My generation has never been known for complacency. Baby Boomers are known for their tenacity. I’ve marched the streets of Washington, DC countless times for women’s rights, for equality in the workplace and for a woman’s right to choose freely what she does with her body. I’ve marched for rape and abuse survivors. I’ve marched for the disabled. I’ve marched for people of color. And still, decade after decade, the march goes on. And for every step we as woman take forward, a man like Joe Biden sets us back miles.
I thought Joe was a charming man, with his flashy smile and his public adoration for women and children. A well-respected, well-rounded man, able to navigate his way seamlessly through the muck and mire of today’s political minefield.
I was angry when the allegations began pouring in about his inappropriate behavior. Joe is a champion of women, an equal rights advocate, and a true believer in the American Dream! Always the jester, the prankster, the Obama sidekick; chuckling and delighting the hearts of millions. He’s the ‘nice guy’!
I was pleased when I heard his declaration to be more mindful, that he ‘got it’ and he’d be more respectful of people’s personal space. I defended him on social media to those who insisted he was completely inappropriate. “It’s Joe Biden, he’s just being sweet and loving because he cares, he really does!” When he declared his intentions to change his behavior, it meant he’d be a shining example for other men; that change can come at any age if you have an open mind. How wonderful was this? The once-VP stating publicly that he was willing to admit he’d made some people uncomfortable by crossing personal space boundaries.
But it’s never been, as Joe claims, about connection or gestures of support or people reaching out for solace and comfort. It’s about men of privilege, a title all white males are born with, who have never known accountability or consequence, suppressing the equality of others. Joe Biden has relentlessly escaped accountability for his predatory actions toward women and children.
After watching montage videos of his behavior while standing side-by-side with other politicians and their children at political events, I found my jaw and heart agape. Why had I ever thought this behavior was acceptable?
I’ll tell you why.
Born in 1955, I’m a product of the prior generation, the era of children being forced to ‘go give your Uncle Gary some kisses or you’ll hurt his feelings’ and after replying “No, I don’t want to“, being physically picked up and plopped down on Uncle Gary’s lap. And thus, the lap of the patriarchy.
My brother was never expected to comply with these requests. Rarely was a male ever asked to go sit in a grown male’s lap at family gatherings or parties. It was only my sisters and me. I also vividly remember calloused hands running up and down my 5-year-old thighs while being nuzzled, groped and breathed on by Uncle Gary or whoever else I was passed on to.
Not only were we expected to comply with these baby doll rituals, we were punished if we didn’t; publicly scolded, humiliated and banished to our room for being rude. I remember trying to escape the clutches of my captors, only to feel their hands tightening around my upper arm, becoming more and more aggressive as I wriggled in protest. But such an easily concealed gesture was unnoticeable to everyone but me and my captor. Even crying out didn’t stop the tickling, the cheek-squeezing or thigh caressing. It was all acceptable. This behavior was not about invading my personal space. It was about invading and dominating my entire physical and emotional being.
It was a public kidnapping visible only to me.
I see these same struggles by the young children and women Joe Biden captures. The uncomfortable stance, the eyes searching for someone to help, and the clutching of their arms by Biden, pulling them back in against him. It’s all grossly familiar.
I don’t believe Joe Biden is a horrible man or person. I do believe he still feels he’s done nothing wrong. Stating that he ‘had permission’ to hug the union leader and repeating it again when he invited a young boy on stage with him and yet again, touching him, was another plop into the patriarchal lap. A lap we have been trying to climb out of for years. Clearly, making light of an issue that has rocked the political landscape for years, stating he ‘got permission’ was condescending, trite, and a willful mockery of every woman who has come forward against him or any man.
Just when I thought there was not only a man, but one of the most powerful men in our world, who would finally stand up and say “I will be more mindful, I get it, and I will” only to joke about it days later was devastating. He is the poster boy for the all-powerful, privileged white male, who owes no apology and faces no accountability.
Even when he stated “That’s my responsibility. My responsibility and I’ll meet it” he used the word ‘but’ to begin his next sentence: “But I’ll always believe governing, quite frankly, life for that matter, is about connecting.” He does this consistently. The word ‘but’ is a segue to a litany of excuses as to why it was, and still is, ok to demean and disrespect women and children. He then continues with this sentence: “That won’t change, but I will be more mindful and respectful of people’s personal space.”
He can’t be clearer than that.
My generation cannot continue our ‘well, that’s just the way it was back then’ ideology and sit idly by, excusing Joe Biden’s arrogance and disregard. It wasn’t ok for us when we were children. It wasn’t ok for us as teenagers and women and it isn’t ok as senior citizens. We climbed a bit further out of the patriarchal lap with every step of every march, with every police report filed, with every gut-wrenching bellow into our pillows and every tear shed.
Our generation has voting power and we must utilize it now more than ever.
Joe Biden has no place being our president. He doesn’t get it now and never will. If you’re where I was, and still think Joe is being unfairly maligned, please open your mind and heart and take a long, deep look into the eyes of the children and grown women clearly uncomfortable in his clutches, shifting uncomfortably from side to side, knowing there is no escape, no way to speak up and say “Get your hands off me”, and remember how you felt sitting in Uncle Gary’s lap.
You may think your opinion is yours alone, that it doesn’t affect anyone else, but you’re wrong. If you voice your opinion to your children, grandchildren, friends, and family, they hear it. Even if they don’t agree, someone they respect and admire is condoning the abhorrent behavior of a man in power, of the patriarchy itself and every Uncle Joe still out there.
I marched for equal rights in Washington, DC in 1978. I was 23. I marched again in 2017. I was 61. Today, 41 years later, the ERA has yet to be ratified by the 38 states required for it to be added to our Constitution.
We need to change the dialogue, we need to change our actions, and we need to change how we assess the person we consider voting into the world’s most powerful position. Not doing so, not taking responsibility, not helping every child out of the clutching hands of the patriarchal lap is compliance. And that’s not who we are as a generation. We are not compliant. We are the marchers.