Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays a bumbling (but certainly more competent than Joe Biden) vice president in HBO’s “Veep.” There’s an episode in season two where it’s January 6 and she is supposed to swear in senators but just can’t get her act together. She messes up small talk and doesn’t have her head in the game.
Yesterday, January 6, was sort of a real-life version of this. While the man who in real life is a heartbeat away from the presidency also messed up small talk, he was almost too locked in. He was extremely attentive. Particularly to underage girls. And, well, it’s not that big of a deal, I guess, but it got kind of creepy.
To wit (and I might actually mean this Trigger Warning for once: lecherous elderly man creeping on underage girl):
From 1:17 to 1:39 in this video created by the Washington Post (to whimsical music), Biden:
- tells an adolescent girl, “Molly, come over by me,” grabbing her hand and pulling her close;
- nuzzles into an adolescent girl who tries to keep him from kissing her by moving her head away;
- tells another adolescent girl that her grandpop is one of the greatest guys;
- and then asks a family if he can have a picture just with their adolescent girl. As her family teases them, he brushes her hair away and gets in close to her.
There were also these scenes:
Biden’s most frequent lines rated: 1. This is boring! [to rambunctious kids] 2. You married up! [to male Sens] 3. Give me a hug! [to girls]
— Ryan Lizza (@RyanLizza) January 6, 2015
Now, I don’t think any of these things are the end of the world. That attempted kiss and nuzzling in the video is really cringe-inducing and creepy, but I don’t think it’s going to permanently scar this girl. Many of us had to navigate such uncomfortable situations and it’s part of being human and interacting with others and learning how to avoid unwanted affection and whatnot.
But color me confused.
Just a few months ago we had media outlets and feminist activists praising the #YesAllWomen hashtag campaign that was about all the microagressions and macroagressions women deal with every day, from being told to smile, to being treated as if men have the right to touch their bodies. From a piece I wrote at the time:
Andrea Mitchell reportedly said, ‘Even 140 characters can be very powerful in times like these.’ BuzzFeed declared “’he tragedy in California has stirred a powerful reaction on social media.’ A Washington Post columnist gushed ‘#YesAllWomen: Elliot Rodger’s misogynistic ravings inspire a powerful response on Twitter.’ And Glamour gave examples of ‘Thought Provoking, Powerful#YesAllWomen Tweets in Response to Santa Barbara Tragedy,’ including one that said ‘because when a girl is harassed or even groped by a stranger in public, we’re told to “take it as a compliment.”’
And not long ago we had the media and feminist activists praising an edited video showing some of the purported 100 instances a woman was “street harassed” while walking in New York City. Some of what was shown was genuinely creepy and some of it was more along the lines of “you’re pretty” or “have a nice day.” The activist group that made the video was able to get media coverage in every single major newspaper and news show. It went viral on the Internet.
In November, as I wrote at the time, we witnessed a mob of online feminists harass a male scientist to the point of tears because of his sartorial choices. Dr. Matt Taylor literally landed a mother-freaking spaceship on a comet hurtling through space at a clip of 135,000 kilometers an hour, the first time humans had come even close to accomplishing such a tremendous feat. But when he discussed his team’s accomplishments on television, he was wearing a shirt made by a female friend out of fabric depicting cartoons of scantily clad women.
The outrage couldn’t have been more over-the-top. “I don’t care if you landed a spacecraft on a comet, your shirt is sexist and ostracizing,” read a real headline.The Atlantic reporter who started the “#shirtstorm” (Rose Eveleth) was widely praised for her efforts.
Those who pushed back against the insanity, such as University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds, who wrote an op-ed for USA Today, were accused by feminists of egregious behavior, including “doxxing.”
So let’s look at what the same media that freaked out over shirts and compliments did with handsy/pervy Joe Biden.
ABC News: Why Today Was the Best Day Ever to Watch Biden Being Biden
“Vice President Joe Biden spent nearly two hours schmoozing — and smooching — with newly sworn-in senators on Capitol Hill Tuesday afternoon, producing some classic Biden moments and some trademark ‘Bidenisms.’ Here’s a look at the best of Biden.”
National Journal: “The Best Joe Biden Quotes From the Senate’s First Day”
New York Daily News: “Joe will be Joe. Vice President Biden couldn’t keep his compliments to himself when he spotted the youthful granddaughter of Sen. Orrin Hatch on Capitol Hill Tuesday. ‘I hope you have a big fence around the house!’ Biden told the girl, Emily, as she joined her family for a photo session with Biden to celebrate the swearing-in ceremony for the Utah Republican.”
CNN: “Joe Biden swearing in senators makes great TV”: “Uncle Joe was born for this,” the article cheerfully began, adding that the day was “full of surprises, outtakes and bizarrely charming moments.”
Here’s how the editor and publisher of Talking Points Memo treated Biden creeping on the teen:
Biden has long been known for getting affectionate and intimate with folks, this being everyone’s favorite example. And Bill Clinton has long been teased for touching beautiful women or being unfaithful to his wife Hillary with them. George W. Bush got a full article in the New York Times when he rubbed the neck of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and she seemed not to welcome it (“The Politics of Good Touch, Bad Touch“).
Each of these examples involves adult women, although two of them involve serious power differentials. It’s not the end of the world that Joe Biden got a bit kissy-gropey with underage girls.
But we all know how the media reacted to Sarah Palin being folksy. They clutched their pearls and lost their minds. They freaked out so much that many are still freaking out over every little thing she says, does, and thinks. (Not to mention every child she loves.)
And if Joe Biden weren’t a liberal Democrat? If he were a Republican (particularly one who wasn’t liberal and pro-choice—like the recently praised by, uh, Joe Biden Bob Packwood), we’d be talking about how he was engaged in sexual assault against helpless girls and how his micro-aggressions encourage and validate rape culture.
None of us can fully imagine what holy hell would be brought down on a conservative elected official who engaged in behavior like this by more or less everyone in the feminist-media-industrial complex. We wouldn’t be seeing jokey headlines. We wouldn’t see praise for the White House putting out a video on Biden being Biden. As if.
When the conflicting standards are this consistent, it can’t really be called a double standard, but it can be called out nonetheless.