politics, poor judgment, sexism

Outraged over an “Eskimo kiss”…

Yesterday morning, I read a news story about former U.S. vice president Joe Biden, who has re-entered the national political arena. It seems that back in 2009, Mr. Biden, then Vice President Biden, “Eskimo kissed” a woman named Amy Lappos. Ms. Lappos said that Mr. Biden leaned in and rubbed noses with her and she thought he was going to kiss her. It made her uncomfortable. She’s now complaining about it in 2019, in support of another woman’s accusations against Biden.

Former New Mexico assemblywoman, Lucy Flores, wrote in an essay published last week that the former vice president had touched and kissed her inappropriately at a campaign event back in 2014. Flores writes that she hadn’t washed her hair when Biden came up behind her, put his hands on her shoulders, smelled her “dirty” hair, and kissed the back of her head. She said she thought of a Spanish expression, “tragame tierra,” which means “Earth, swallow me whole”, when this happened to her. I understand her embarrassment. That would embarrass and humiliate me, too. I can even see why she was too shocked to say or do anything at the time, although I wish she wouldn’t have waited years to speak up about it.

Far be it for me to diminish the discomfort and pain of these two women, who were made to feel uncomfortable about Joe Biden’s penchant for inappropriate touching. To be honest, I never really paid a lot of attention to Joe Biden when he was the Vice President, so I didn’t realize that he’s well-known for being “touchy feely”. Some people don’t mind being hugged, kissed, or “Eskimo kissed”. Other people find inappropriate and uninvited touching very uncomfortable. I don’t think it’s right for people to touch others without their consent, even though I realize that this new level of respect is coming about in the wake of movements like #metoo. It takes time for people to change, though. Many people never do.

Yesterday, I posted that since Americans voted in a president who openly brags about grabbing women by the pussy, it’s hard for me to get outraged over an “Eskimo kiss”. That’s the truth. Do I think Joe Biden should be “Eskimo kissing” anyone who isn’t a relative or a really close friend who has consented? No, of course not. But I don’t see it as nearly as egregiously awful as what Donald Trump and Bill Clinton have done to women. So, you can also count me as one of those who is not that outraged about the “Eskimo kiss”. That doesn’t mean you can’t be outraged about it or traumatized by it. Just don’t expect me to share your views, even though I do think people need to keep their hands and lips to themselves. That’s something we all learn in kindergarten, right?

Americans have already proven that they don’t really care that much about white men who sexually harass women, particularly those in politics. Bill Clinton got a blow job in the Oval Office by a woman who was not his wife. He was even impeached, though he managed to complete two terms. Plenty of people still think he’s a hell of a guy. Monica Lewinsky, by contrast, suffered from extreme bullying and slut shaming for years after the incident.

Before he was elected, Donald Trump was recorded on a hot mike, bragging about how he grabs women by the pussy. This information was disseminated just before the 2016 election. He still won, and a lot of people still think he’s awesome.

Brett Kavanaugh, the newest Supreme Court justice, was accused of attempting to rape a young woman while they were both drunken teenagers. Despite evidence that Kavanaugh didn’t have much respect for women, particularly when he was a young man, he was still confirmed as a Supreme Court justice, a job he will likely have for the rest of his life.

I’m not at all saying that I think Joe Biden’s behavior is acceptable. I do think he should be more mindful of his behavior and alter his habit of inappropriate touching. However, it’s gotten to the point at which everyone in a political race gets called out for the most minor transgressions, years after they’ve happened. I understand there is an imbalance of power when you’re dealing with the vice president or president. But some situations call for bravery, maturity, and integrity. How amazing would it be if some of the women who are complaining about this inappropriate behavior actually said something about it at the time?

I get it, though. Saying something like that to someone who is vice president or president may have a seriously deleterious effect on one’s career. We don’t want to piss off the person who has power. Confronting people is a scary thing for anyone to do– especially confronting someone powerful. And yet, acquiescing at the time of these infractions encourages more abuse and, frankly, isn’t the best representative of good leadership behavior. How are we supposed to look up to female politicians who say nothing when they are abused by men, then come out of the woodwork years later? I think female leaders, now more than ever, have a responsibility to speak up and out at the time when someone demeans them. Waiting years to make an accusation is a much weaker thing to do, even if it’s totally understandable.

What would have happened if Lucy Flores and Amy Lappos had said, “Excuse me, Mr. Vice President, but please don’t touch me.”? I’m sure it would have made the news. Some people might have scoffed at the women for being too sensitive. Others would be applauding them for being assertive and strong. And the really minor incidents, like the “Eskimo kiss”, would have been dealt with at the time. Maybe Joe Biden might have even changed his behavior and stopped inappropriately violating people’s personal spaces. Maybe more people would find Trump’s bragging about grabbing women by the pussy less acceptable for a presidential candidate.

Some have complained that Joe Biden is treating women like “little girls” when he kisses them on the head or brushes noses with them. I agree. So what is the antidote for not being patronized in that fashion? Show him you’re not a child. Say something. Stick up for yourself. Tell him to knock it off. Don’t stand for it. It’s the same way you’d train any dog.

Women who want to be thought of as “equal” should respond in a way that a man would if Joe Biden came up and kissed them on the top of the head. Nip it in the bud. Tell him to stop it. That’s the only way this kind of behavior will cease.

I don’t know why, but as I read about this situation, I was reminded of this old episode of Night Court. Harry Anderson, as Judge Harry Stone, grabs Michael J. Fox and forces him into a hug. This was portrayed as a heartwarming moment, even though today, some would say it was inappropriate (even though Fox is a guy). Interesting how things change in 35 years.