Joe Biden comes face-to-face with a changing culture

Joe Biden comes face-to-face with a changing culture


At the start of our societal reckoning over the bad behavior of men, the red lines were clear. The bad guys were easy to identify, the toxic behavior obvious. The question was never whether Harvey Weinstein’s actions were wrong, but why people who might have stopped him did nothing.

But as with any broad social movement, things quickly became more complicated. It is simple to condemn things that even the perpetrator knew were wrong when he did them. Trading movie roles for sex? Wrong. Installing remote-controlled locks on office doors? Drugging unwitting sex partners? Sexual relationships with minors? Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Less clear is how to hold men to account for things that raise eyebrows today but might not have even a few years ago. Sexist jokes? Tone-deaf passes? Hugging everyone within arm’s reach at fundraising dinners?

Which brings us to Joe Biden.

The 76-year-old former vice president and prospective presidential candidate is embroiled in controversy after two women came forward in the past few days accusing him of being too handsy and affectionate. Neither Nevada legislator Lucy Flores nor former political aide Amy Lappos says that Biden’s behavior toward her was threatening or overtly sexual, but both say it made them decidedly uncomfortable.

“It was demeaning and disrespectful,” said Flores of the time in 2014 when, she says, Biden put his hands on her shoulders, “inhaled my hair” and “plant[ed] a big slow kiss on the back of my head.”

“It wasn’t sexual, but he did grab me by the head. He put his hand around my neck and pulled me in to rub noses with me,” Lappos said of the 2009 incident at a Connecticut fundraiser. “It’s an incredibly uncomfortable situation and not at all acceptable.”  READ MORE