It seems as though every other day, a prominent man is having his entire life ruined by a woman desperate for attention and her 15 minutes of fame. It is impossible to turn on the TV or open a social media app without hearing about some seemingly decent man that has fallen prey to the evil clutches of a lying woman and her deceptions. Innocent touching is being blown out of proportion and gregarious behavior is now something devious.
Except that is not at all what is happening here.
Since the dawn of time, women have been treated as and conditioned to believe that they were there at a man’s pleasure– whether that take the form as a cook, a wife, a mother, a maid, or a sexual play thing, we were raised to be subservient to men and to take what was given to us and like it, lest we be turned out. What that looks like has morphed enormously over the years, to be sure; but we have not come nearly as far as we would like to give ourselves credit for.
For example: Equal Pay Day came and went this past week. This is a day, in early April, when a woman would finally earn the amount a man in her same professional position made in one single year. It takes an entire three+ additional months for white women to get there, and even longer for women of color.
Another example: Brett Kavanaugh now holds a lifelong position on the highest court in the land despite being accused of sexual assault. People called his accuser a liar and sent her death threats, while rallying blindly for a man who showed that he had neither the history nor the temperament to be worthy of such an esteemed seat. Americans were more outraged at the prospect of “his life being ruined” that they failed completely to acknowledge the fact that he had already been leaving ruin in his wake for decades.
Another example: Brock Turner. In 2016, Brock Turner was convicted on three felony counts, including penetration of an unconscious person, penetration of an intoxicated person, and assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated or unconscious person. A jury of his peers found him guilty of all of these things, and he served three months in jail, half of his sentence. Let that sink in. A jury found him guilty of violating a drunk, unconscious woman, and a judge sentenced him to six months in jail, because what he tried to do was “outercourse,” not actually rape.
Turner insisted that he only wanted to “rub his body” on Emily Doe, and because he did not actually penetrate her with his penis, he should not be held accountable for a rape that never even happened. The judge decided that his life had been through enough upheaval, and that anything more than the allotted sentence would cause undue harm on the delicate little swimmer boy.
What the judge never mentions, however, is the undue harm that was inflicted upon Emily Doe, Turner’s unconscious victim. To many people throughout the world, the fact that there was no penetration means that Turner did nothing wrong. The fact that she had been violated and assaulted held very little weight, because his penis did not penetrate her vagina.
We are better than this. And we are better than Joe Biden, too. Being a democrat does not make it any easier when we hear that men we thought were our allies still just don’t get it. It was not easy for any of us to turn our backs on Al Franken, Kevin Spacey, Chris Hardwick, or any other number of left-leaning gents that are a bit too handsy or possibly even straight up sociopaths.
Hearing that Joe Biden had been accused of inappropriate touching has been hard for all of us; and it is easy to post pictures of him happily frolicking through the halls of the White House with President Obama, or tout all of the things he has done right over his storied political career. What is harder, however, is admitting that your fave is problematic; but it is harder because it is the right thing to do. It’s even harder to admit that your fave has been problematic long before now, and that being forced to finally face this behavioral pattern is uncomfortable.
Good. You should be uncomfortable, because assault and imbalances of power have been making women uncomfortable for centuries. Men should be worried that they will be held accountable for inappropriate behavior. It is about time they understood that their actions will now have consequences. Anita Hill was uncomfortable when she approached Biden in 1991 as the head of the Senate Judiciary Chair to report that Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas had sexually assaulted her on more than one occasion. Biden was tasked with presenting the accusations to an all-white, male committee who spent more time doubting Hill’s credibility and mocking her than trying to find out what actually happened.
Biden likes to tell us that he opposed Thomas’ nomination and voted against confirming him, but that does not negate how badly he bungled the entire operation from the onset. Anita Hill braved the public and the politicians and went to Capital Hill to tell her story and was met with doubt and mockery from the people elected to lead the country and all its people.
It is true that Biden has done extraordinary things in his time as a public servant and, in my opinion, these accusations do not negate or in any way erase that history. Biden’s crimes of violation are arguably mild compared to others we have faced in recent years, but those who have been violated do not deserve to be ranked in order of severity to be taken seriously and treated with dignity.
Conversely, Biden does not deserve the nomination or office of the presidency just because he has done his time. Some people call it one-issue voting, and that happens on both sides of the political spectrum to be sure; but in my opinion, it’s a pretty significant issue. Bodily autonomy should NOT be a partisan issue. A man that does not have enough respect for women to keep out of their space and off their bodies without explicit permission to enter and touch is not a man that represents more than half of this country’s population. These accusations will not ruin Biden’s life. They may prevent him from becoming president, but like, that’s life, ya know? Very few people ever become president, so in that vein, Biden will be just like the rest of us plebs.
I know a lot of people are defending Biden, and I understand why in some ways. It is hard to give up an ally, and the admiration for his (mostly) positive political history is palpable. Not to mention, many establishment democrats are convinced that he is the only potential candidate that may actually be able to defeat Cinnamon Hitler. They say that he has acknowledged the problem and is willing to change, but somehow ignore the fact that he is still making jokes about consent, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that he still very much does not get it.
But I suffer no such qualms.
Say what you will about me, but I am over old white men thinking they are entitled to positions of power and leadership. I am sick of being called “sanctimonious” because I dare to expect accountability from my elected leaders, for their behavior and for their leadership. It is one of the major tenets of our party that sets us apart from the republicans: we (try to) practice what we preach. We turned on Al Franken when the accusations about him came out–not because we wanted to or because it was easy, but because it was the right thing to do. We absolutely cannot be the party of equality and of ending violence against women and rape culture while giving our own guilty men a free pass. It cannot work that way.
And this mentality that we must forgive Biden all his sins because he is “the only one that can beat Trump” makes me want to scream. This is how we got into this mess to begin with. Cinnamon Hitler in office in large part thanks to democrats being terrified of our own shadows. My party has been so afraid of alienating the independent and moderate voters (they did anyway) that they have refused to do anything more than make impassioned speeches and fund-raise for the next election cycle. When it comes to actual legislating and policy change, they have been virtually ineffective.
The time for that inaction has come and gone. This new wave of leaders, like the brilliant and fierce Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, are done playing the civility game. For too long inaction has been the name of our game, and the consequences of that inaction are coming due.
It’s okay to admire Joe Biden’s perseverance and governance, as long as you also acknowledge that he is a flawed human, just like the rest of us. Unlike the rest of us, his flaws include unwanted touching, and that is not something we can ever abide again.
Are we really so devoid of good men that we have to settle for “who can win” over who will govern honestly and with purpose on behalf of everyone? Do we hold our men to such a low standard that we can forgive otherwise unforgivable indiscretions to the point that we elect them to the presidency?
I think men in general are better than that, and it is up to all of us to uplift the worthy, rather than constantly defending the accused.
Dani Strehle, Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder, is hoping to reshape the narrative to leave behind a better world for her daughters, so that they may sustain, rather than battle and rebuild.