“Creepy Joe” Once Again
Our discussion this week concerned the allegation of sexual assault by Tara Reade against Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.
As we discussed Biden and the reaction of #MeToo feminists to Reade’s claim, I was reminded of the short-lived outrage that bubbled up about this time last year when a number of women came forward to allege that Biden had made them “uncomfortable” over the years by close hugging, touching them inappropriately, and sniffing their hair.
There were also claims at the time (and video compilations) that Biden’s fondling, clasping, and hair-stroking of little girls was inappropriate, if not downright predatory—though it had been going on for decades with no objections, including by the parents of the girls.
Biden was forced, last year, to release an apology video in which he vowed to be more respectful in future of individual personal space; but he angered many by following that up with jokes about getting permission to touch or shake hands.
At the time, I was made uneasy by the eagerness of many non-leftists and non-feminists to use #MeToo language to chastise Biden.
Here’s a typical outraged comment from a right-wing commentator:
“While Biden may be hoping that a couple of jokes will make him appear unconcerned over the recent allegations made against him by seven women, what it actually shows is a lack of empathy for the women who felt taken advantage of. In stark contrast to his video from yesterday, here Biden seems to trivialize the hurt and shame these women felt for actions that were not simple handshakes or hugs.”
The comment was by Matt Margolis at PJ Media, a conservative and anti-feminist website. Margolis is no feminist, yet his criticism of Biden was indistinguishable from that of many #MeToo advocates, accepting as it did that women’s claims of “hurt” and “shame”—no matter how trivial or ill-founded or opportunistic—must be honored and atoned for. Margolis appeared to confirm that feeling “empathy” for female emotions was an absolute requirement for a modern male politician. And he was righteously annoyed that Biden had failed to be appropriately abashed.
The tendency of most conservatives and non-leftists to accept feminist rhetoric and assumptions about male behavior is disturbing.
It accepts the demonization of men, especially older men, in our societies.
The idea that many men are sexually abusive and that the male touch in itself is an act of violation and degradation for women and girls are part of a feminist conspiracy theory that harms all men and should be resisted at every opportunity.
I’m not in favor of creating a society in which no man can touch any female person, no matter how young or old, without signing a document of indemnity, or where we enthusiastically denounce men whenever a woman claims that she was made “uncomfortable” by his touch. I am not convinced by the feminist-compliant response that there’s a huge difference between an innocent hug and what Biden was accused of doing. Is there? The rage to denounce has a well-established tendency to keep expanding, finding more and more categories of the unacceptable: hugging too long, hugging too close, hugging too frequently, and so on. In the long run, the fashion for denouncing so-called creepy men hurts every man who ever touched or will touch a woman or girl.
I’ve never been comfortable with the position I’ve seen advanced fairly often by those on the political right that feminist or leftist men are not to be trusted and that it’s good to go after them. This is the position of “I’m not a feminist, but I’m disgusted by how he touched women!” or “I’m not a feminist, but I wouldn’t let this guy within 50 feet of MY daughter.”
It’s a popular position that encourages men to accuse and police other men. It is based on a threat narrative that sees men as uniquely dangerous; and it leads to a culture in which every man must rigidly monitor his every gesture and movement.
As we discussed this week, Joe Biden has many far more serious, documented actions to apologize for. Although there is satisfaction in seeing him targeted by the #MeToo machinery he enthusiastically promoted and legislated, the rhetoric of male “creepiness” ultimately hurts us all.