Last week Lucy Flores wrote an essay about her experience with Joe Biden that made her uncomfortable and compelled her to speak out as he explores the possibility of a 2020 Presidential run.
The reactions to her and the other women (mostly women of color) who came forward felt wrong. They made me uncomfortable because while I understand his behavior not to be criminal, I also recognize it from my own experiences and those of the women around me. These incidents exist on a spectrum of harm and although they don't warrant R. Kelly and Harvey Weinstein treatment, they too deserve investigation and thoughtfulness.
I was taken aback by prominent (mostly White) women who were quick to defend Biden because he's their 'friend' or because they themselves have never felt uncomfortable by the level of intimacy in his touching. Defense of Biden also included his intent. The notion that intent and behavior toward oneself somehow negate the violations these other women experienced is troublesome. And that these conclusions were made without any investigation is even more so.
But there was a win in here, too. Biden's initial response was to deny acting inappropriately and reiterate that he didn't intend to make any women (or men) uncomfortable. He had missed an opportunity to listen and learn from being called out/in. Public and behind-the-scenes organizing made a successful intervention with Biden. He released a video statement that he would take responsibility to be more mindful of people's personal space and boundaries.
Biden made a general public apology but he should now go a step further and make private apologies to all women who spoke out. We need men to recognize that sometimes their behavior and lack of awareness have the effect of micro aggressions of rape culture. We need for them to listen, learn and change, and for all of us to expect that from them.