“What we should have said every bit as loudly and what we apologize now for not saying is that hugging is not sexual assault. Eskimo kisses aren’t rape. That used to be obvious. It’s not obvious anymore. And so we are sorry for helping to blur the distinction between human affection and coercive immoral behavior. Last thing this country needs is more people that think they are assaulted because senior citizen hugs them wrong. So we apologize for adding to that nonsense and anti-human hysteria.” – Tucker Carlson, Fox News host
A Facebook friend of mine posted an article about Fox News host, Tucker Carlson’s, sorta-apology for his comments about Joe Biden’s inappropriate-touching scandal. She wrote that feeling uncomfortable or offended is not the same as being sexually assaulted and that we were doing a great disservice to actual victims of assault by conflating the two things.
But are people actually making that argument, or is this just a way to dismiss a serious concern? Like Bill Maher, who often makes interesting and compelling arguments but can at times be a real douche:
“ He’s not Harvey Weinstein or R. Kelly, he’s more like the TSA.”
“We’re getting a little nit-picky. Of course no one likes to be touched unwantingly, and women get a lot more of that than men, but the first person who brought this up said he made her feel gross and uneasy,” he said. “Yeah, you know what makes me feel gross and uneasy? A second Trump term.”
I’m with Julian Castro on this one. Bill Maher just doesn’t get it. Thanks for speaking up Julian!
It is likely that these dismissers do not see this as a spectrum, with slightly creepy behavior on one end and violent rape on the other.
I see every line of the spectrum as behavior that is not okay while at the same time acknowledging that some of this is not clear-cut, specifically behavior that is not criminal. How are we to view and respond to perpetrators of this behavior? What social mores could use some adjustment? This is an interesting discussion and one that I think as a society we should continue to have.
What is concerning to me is the amount of victim-blaming that I am witnessing. Is that really the sword they want to die on? That people with accusations are lying with intent to harm or for their own fame, or if not flat-out lying exaggerating or perhaps misremembering, and in nearly all cases that aren’t criminal the victims are seen as easily offended and overly sensitive.
The deep-seated alarm is that any man can fall victim to the #MeToo movement. There is some merit to this concern because the level of exposure and condemnation may exceed the level of actual offense. Public shaming can be brutal. But one should still be held accountable for their actions.
My observation is that those who victim-blame in these situations are uncomfortable with the cultural revolution that is the #MeToo movement. People, particularly women, aren’t putting up with inappropriate behavior anymore. Get used to it.
Why uncomfortable? I believe there are multiple reasons for this including anger at having to be more conscientious of others’ boundaries, subconscious misogyny, and contempt for the younger generations’ obsession with fairness and justice.
Let’s talk about boundaries. It is beyond clear that Joe Biden has boundary issues, particularly with women and girls, if you’ve been watching him for any length of time. Think about this for a moment: if someone other than your lover was so intimate as to come up behind you and sniff your hair, massage your shoulders, or stroke your face it’d likely freak you the fuck out.
You might flinch and back away slightly. You might stand there paralyzed with shock, wide-eyed and panicking internally telling yourself should a person be so bold maybe you are somehow in the wrong. Did you subconsciously give off signals that you wanted to be closer?
If you are a man you’d likely say: What the hell are you doing??? Back the fuck off or I’ll knock your teeth out. Which, I think, is perhaps the more appropriate response.
If a woman were to say that, he might give a gaslighting response: You misunderstand. I was just trying to be nice! Or perhaps more brash, calling you names: bitch, cunt, slut whore. Or worse, physical violence. It can escalate and for that reason, women feel unsafe and they have no voice. No wonder women don’t speak up. That, in addition to the fact little girls are taught to be submissive and gentle.
These things are made worse when the power dynamic is imbalanced. Say it’s someone who has a say in your career, like a boss. Sometimes the repercussions for speaking up are unbearable. Imagine it’s the Vice President of the United States. Can he really be so clueless that this behavior is creepy AF? I’d like to give Joe Biden the benefit of the doubt but seriously, he never thought it might make these women uncomfortable? Talk about ignorant. This entire time he was ignorant about it or he just didn’t care. I’m thinking the latter.
Let’s discuss the argument that people are taking this too far. We should not cause waves and potentially ruin someone’s life for making us feel uncomfortable. But what is exactly is meant by “uncomfortable”?
Uncomfortable for me is when I’m in the line at the grocery store and someone is standing a little too close. Uncomfortable is when a cashier at the store cheerily asks me how I’m doing and wants to have a conversation when I’ve had a bad day and I don’t feel like engaging with a stranger. Uncomfortable is when coworkers want to friend me on FaceBook so they can see what I’m up to. I’ve felt uncomfortable before when I’ve been asked out on a date but wasn’t interested.
But none of these things I consider to be creepy.
It’s creepy when an acquaintance or coworker gives you a lingering hug and slides his hand down your back. It’s creepy when they look you up and down like you are prey they want to devour. It’s creepy when a man follows you into a parking lot alone. It’s creepy when a man pushes drinks so your judgment is impaired and you are more likely to sleep with him. It’s creepy when a relative insists that the child kisses, hugs them or sits on their lap when the child clearly shows they don’t want to.
Are these crimes? Nope. But are they are okay? Again, nope. And we shouldn’t allow this kind of behavior.
I chose to write about this here rather than on my friend’s FaceBook page simply because I knew her Facebook circle of friends; I knew the friends would not be able to have an intellectual discussion simply by the fact that they use terms and phrases such as “special snowflake” and “Support our President; build the wall!”
Now, something my Facebook friend did bring up is how different cultures have different standards of socially acceptable behavior. She used the argument of Joe Biden being part of the older generation, an older white man. Different time, different culture. That doesn’t make his behavior any less okay.
He’s getting called out on his creepy behavior. Good. I’m not 100% happy with his response as I don’t think he quite gets it, but it’s a start:
I will be more mindful and respectful of people’s personal space. That’s a good thing. -Joe Biden
Anecdotally speaking, I’ve never witnessed any older men in my life (born 1920s – 1940s) behave as creepily so I have little sympathy for the age excuse. They only touch and hug people they are intimately close with but with acquaintances and colleagues, it’s hands-off. And none of them have ever sniffed my hair. Just sayin’