Biden is a symptom, the issue is our culture

For many men, accusations from women regarding our behavior causes outrage: What am I, Harvey Weinstein? Apparently women can’t differentiate between rape and minor infractions. Yet it’s always these same men who roll their eyes when inappropriate behavior is legitimately called out, even if not criminal:

Why is everyone so easily offended? If it was a problem they should have said something at the time.

The recent allegations against former Vice President Joe Biden have started piling up with a number of women talking about how Biden invaded personal spaces and created feelings of discomfort during interactions through his long political career. No woman has called his actions sexual in nature, but their grievances are valid nonetheless, especially when the gentleman in question is looking to take the nation forward from the pussy-grabbing Trump years.

The women:

  • Amy Lappos claims Biden rubbed his nose against hers during a political fundraiser in 2009 when she was a congressional aide for US Rep. Jim Himes:

“It wasn’t sexual, but he did grab me by the head…. He put his hand around my neck and pulled me in to rub noses with me. When he was pulling me in, I thought he was going to kiss me on the mouth.”

  • Lucy Flores, Nevada’s former lieutenant governor nominee, was left in shock after Biden smelled her hair and gave her “a big slow kiss” on the back of her head at a 2014 campaign event.
  • D. J. Hill was left feeling “very uncomfortable” when Biden rested his hand on her shoulder before moving it down her back at a Minneapolis fundraiser in 2012.
  • Vail Kohnert-Yount, who interned at the White House in the spring of 2013, recalled Biden putting his hand on the back of her head, pressing their foreheads together, and calling her a pretty girl – at their first interaction in the West Wing.
  • Caitlyn Caruso, after telling him her story of sexual assault at a University of Nevada event in 2016, said Biden hugged her “a little too long” and placed his hand on her thigh.

And this of course comes after rumors that Biden’s team were looking to use the strength and clout of a Black women in Stacey Abrams to boost their ticket.

Before you continue reading, consider for a moment having someone, whether a stranger or your boss, push your forehead or nose against yours, or come up behind you, grab your shoulders, smell your hair and kiss your head, all without asking if this is OK. A violation does not have to be sexual; it is a violation either way.

Also consider how Biden’s innocent interactions weren’t shared with the men he worked with. If you offer your hand to shake with a male colleague but go to hug the woman, then there is a problem with your selective behavior.

But here we are, even when the accusations aren’t looking to lock someone up, and people are still losing their shit. I’ll point out, though I don’t need to, that the majority of those with problems in the media are white, cis and straight. I’m talking of the Bill Mahers in the world.

According to Maher himself, these women should have spoken out sooner. It isn’t assault, it’s “not that fucking serious” and shouldn’t be discussed. Tainting a potential Democratic candidate will only impede beating Trump in 2020. This isn’t the time for petty allegations.

On his show Real Time, Maher brought up how people naturally interact, connect, and sometimes it gets physical. It happens to both men and women; if it goes too far then just say in the moment. Men let you know so the embarrassment shames the accused into changing their behavior. It’s easy; if men can do it then women should too.

Maher, with his shroud of privilege, is oblivious to the fact men are allowed to react in that moment. Our culture is designed for men to do what they want. Men are encouraged to make change; women are taught to follow. While men are credited for calling out bad behavior, and (white) men can cause harm and get away with it, we still struggle to even believe the women victimized by violent acts. We give women little to no reason to think anything will come from their speaking out.

Men always insist on the innocence of our actions. We didn’t mean anything by it so how could you portray it that way? As Ms. Karasek said, “it doesn’t matter how the woman feels about it or they just assume that [we’re] fine with it.”

On Wednesday, Biden released a video saying he would make the effort to change and understand. This is a good step. But his lack of an apology was noticeable. Rather, he insisted he had nothing to apologize for because his intentions were never problematic. And of course Maher lauded this approach. But the will to change doesn’t mean anything if you’re unwilling to hold yourself accountable. It holds even less sway when Biden made jokes about the situation at a public event the day after his video say him pledge to change his behavior.

In the run-up to 2020, what kind of world are we looking for? We’re already living the one where men can act without consequence, where apologies are sanctioned as weakness. Are we not better than this?

This isn’t about political purism – no candidate is perfect and seeking it will leave you empty handed. But if we were to scale ones character, Trump would be a three at best. Those looking to win at all cost like the Bidens and Mahers are around 5-7. So I ask, why are we settling? Why are our standards not set on at least an eight? A six may be better than Trump, but at what cost? We should have a leader who reflects values and respects the diverse communities who exist on the left of party politics. When someone fails to listen to or acknowledge their behavior towards the women who compile the majority of the progressive base, then what exactly are we fighting for if its not to be better?

As Ms. Reade tole the Union, her experience working with then-Senator Biden, though not sexualized, was akin to being a lamp: “It’s pretty. Set it over there. Then when it’s too bright, you throw it away.”

These women are representative of the millions made to feel uncomfortable every single day. Through the wolf-whistling, inappropriate shoulder rubs, and the asking to wait on meetings and events; the expectation to show a certain amount of leg, a standard of femininity, and visual aesthetic; to be the sole provider of emotional support and service; the demand to stay silent, to not resist, to not question, to not be too loud, to not speak aggressively; to be the cheerleader but not the athlete.

Instead of discussing casual misogyny in our culture, we defend the actions of men over the reactions of women. We fight over whether it’s Weinstein-enough to be worthy of our attention, and ignore how women suffer microaggresive behavior everyday, with statistics showing millions leaving the workforce because of toxic culture. We blame women for being unable to handle the added pressure, while playing ignorant when a man’s “not that fucking serious” actions redefine or completely erase a woman’s career.

The issue isn’t Biden, it’s the culture we continue to accept, and the millions of futures we alter because we’re unwilling to change. If we were, we’d already have more women in the workforce and the government, including the West Wing position Biden wants.

Biden, Beto & Bernie: desire for change doesn’t reflect intention of Democrats

According to polls listed on FiveThirtyEight, the top Democratic Primary candidates are Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris…

And Beto O’Rourke.

Now maybe it’s too early to talk about identity politics. I like many will happily support the nominee to defeat the Supremacist in Chief. The Democrats are turning ever left, looking for new socialist/conscious-capitalist policies, embracing a plethora of thought, and shaking off the typicality of white men being the savior. So it’s odd that the most favored candidates look remarkably like the 43 of 44 who came before*.

2018 saw the House not only turn blue, but the majority of the representatives being sworn in were, for the first time, majority minority and marginalized. Noticeably, more women, and women of color, ended up in Congress. A new wave of progressivism, idealism, values, and who represents is washing over the country. The party, for the first time in its 200+ year history, looks more American. Yet when it comes to the highest office in the land (and world), despite the plethora of voices looking to lead, voters are still gunning for the same, recognizable, even establishment archetype – by around 70% of all polls.

Bernie, regardless of how it ends for him, will be remembered for pushing the party left on a national stage. He demonstrated government doesn’t need to be run by the center or the nearer-left. There is space for new ideas and voices looking to get shit done. Yet here we are in 2019, and the eye is still looking in the same direction.

This shouldn’t just be about what they look like, but Biden and Bernie are the established preference we’re used to seeing: old, straight, white men. They may have wonderful policy ideas, but so did many of the old white men who came before them. And like those men, both have questionable attitudes and actions towards women and people of color, and too long ago either (see: Biden on Anita Hill in the 90s, comments on busing, and Bernie 2016’s treatment of women and their value). It’s all well to have sound economic and environmental policies, but when actions as political leaders inadvertently exclude significant swaths of the population – namely those who aren’t white men – then liberal policies become as nationalistic as those on the right.

And then there’s Beto whose inexperience is there for everyone to see. Donald Trump showed that anyone can jump in and win the race, but also how bad things can be when you don’t know what you’re doing. Beto lacks the credentials of the other candidates, but his record is also fairly centrist, and at times even Republican. Yes, he’s a viral sensation, tapping into a resource others have failed. The reasons people point to him aren’t exactly overwhelming. There are no strong, detailed platforms, nor is there a genuine story to state a reason why he’s in the race. What he does have, along with the same platitudes, is a folksiness, a “good guy” label, which is much easier to hold when you’re neither woman, not-white, and LGBTQ+.

Beto has national recognition from his (losing) Senate campaign in Texas. He came close, and his campaign was a sight to behold. He turned out a base of voters who hadn’t entered into Texas politics in a long time, visiting every county and embracing thousands of people. Yet before he announced everyone was dying to know if he would step on to the stage or not. Stacey Abrams, another nationally recognized and defeated candidate in 2018 (although it was stolen from her unlike Beto) has alluded to running – where’s the media hype, love, coverage, and constant attention on her? I’ll leave you to figure that one.

But let’s compare Beto’s national acknowledgment with another candidate with that label – Elizabeth Warren. Who is currently chasing Beto in the polls.

Senator Warren has widespread respect for her understanding of the financial sector, for having worked to dismantle it to even the field for many years before stepping into political life. She is strong, level headed, and highly intelligent. Objectively speaking, there isn’t a candidate with a more detailed and broad platform for the country than Warren, and few have as much grasp of the key issues, both domestic and foreign. On an individual level, her message is championed. Her platform will be the one where Democrats turn going forward. And she has a story millions of Americans can empathize. But the media attention is next to none. Instead it’s about whether Biden or Beto before him would even enter the race, where these white men stand against Bernie, and who of the three gets which votes.

Yes, there is the issue of Warren using her very minimal and distant Native American ancestry to advantage. She should have to answer tough questions on it. But similar to 2016, the negatives focused on women are multiplied than those of her male contenders; as well as Biden’s and Bernie’s  history, Beto has an actual record – a DUI, and burglary via hacking. As Bärí A. Williams wrote, his candidacy is similar to a senior director at a tech company applying for a VP position after a review, failing to get the promotion, and then deciding to apply for the CEO job at a different company. This is failing upward – a special kind of privilege usually left to straight white men who don’t need to master the skills at other levels before heading to the top.

The Democratic voters made it clear new faces are wanted in politics, with a new wash of progressive values. Yet their desire doesn’t seem to reflect their actions. How can you demand change but still aspire to the same white men who have led America for all but eight years of its history? Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Harris, Booker – all of these candidates have platforms centered on leveling the field, on climate change, on the big issues impacting all Americans. Warren in particular could stand toe-to-toe with the progressive champion, Bernie, and yet she is still falling behind him by 20 points in most polls. There is no other reason for this than the standard tropes we use to separate men and women; likability, trustworthiness, authenticity, inspiration.

Those being polls apparently want the same comfort they’re used to. Perhaps after the devastation of 2016 that can be understandable. But rather than being measured on merit (in this so-called meritocracy *cue eye roll*), candidates who haven’t announced, or lack experience are already pulling way ahead of everyone else. All the women and non-straight, men of color with national platforms, experience from local office to the US Senate or former Cabinet Secretaries, are being discounted by the same microaggressions that give cis, straight, white men a leg up in every industry.

A President Biden, Sanders or O’Rourke would be welcomed, especially compared to Trump. But you cannot ignore the white male privilege in this race. Grand ideas and big announcements allow Democrats to whitewash the same negative points stapled to other candidates –criminality, inexperience, and chronicled histories of sexist and racist hypocrisy.

And if all of this wasn’t enough, let the money talk:

Of the top 3 candidates who have actually announced, two raised record-beating $6m and $6.1m funds in the first 24 hours. The third made one sixth.

I’ll leave you to guess which one that was.

*Grover Cleveland was a two-term non-consecutive President.

White Feminism: when feminism isn’t feminism

In case you missed it the first forty times: I’m a white man. So it’s impossible to talk about experiences which aren’t my own with any full understanding. It’s likely it’ll come across as patronizing. There’s a lot to take in, to learn, and I guarantee I will miss out elements which shouldn’t be ignored. I want to be corrected and have people tell me what I’ve missed and why I’m wrong. I genuinely want to know and try to comprehend another’s experience.

And with that disclaimer, let’s hope I don’t fuck this up! View Post

International Women’s Day

Today is International Women’s Day and I would like to take a pause to honor a human rights activist and political figure I truly admire:

Hillary Rodham Clinton View Post

Supporting Actor donates higher fee to Leading Actress’ cause and misogynists on Twitter lose its shit.

After a week where Hollywood’s women took to the stage to say enough is enough on the issues of gender inequality in the workplace, of sexual harassment and assault, and the intolerance experienced by millions from all backgrounds, Mark Wahlberg brought #TimesUp to a temporary pause. View Post