It’s happening again.
The media is paving the way for Donald Trump to win 2020 with lazy, or perhaps purposeful, false equivalencies aimed at the top Democratic possible for 2020.
As they embrace Mark Halperin’s apology tour after he was accused by multiple women of things like putting his penis on their shoulder, grabbing their breast, and trapping them in a bathroom, they’re snarking on Joe Biden’s heartfelt video apology for hugging people who might not want to be hugged.
I spoke with a trauma therapist about this topic who said that the way this is being covered in the media is serving to minimize the impact of sexual trauma.
This has led the far left and right into a frenzy of PizzaGate accusations against Joe Biden, because you see, the people who support Bernie Sanders, even after he wrote about “typical” fantasies abused women and had a campaign full of sexual harassers and at least one assaulter, and people who support the p*ssy grabber in chief and many others are trying to co-opt the MeToo movement to propel their candidates ahead of the guy who is polling ahead of theirs, and he hasn’t even announced yet.
They tell people to google “creepy Joe” to drive the Google results so that this will be the first thing people see, and now they’re mentioning vague videos they’ve seen of Joe being creepy around kids. So, yeah, they’re not afraid of a little Russian Redux. Whatever wins, even if it hurts the women’s movement, even if it hurts MeToo, even if it conflates dangerous, violent sexual assault with a hug someone didn’t want.
And the voices defending safe touch are drowning out sexual abuse survivors, in order to take down the guy who co-authored the original Violence Against Women Act. You know, back when no one cared about women.
Pundits are breathlessly recounting the times Joe Biden has made someone “uncomfortable.”
super glad #mitchellreports has plenty of time to cover every detail of allegations of "discomfort" that are speculative while never mentioning the details of 23 women who say #feralhitler sexually molested them.
— #ReleaseTheReport NichtMeinFührer 🌊 (@TheRiverWanders) April 3, 2019
In the spirit of a hot take hit job, they are even speaking for a young girl whose parents say Biden is like her grandfather and women who say that was not their experience with Biden at all.
Stephanie Carter’s photo has been used by pundits, comedians, and more as an example of Biden’s bad behavior. She writes in Medium, “By the time then-Vice President Biden had arrived, he could sense I was uncharacteristically nervous- and quickly gave me a hug. After the swearing in, as Ash was giving remarks, he leaned in to tell me ‘thank you for letting him do this’ and kept his hands on my shoulders as a means of offering his support. But a still shot taken from a video — misleadingly extracted from what was a longer moment between close friends — sent out in a snarky tweet — came to be the lasting image of that day.”
AFTER she wrote that, Trump used a still from Biden comforting her in a video mocking Biden for touching women. So the actual woman being used as the prime example of this “problem” does not matter.
Want to guess how many people called Trump out for being a predator in the face of HairGate, or even bothered to go through the countless women who say he groped them, assaulted them, spied on them, threatened them, or raped them? No, you really don’t. Because the media was silent.
A deafening silence that trickled down into a general sense in the public that Biden is the same as Trump.
This is feeding into the idea that the MeToo movement was really always about a woman’s preference to not be touched. It’s feeding into the notion that MeToo is extremist and reactionary, instead of the horrific truth that actually, every 92 seconds an American is sexually assaulted.
One out of every six women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape. ONE OUT OF SIX.
This matters. And no, personal touch preference doesn’t get to suck all of the air out of the room and false equivalence its way to the top of the line to make room for men who have actually committed acts of violence against women or have written about dreaming about doing so.
Those people being sexually assaulted will often suffer their entire lives, with depression, suicide, PTSD, inability to be intimate, sleeplessness and more. So it’s a BFD and it should never be minimized or conflated with not wanting someone to touch your shoulders, which is a legitimate preference that deserves respect but NOT THE SAME THING AT ALL as sexual assault.
Yelling over sexual assault victims and using the MeToo movement to make it all about defending candidates who have their own problematic history of misogyny and actual assault against women is the be all end all of using women.
Hair smelling shouldn’t be conflated with someone who touches people like George H.W. Bush did, and he didn’t have the motives of harming women. He was simply out of the current times. It wasn’t okay but it also was not the same thing.
What the media is missing is a predator is someone who takes pleasure hurting his victim. A monster who abuses her when she speaks up finally, who uses all of his power to silence her and intimidate her — like our president.
Why the desperation to recount and even invent problems with Biden, when so many of these same folks didn’t want to hear from Donald Trump’s twenty plus accusers and certainly aren’t spending time recounting their accusations?
In the rush to make a story out of this and even make more hay out of it than was made of the now President’s caught on tape confession to routinely sexually assaulting women, people are using women and speaking for them, like you do when you’re a fake, raggedy ally of systemically disempowered survivors of sexual violence.
No, sniffing hair as Joe Biden is accused of by Lucy Flores is not sexual harassment. Yes, everyone’s preferences for touch should be respected, but that is A DIFFERENT CONVERSATION. It applies to everyone. We want our children to grow up having bodily autonomy. Yes, yes, yes.
But that is not sexual assault or harassment. Bodily autonomy empowers us to move away, to say I prefer not to be hugged. It helps teach our children not to be prey.
Flores herself acknowledged this by writing that Biden did nothing illegal but she wanted to have a conversation. She deserves to be heard and to be believed. But the media has turned her conversation into conflation with sexual harassment and assault, and then turned into calls for Biden not to run.
Even hardcore, right wing Townhall sees this as what it is — a knee jerk reaction taking out the guy that most political experts know can beat Trump.
Biden, the guy who brought us the Violence Against Women’s Act. Biden, the guy who clearly loves his family and respects his wife. Does he have something to learn about the MeToo era? Yes.
But people have made montages of him hugging and holding women (like every politician does), and they’ve tried to make “Creepy Biden” happen. This comes across a lot like when conservatives try to convince black people to vote Republican because they are still being discriminated against.
Only people who’ve never been sexually assaulted or harassed could equate publicly smelling hair as sole transgression with either of the aforementioned horrors.
Having our hair smelled in public is not what has driven the women of this country into fitful rage. That doesn’t mean it’s appropriate, but it is not on par with “grabbing them by the p*ssy” and it does NOT belong in the same conversation.
We are angry because as Anita Hill’s experience detailed so perfectly, sex is weaponized in the work place and used against us at every turn. We are angry because for years no one took this as seriously as we deserved, including in part, at that time, Joe Biden.
But the very people trying to make Biden’s (bad) choices during Anita Hill’s testimony against Clarence Thomas into a current political hit job were also along for the ride of treating women at work like objects. So this is not the political win with women that they think it is.
It’s insulting, as if we don’t know that EVERYONE turned their backs on our humanity and now they want to ride on our backs to victory.
We are angry because we kept all of this inside for years, only to finally be empowered by the MeToo movement, and now it’s being co-opted by people with an agenda to use our voices, our pain, for political gain.
As if we haven’t been used enough.
The rule is, you ask the people who actually experienced x to discuss x.
Minimizing sexual harassment and assault like this is usually done by people who have a motivation to do so. But no matter the reason or intention, the result is it helps to enable sexual predators.
Co-opting a movement to raise awareness about violence against women to make touch preferences the most important issue, the one that deserves to override every other issue, is not an act that will help empower MeToo. It does the opposite. It is easy to mock, it is everything conservatives accused it of being, and it false equivalences being hugged when you didn’t want it with being violently raped at work or having your breasts grabbed by your boss.
The oppression is coming from inside the house this time.
Note: This is not about Lucy Flores. Please don’t go on a witch hunt against her. She is entitled to her feelings and to speak about her comfort level. She deserves that respect. It is about the general rush to conflate and thus minimize what she said with sexual harassment and assault.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.