Feminism and Joe Biden

This is a straight translation from the german version of the report „Joe Biden und der Feminismus“. German textual quotes have been translated as noted.

Former US vice president Joe Biden won the primaries of the Democratic Party in the United States and will run against the republican candidate Donald Trump for presidency this fall. In terms of gender politics and regarding feminism he is an interesting but also controversial figure. So it’s time to review Joe Biden and his politics from a counter-feminist point of view.

Hint: the democratic candidate is specifically being reviewed here, since his long political carrier produces a profile in terms of gender politics, plus he has not yet been president. Not expression or determination on his competitor Donald Trump is implied.

Who is Joe Biden?

Candidate Joe Biden is known to be an established, centrist politician having rather moderate positions. He is know to be liked by workers in the US, which usually tend to vote democrats. In 2016 parts of this working class chose to vote the republican party in some swing states, which made Donald Trump winning the election. Biden is set to retract these voters. However, his political orientation is not singly based on factual opinion but also on personal reasoning:

The image […] shows a man, who since his childhood wanted to be embedded and liked by everybody. [Who] represents the desire of the people in the united states for decency.

DIE ZEIT 32/2020 on Joe Biden (translated)

Looking at politics related to families and social issues and crucial for gender politics reveals Biden having a way more conservative track there than at his other positions. From a German point of view Biden could be compared with someone like Norbert Blüm, who incorporated social and conservative positions in his attitude.

So Biden by US standards seems to be hardly a libertarian and partly paternalistic. For example Biden does not strive to legalize marijuana but wants to decriminalize it. Going for legalization would grant him additional supporters and a vast majority of the democratic voters holds up to that anyway.

Otherwise Biden meanwhile supports same-sex marriage, as by now the majority of the American people does. Some of his (re)positions on social issues seem to be opportunistic or even populist. But the overall picture of his standpoints is to proprietary to be just the result of political acting and made up to catch voters.

However it can not be ignored that Joe Biden had a political career in different positions for over 50 years. He is part of the political elite of the country since quiet some time. That does not leave behind a politicians character and profile without bearing traces and without an opportunistic sense of power such a career is almost not imaginable. So we see Biden changing his position on Abortion a few weeks after the beginning of his campaign to distance himself from the republicans. This political pragmatism needs to be considered when estimating his campaign and possible presidency.

His track in gender politics

The most significant piece of work of Mr. Biden on gender politics is the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) originating in 1994. The law is meant to protect certain social groups from domestic violence and therefore defines supportive and prosecutive measurements. Critics object VAWA to constrain civil rights (for instance by enabling mandatory DNA and HIV testing) and promote the destruction of partnership and marriage. In the year 2000 US Supreme Court declared parts of the law to be unconstitutional. In many ways purpose and implementation of VAWA are typical for Joe Biden as we will continue to see.

During his time as vice president a task force under Biden’s patronage established regulations aiming to tackle sexual violence at universities. These measurements resulted into investigations at universities beyond due process, boosted acts of revenge targeting ex-partners and destroyed reputation and vita of many innocent university students. Some of those sued their universities, often achieving high compensations. Meanwhile the definitive regulations were cut back by the Trump administration.

Mr. Biden stated as follows on his creation:

No means no, if you’re drunk or you’re sober. No means no if you’re in bed, in a dorm or on the street. No means no even if you said yes at first and you changed your mind. No means no.

Joe Biden, 2011

So this is an obvious oversimplification and banalization of intimate, often complex and ambiguous situations between people. Question arises if Biden is serious about this or just executes romantic populism. Since Joe Biden carried such positions over decades he must be considered to buy into this testimony. Here Biden’s preachy and conservative perception of woman shows up. It seems like he has no clue about (female) shit tests or situations of mixed signals.

Therefore accusations on Biden groping or harassing woman seem to be inconsistent against this background. There are numerous recordings of Biden hugging woman or touching their shoulders at public events. In April 2020 Tara Reade accused him of sexual assault against her in 1993. Though allegations of molestation are more usual than exceptional for presidential candidates in the US (significant: the page „Tara Reade“ at Wikipedia automatically redirects to „Joe Biden sexual assault allegation„). However, these accusations do substantial damage to Biden due to his own image.

Biden explained himself as follows:

Biden has described himself as a „tactile politician“ and admitted that this behavior has caused trouble for him in the past.

Wikipedia on Joe Biden

So while Joe promotes decency he also exposes a personal necessity for harmony, which expresses in his physical behavior among others close to him. Alongside the matter if this behavior is appropriate, the story demonstrates how male empathy is not appreciated by society and public. Does Joe Biden actually understand that his character does render him being the perfect male casualty of his own anti-violence-policies? And for men’s rights activists this may be the perfect example of how destructive these law are.

It is possible to consider that Biden’s political magnetism for consent in intimate relationships originates in his personal sensory need for heartiness. Hence Joe Biden is not just moderate in his political views, but represents a centrist moralism based on his social idealism. In this scenario, civil rights are not endangered by political extremism unfolding in the outer rim but by a normative mob that is not armed with torches and pitchforks but uses moral laws and shadow courts.

In the US it is common for presidential candidates to announce their running mate as a candidate for vice presidency ahead of the election. Biden has announced to select a woman for this position and nominated Kamala Harris on August 11. Often the running mate fulfills a complementary role during the campaign, Biden himself has been the more established VP added to the rather young president Obama. The selection of a woman first of all can be considered as a strategic maneuver to please the progressive wing of the democratic party (and corresponding voters). Beforehand Biden’s left competitor Sanders at the primaries committed to nominate a female. However, it is necessary to have a closer look at Mrs. Harris since as a potential vice president she would take over in case the now 77-year-old Biden should lose the capability to serve during his presidency.

Kamala Harris in a lot of aspects resembles a female Obama, at least they got many things in common. Harris has foreign, highly qualified parents and mainly grew up with her mother. She is a jurist and build a political career on this foundation, is considered to be analytical skilled and capable in rhetoric. So she makes up a convenient, younger addition to the straightforward-styled Biden. Harris is known to be moderate and an ambitious politician. And while her colored skin received quiet some publicative attention, she as an individual has not more in common with George Floyd than with, lets say, Donald Trump.

In terms of gender politics Harris political positions mirror the political mainstream of her party regarding gender and feminism, while she is not a radical feminist activist. For example she fought against a law denying same-sex marriage when she was Attorney General of California, but also took action against a transgender woman, which as an inmate of a prison in California filed a lawsuit regarding extension of her medical care. At the democratic primaries Harris propagated feminism’s Gender Pay Gap and required mandatory reporting of salaries and respective fines.

Biden decided against more radical alternatives like Elizabeth Warren. Though with Kamala Harris an identitary feminism may settle down in the White House. While being a student at university she joined a sorority for afro-american woman, which seems to pay off now. From a counter-feminist point of view the designation of Kamala Harris as VP definitely has significant consequences for the future as we will continue to see.

Joe Biden’s impact on gender politics

A counter-feminist perception at first suggests a comparison to former candidate Hillary Clinton. Those explicitly ran as a feminist candidate and as such she lost the election. Joe Biden meanwhile is not a feminist activist. Asserting his centrist positions he will find little credibility in the growing left activist feminism in the United States. Yet compromises and concessions are imaginable and also typical for Biden.

Biden may be moderate and consensual, but when applying his political perceptions he also takes little consideration on what he considers to be amicable. Civil rights activists and people promoting sophisticated normative arguments will not find Biden to be amusing, the same applies in the area of gender policies. Therefore men’s rights activists have not much to expect from a Biden administration.

Over the last decades Joe Biden often proofed his capability to mediate consent or compromise with republican counterparts. In case this continues with Biden being president, that may narrow the margin of feminist claims. If republicans and democrats are meant to produce an agreement on disparate opinions, feminist fuss like Gender Budgeting is preset to drop out soon.

Since Joe Biden is not a feminist activist he will not put radical feminist issues on the table himself. Though what will be his reaction if other members of his potential administration or the public picks up those issues? To Biden feminist proposals may score in particular when when he thinks those act against improper social circumstances or if public outrage puts him under pressure to act. An according example from Germany would be recent actions taken against intimate, secretly produced photos, like below a skirt (called Upskirting).

„[George Packer:] Biden has no strong political convictions. That is because he does not want to depart to far from the public opinion. He does not like to find himself standing alone.

DIE ZEIT 32/2020 on Joe Biden (translated)

So an important opposite strategy is to unmask feminist ideology – even in a moderate package – as political rioting which sets conjoint settlements on fire and not protecting or supporting woman at all. Joe Biden needs to know: „Feminism is not womanism!“

Due to Biden’s seniority two possible scenarios regarding a handover of presidency to vice president Harris are being publicly discussed. First Biden may resign, get incapable of action or pass away during his term. VP Harris then may take over his duty. And second a matured Biden simply may not run for a second term with Kamala Harris replacing him as a candidate.

Meanwhile being vice president can turn out to be a match cord for someone running for presidency. In the year 2000 democratic candidate Al Gore felt the squeeze of his role as VP in the administration of Bill Clinton:

Gore’s advisers believed that the „Lewinsky scandal and Bill’s past womanizing…alienated independent voters—especially the soccer moms, who stood for traditional values“. Consequently, Gore’s presidential campaign „veered too far in differentiating himself from Bill and his record and had difficulty taking advantage of the Clinton administration’s legitimate successes“.

Wikipedia on Al Gore

Also handing over the mandate on the run would result into massive criticism, Harris to obtain presidency by fraud and cheating on voters. This may turn out to become a large obstacle for Harris when running for presidency herself after the term. Adverse media like Fox News already zero in on this aspect. By comparison, Al Gores estrangement towards the Clinton administration seems like Kindergarten. All this renders a substitution on the fly unattractive.

Both scenarios offer counter-feminists a lot of room to dismantle feminist patterns. It seems like Kamala Harris in the 90s had an affair with democratic politician Willie Brown. Who provided her two well payed positions on public boards. Now again Harris gets promoted by a much older male politician, may become VP and eventually president of the United States subsequently. It is somewhat difficult to spot the battle of sexes propagated by feminists or the suppression of females by a male patriarchy in this scene. And it seems kind of: if her own campaign – like for Harris – does not work out, a woman can still piggyback a man to get things done. What’s the message?

Overall Biden and also Harris are no feminist activists and do not run for office to create a feminist heavenly realm. Though both in many respects are prone to feminist positions. Joe Biden represents an attitude on gender policies which gave radical feminism a habitat to prosper for the last 50 years, while Kamala Harris seems to have no worries to build on top of these identitary and feminist construction.

Last but not least Biden and Harris may reinforce another trend: the presidential election in the US becomes increasingly consecutive, being interspersed by candidates well advanced in years (Trump, Biden, Hillary Clinton), to descend from a dynasty (Bush junior, Jeb Bush, Hillary Clinton) or which have been part of a former administration (Gore, Biden, potentially Harris). The election of Obama and Trump shows voters have a different idea about that.