now many “Believe Women” only when it is politically convenient — thoughts on the 2020 Presidential elections
I believe women. In 1991, I believed Anita Hill. Later, I believed Paula Jones. I believe Dr. Ford. I believe the countless women who came forward in 2017 as part of the #metoo movement. I believe the many women who have come forward about Trump. I believe the women who said Joe Biden made them feel uncomfortable. And I believe Tara Reade. I believe women.
I must acknowledge that the Me Too Movement started well before 2017. It began in 2006 and was started by the incomparable Tarana Burke. Ms. Burke and her organization deserve mountains of praise and this piece is not about her or her organization.
Sadly, despite the glimmering hope witnessed in 2017 and 2018 when millions of brave women shared their #metoo stories; our current Presidential contest appears to be between two men who have both had women who have come forward. In both cases, the women have been used as partisan tools in that the stories have only been believed by members of the opposite party of the candidate accused and the women have been discredited by members of the party of the accused candidates. Those of us who are survivors (and there are millions of us) are being told we must pick between two men who have been physically inappropriate with women. And even worse, we are being told that if we stand with the accusers, we are hurting our party’s chances of success. Indeed, even mentioning the accusations means we aren’t loyal enough. But what of the loyalty to women?
In early 2019, several women came forward and said that they had experiences of Joe Biden making them feel uncomfortable. Other women have experienced similar physical interactions; but said they didn’t bother them — but no one has denied that those interactions happened. These accusations should have been enough for the Democrats to look elsewhere. Just because some women think it to be acceptable that a man in power (who is pretty much a stranger) hugs them without asking, pats their head, or rubs their thighs; does not make it okay. The onus shouldn’t be on women to refuse physical contact from someone more powerful, consent should be sought first. We aren’t talking about an arm around the shoulder for a photo op. We are talking about actions that would make many women uncomfortable. But many party leaders didn’t care. Many Biden supporters didn’t care. They supported him anyway — over several candidates who had no such accusations against them.
In March of this year, a former Biden staffer made a more serious allegation. She told others at the time of the claimed incident. The interns she supervised corroborated that she was abruptly removed from her duties at the time she said she reported the incident. And the response has not been to believe these women. The response has been to attack the accuser. For nearly every woman who has come forward this has been the response. Given that one of Biden’s top advisers, Anita Dunn, was also the person Harvey Weinstein called in for damage control after his behavior became public (though Dunn’s work for Weinstein was offered for free), this response isn’t surprising. The fact that some of the attacks on the victim have been made by people who have claimed to be allies of victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment is disappointing — to say the least.
I wasn’t there for any of the aforementioned incidents. But I believe women. All of the women who have come forward have more to lose by coming forward than they have to gain. And more than being disappointed in Biden; I am disappointed that so many in our country, especially so many Democrats, are only willing to believe women when it is convenient to do so.
Despite all of the lip service given to #metoo in the past couple years, this primary season has shown us that rape culture is harder to change than applauding some famous women for coming forward with their harassment stories. We obviously have a lot of work to do.
Let me conclude with a message to Biden supporters and Biden’s campaign team: given that millions of people do believe women and given that our options are what they are, many survivors will end up voting for Biden because he isn’t as horrible as his opponent. If you want our support, I strongly urge you to refrain from attacking the women. That said, the best thing Biden could do would be to step aside and release his delegates. We need to remove Trump, and we ought to do so with someone who respects women.