Last week I wrote that men were overdue in recognizing that the Me Tarzan, you Jane attitudes we grew up with, were dramatically changing.
Talk about a timely post!
This week the news is all about Joe Biden rubbing noses with a Congressional aide, kissing a senator’s wife on the lips, and answering accusations from Lucy Flores, a former Nevada legislator who described him “leaning into her, smelling her hair and kissing her head.” (Not to mention the time he told a female Senator to “spread her legs” because she was “going to be frisked.”)
In my post I offered an explanation for why women were treated as secondary citizens with limited financial and social status compared to men: that’s the way we were brought up; it was intrinsic to the culture; we never dreamed that our hugs and touching and caresses were offensive; we believed women wanted to be comforted by a strong man.
I never thought of myself as participating in the oppression of women but now, with the Biden fiasco on my mind, I’m concerned I put the emphasis on justifying my behavior rather than apologizing for it.
I did urge men to revamp their attitudes about the role of women in the world circa 2019. I did atone for past injustice and commit to gender justice going forward. But Joe Biden in so many ways is me, and I suspect, every man! Reading about his transgressions suggests there’s more to expunge and cleanse; that male privilege was more biased and ran a lot deeper than having the deed of the house in the husband’s name.
It’s uncomfortable and shameful but it’s time to acknowledge our whispered conversations when Bill was outed for hanky-pank with Monica: “Why the fuss, isn’t that why we fought our asses off to become the boss… she was the secretary, she worked for him, a perquisite that’s part of the reward when you’re cock of the walk” (what an astoundingly accurate idiom!).
Stop the rationalizing, Joe. You are a kindly and caring man, but you behaved in ways that ignored the sensibilities of women, and that is not justifiable in any time period.
Your response to Ms. Flores’s account was not the proper reply. If anything, it made the case for your accuser. You said you didn’t believe you had ever acted inappropriately in public life (“not once – never - did I believe I acted inappropriately”) but were willing to “listen respectfully” to those who may feel differently. You missed the point, your concern should have focused on the women on the receiving end of that behavior, as in apologizing for making her uneasy, not on your intentions.
Joe, it’s not about justifying your past behavior, it’s about whether a 76-year-old man can publicly say, I get it! I crossed the line back in 2009 at that fund raiser. I recognize that my behavior wasn’t grandfatherly, wasn’t affectionate; I can see now that it was viewed as sexist, and I apologize.
As I said, Joe, I am you. And I don’t consider myself ‘unfit’ because of I learned a way of behaving that was deeply ingrained into the culture when I was growing up. But the social mores have shifted. I realize this and I’ve changed my behavior accordingly.
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