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A Second Woman Speaks Out Against Biden’s Touchiness While Others Rush to His Defense

Joe Biden on the red carpet for his organization It's On Us.

A second woman has now spoken out about the inappropriate way she says Joe Biden touched her at a political event.

Amy Lappos from Connecticut told the Hartford Courant that during a political fundraiser in 2009 when Biden was Vice President and she was a congressional aide, Biden crossed a line.

“It wasn’t sexual, but he did grab me by the head,” she told the outlet. “He put his hand around my neck and pulled me in to rub noses with me. When he was pulling me in, I thought he was going to kiss me on the mouth.”

Both Lappos and Lucy Flores, who wrote an op-ed describing a similar encounter, make it clear that they’re not accusing Biden of the sort of egregious sexual misconduct that often makes headlines. This is something else, but it’s not something to ignore.

Flores wrote, “Even if his behavior wasn’t violent or sexual, it was demeaning and disrespectful.”

Lappos told the Courant, “There’s absolutely a line of decency. There’s a line of respect. Crossing that line is not grandfatherly. It’s not cultural. It’s not affection. It’s sexism or misogyny.”

If Biden doesn’t kiss men’s heads and rub noses with them, then the way he treats women is most definitely rooted in sexism. Sexism doesn’t just manifest as aggression or hatred. Biden’s treatment of women is inappropriately familiar, patronizingly paternal, and comes from an assumption that they will welcome his touching with no regard for their level of comfort. That’s not an acceptable way to treat women, especially in a professional setting.

It doesn’t mean that Joe Biden hasn’t done great things for women, or even that he doesn’t respect women. It means he has some seriously inappropriate behavior that needs to be discussed. Yet much of the response to these women speaking out is a refusal to realize that. USA Today published an op-ed defending Biden for always being a defender of women. Meghan McCain defended him on The View, saying he’s never made her feel uncomfortable and she’s been around him a lot. Alyssa Milano felt the need to tweet out this bit of Peak White Feminism:

Lappos shared on her public Facebook page a screencap of some of the direct responses she’s been getting since sharing her experience. They’re completely disgusting.

A lot of people are defending Biden by saying he’s from “a different time.” Which is fine, but it’s not a shield from criticism regarding behavior that makes women uncomfortable now and it’s certainly not a great defense for someone who wants to lead us into the future.

Others are insisting that Biden’s intentions are good, and that means we shouldn’t focus so much on his actions. That’s ridiculous. That is saying that Biden, because he is a good man at heart, deserves to touch women in a way that makes some of them incredibly uncomfortable, simply because he wants to. It means those women, no matter how good they may be–though women rarely get to be described in such a simplistic way–are not entitled to their personal space, and they’re not even allowed to now ask Biden to examine that behavior and how it might demonstrate a high degree of paternal sexism.

CBS This Morning’s Gayle King and Norah O’Donnell were two of those that said “you have to look at the intention behind” behavior like Biden’s and that’s why, King says, this story has been getting “eyerolls.” They also said that “there are very serious issues of sexual harassment, abuse, and assault” that they’ve covered and will continue to cover. But again, neither Lappos nor Flores tried to put this in the same category as those other subjects. Biden’s behavior is different from sexual abuse, although it is tangentially related in that women and others on the receiving this sort of behavior are devalued, their bodily autonomy is ignored, and they do not feel free to speak out against the person touching them.

The inability to see this as its own nuanced issue without comparing it to harrassment or assault is so frustrating. No one is saying Biden committed a crime. No one is saying we should lump him in with abusers.

What we are saying his behavior has made multiple women (and likely many more) uncomfortable, and his extreme position of power has made it impossible for those women to tell him so. We’re saying the ways in which he touches women with too much familiarity and no consent undermines that respect he says he has for women and which he otherwise works to demonstrate.

But as both women said, they didn’t feel Biden’s actions were necessarily sexual. So why the insistence on conflating these issues? If we try to put them in the same category, obviously one is going to seem silly and inconsequential. If you try to compare them, it makes sense that some people would get angry at the women speaking out and rush to defend the “intentions” of Biden.

So let’s do the only reasonable thing and not put them in the same category. Let’s treat this current conversation as its own separate thing, because that’s what it is. But it’s also important and affects far more than just two women. Dismissing them and defending Biden is a blow to so many others who have to deal with men treating them as if they are children or pets or some cute little curiosity, rather than the fully autonomous adult professionals they actually are.

(image: Cindy Ord/Getty Images for It’s On Us)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) has a lot of opinions about a lot of things. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband Brock Wilbur and too many cats.