Joe Biden and Accusations of Sexual Misconduct

#MeToo has taken center stage, bringing to the forefront a long overdue conversation regarding sexual assault and women’s oppression under patriarchy. Significantly, this nascent openness has allowed women to call out men who overwhelmingly run our government and thus society at large. While the purpose of #MeToo is to take down systems that permit sexual violence and encourage a network of survivors to come forward with their stories, the movement has a wider influence regarding respect for women in the professional world and the current American political climate.   

Lucy Flores, former Nevada state assemblywoman, disclosed her feeling of discomfort in an interaction with former Vice President Joe Biden. Flores stated that Biden came up behind her and “proceeded to plant a big slow kiss” on the back of her head. Flores acknowledged that Biden’s “behavior wasn't violent or sexual, it was demeaning and disrespectful." While Flores’ story is not one of sexual assault, it is also a story related to the demoralization of women. Flores continued by saying that in that moment Biden was not treating Flores as his equal, he was not offering the respect of "the most qualified person for the job." Flores wrote that his actions show “a lack of empathy for the women and young girls whose space he is invading, and ignores the power imbalance that exists between Biden and the women he chooses to get cozy with."

Amy Lappos, a nonprofit freelance worker from Connecticut described a similar encounter with Biden stating that he “reached for her face and rubbed noses with her.” Further, photographers have often captured Biden touching, kissing, or generally in close physical contact with women without their permission. Two women since have also come forward.

Over the years, Biden’s behavior has been entirely characteristic, just “Joe being Joe.” It has been played off as purely friendly behavior. Until the #MeToo era, mainstream media and other outsiders have been largely dismissive. Yet, the rhetoric today is changing. Even though Flores, Lappos, and other women's’ experiences with Biden do not match the severity of women's’ stories in the #MeToo movement, the systemic problem is that female victims are constantly blamed. Women are consistently plagued as being all to sensitive or at fault in some other absurd capacity.

Biden spoke about “social norms” and stated, “they’ve shifted, and the boundaries of protecting personal space have been reset — and I get it, I get it. I hear what they’re saying. I understand it. And I’ll be much more mindful."

In coming forward with their stories, women like Flores and Lappos bring necessary attention to the mistreatment of women in professional and political settings especially in advance of the 2020 presidential election. Flores said, “that imbalance of power and attention is the whole point — and the whole problem."