malicious, but merely incompetent, this is hardly a defense, and it is certainly not an argument that this socially incompetent man should be given the most powerful job in the world. The mandate to understand basic social cues, and to adjust to a world in which womens bodies are no longer available for opportunistic fondling by white men in their vicinity, are basic requirements for much less powerful positions than the presidency.

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The argument that Bidens inappropriate touching of women is somehow innocent also implies that feminists who object to Bidens brand of touching have set the bar for womens public dignity too high especially considering whos currently in the White House. Wouldnt you rather have the infantilizing shoulder rubs and hair kisses of Joe Biden, the thinking goes, than the boorish pussy grabbing of Donald Trump? To those who argue that while Trumps alleged harassment is unacceptable, Bidens is tolerable, I would reply firmly that women should not have to accept either. A culture that does not tolerate sexual harassment the kind of culture that ours must become must not allow for lesser evils to continue simply because worse violations exist. It must value women more highly than that.

Biden, who is 76, has had a very long public career, and some of it he can be proud of. He drafted the 1994 Violence Against Women Act, for instance, a fact that his surrogates have been eager to point out in the wake of Flores allegation. But early in his career he was a vociferous opponent of abortion rights, a position that he changed belatedly, partially, and without enthusiasm. In response to the 1973 Roe v Wade decision, Biden said, I dont think that a woman has the sole right to say what should happen to her body. Evidently, he still doesnt.

  • Moira Donegan is a columnist for the Guardian US

Original Article : HERE ; This post was curated & posted using : RealSpecific

This post was curated & Posted using : RealSpecific

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