Yet another politician has found themselves in controversy surrounding allegations of misconduct — this time it is former Vice President Joe Biden. To date, six different women have come out accusing Biden of invading their personal space, through actions ranging from kisses on the back of the head to rubbing noses. While Biden has yet to formally declare his candidacy for president, his transgressions have re-entered the spotlight as he will likely be a frontrunner in the 2020 race.
On April 3, Biden released a short video acknowledging the concern raised about his behavior. Most notably, he expressed how his interactions with others may seem strange due to “changing social norms” rather than any type of negative intent. Further, Biden detailed how he may hug or put his hands on someone’s shoulders as a reflection of human connection. He continues to explain how his behavior is consistent with men and women, younger people and older people.
The one thing missing, however, was a true apology to his accusers. While his video may have served as effective political messaging to voters, some are frustrated with Biden’s lack of acknowledgement of the sentiments of the several women who have shared their discomfort with his behavior.
The closest Biden came to an “I’m sorry” was saying “I get it.” This short phrase is subject to individual interpretation. Although this might not be sufficient apology, it signifies his understanding that he should take a different approach in his interactions going forward.
While the video certainly helped clear the air surrounding Biden’s behavior, this controversy signified an important acknowledgment of behaviors that women should deem unacceptable in today’s society. Biden may not have had harmful intent when engaging in such interactions, and he may have been ignorant to changing norms, but, we must continue to hold individuals at all levels of society accountable for their actions.
Whether it be a presidential hopeful or a supervisor in an office, so many men and women have experienced invasions of personal space, but often brush them off as “not a big deal.” It is important that we change this conversation and hold others accountable for inappropriate contact in order to create safe and positive spaces, whether in the workplace or with peers.