According to the mainstream media narrative, former Vice President Joe Biden’s touchy, feely, creepy hair-smelling fetishes are simply learned behavior from a sexist epoch in American politics and culture that was finally exposed by #MeToo.
That simplistic narrative is full of holes.
At no point in American history would Biden’s behavior be seen as gentlemanly. If a man in 1940 put his hands on the shoulders of a woman he didn’t have a very close relationship with and smelled her hair, he might have been socked in the nose and certainly would have lost votes for the creepy behavior. Such conduct wasn’t gentlemanly in the 1960s or 1980s or at any other time, because it is not how a gentleman behaves.
This isn’t to say that how a gentleman is depicted hasn’t changed. Today, being a gentleman is often so misunderstood it is at times discouraged. Now a gentleman can be seen as guilty for just being manly — you know, strong, stoic and straightforward. Strength, according to this paradox, is now viewed by some as overbearing, overly aggressive, abusive, egotistical, “micro-aggressive” and even misogynistic, hence the label “toxic masculinity.”
Real gentlemanly strength, of course, means that a man must also be compassionate, decent, loving, understanding, and want the best for everyone around him, as it is harder to be good and compassionate in difficult and stressful circumstances than it is to be an angry, selfish child. Nevertheless, those who now see manliness as toxic don’t understand the deeper truth that gentlemanly stoicism is actually self-control.
It is so hard to be a gentleman these days that I interviewed hundreds of successful men and women to put together a guidebook on how men can navigate today’s workplace called “The Ultimate Man’s Survival Guide to the Workplace.”
But again, Biden’s touchy, hair-smelling conduct doesn’t fit into any old-school gentlemanly behavior.
Outside of Biden’s creepy, touchy-feely, hair-smelling habits, there is much to be said about Biden being a man who is trying to get his balance amidst the uncertain values of a new Democratic Party.
The real trouble for Biden is that his behavior can, legally speaking, easily be deemed sexual harassment.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines sexual harassment, in part, by saying: “Harassment can include ‘sexual harassment’ or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. Harassment does not have to be of a sexual nature, however, and can include offensive remarks about a person’s sex.”
Outside of Biden’s creepy, touchy-feely, hair-smelling habits, there is much to be said about Biden being a man who is trying to get his balance amidst the uncertain values of a new Democratic Party. When Biden, for example, called Vice President Mike Pence a “decent guy” about a month ago, he was operating from an old-school gentlemanly playbook where, even as you disagree with a political adversary on policy, you can still give them credit for being a decent human being.
When he was called out on this gentlemanly forbearance by socia -justice warriors who just can’t bring themselves to agree to any gentlemanly rules of the game, Biden wimped out and said on Twitter “there is nothing decent about being anti-LGBTQ rights, and that includes the Vice President.”
When Biden caved without even clarifying his position — and weeks later got really weird when he submerged himself in identity politics by saying the “white man’s culture” has to change — he showed he is now a man who is completely uncomfortable with himself. No one respects a man like that.
Anyone can be wrong. However, when a man is simply judged wrong for being gentlemanly — which is sexist by definition, by the way — then he shouldn’t apologize. He should instead politely and clearly articulate his position as he asks questions with an open mind. If the offended person is so intractable +they won’t listen, then the fault is theirs.
Ironically, if Biden behaved a lot more like Pence he could have been the veteran and proven gentleman in the running. Instead, he’s an old has-been apologizing for his whiteness and gender.
Biden might not have won the primary battles for the Democrat’s nomination that way, but America sure could have used that kind of mature civility just now. Many Americans also would likely have found that kind of candor refreshing. This is one secret behind President Trump’s success.