The Week in Patriarchy is a weekly roundup of what’s happening in the world of feminism and sexism. If you’re not already receiving it by email, make sure to subscribe.
Why are sexual assault allegations against Biden being ignored?
Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, has been accused of sexual assault by a former staffer. Tara Reade, who worked with Biden when he was a Delaware senator, alleges he inappropriately touched her and penetrated her with his fingers without consent in 1993.
“It happened all at once, and then … his hands were on me and underneath my clothes,” Reade recalled in an interview with podcast host Katie Halper on Wednesday. “He said ‘come on, man, I heard you liked me. For me, it was like, everything shattered … I wanted to be a senator; I didn’t want to sleep with one.”
Rightwing news outlets have gleefully seized upon the accusations against Biden; the story has also been discussed by leftwing commentators. However, the mainstream media has largely ignored the allegations. Instead there have been headlines like The top 10 women Joe Biden might pick as VP (CNN) and Joe Biden’s inner circle: No longer a boy’s club (AP).
It is hugely frustrating to see conservatives, who couldn’t give a damn about the multiple sexual assault allegations against Donald Trump, weaponize the accusations against Biden. However, it’s also frustrating to see so many liberals turning a blind eye. The accusations against the former vice-president are serious; why aren’t they being taken seriously?
One obvious reason is that Reade’s accusations are very hard to prove. The incident happened a long time ago and there weren’t any witnesses. Reade also gave a slightly different version of events last year; she accused Biden of touching her neck and shoulders in a way that was inappropriate and uncomfortable, but did not say anything sexual took place. This inconsistency obviously doesn’t mean she’s lying; unfortunately, it is easy to use against her.
Reade’s story may be impossible to verify, but this is the case with the vast majority of sexual assault allegations. It is nearly always a case of “he said, she said” – and it is nearly always the “he’ that is automatically believed. The #MeToo mantra “Believe Women” doesn’t mean that women never lie; it means that our systems of power are biased towards believing men never lie. It means that it takes decades of allegations and scores of women coming forward for powerful men like Harvey Weinstein, Jeffrey Epstein and Bill Cosby to be brought to justice. All the mantra means is that you shouldn’t automatically disbelieve women.
You know who has talked publicly about the importance of taking women seriously? Biden. During the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, Biden stood up for Dr Christine Blasey Ford, noting: “For a woman to come forward in the glaring lights of focus, nationally, you’ve got to start off with the presumption that at least the essence of what she’s talking about is real.”
Does this presumption not apply when the guy being accused is a Democrat running for president? It would seem that way. In January, according to reporting from the Intercept, Reade asked for help from the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, which has supported accusers of high-profile people like Weinstein. Reade was reportedly told by the National Women’s Law Center, the organization within which the Time’s Up fund is housed, that it couldn’t assist with accusations against a presidential candidate because it would jeopardize their non-profit status. The Intercept further notes that “the public relations firm that works on behalf of the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund is SKDKnickerbocker, whose managing director, Anita Dunn, is the top adviser to Biden’s presidential campaign”.
There are some people who will insist that drawing attention to the new allegations against Biden is playing into the Republicans’ hands. That it will destroy Biden’s campaign and guarantee us four more years of Trump. Not only is that argument hypocritical, it is also hugely unlikely that Reade’s accusations will do any damage whatsoever to Biden’s ambitions. Allegations of sexual assault certainly haven’t posed any hindrance to Trump. The allegations against Kavanaugh didn’t stop him from becoming a supreme court justice. The allegations against Louis CK didn’t kill his career in comedy. And the multiple women who have accused Biden of touching them inappropriately in the past haven’t exactly derailed his career.
Why does coronavirus kill more men than women?
Around the world, men in every age bracket are dying from coronavirus at higher rates than women. Men have accounted for 71% of Covid-19 deaths in Italy, for example. And in Spain twice as many men as women have died. Nobody is entirely sure what’s causing this gender gap. Biology, lifestyle and behaviour probably all play a role but we won’t know what the balance is until sex-disaggregated data is more widely available.
Telegram sexual abuse scandal shocks South Korea
Police have named 25-year-old Cho Ju-bin as the man who allegedly ran a sexual blackmail ring on the app Telegram. Women and underage girls were blackmailed into sending degrading images of themselves through the app; the images were then made available to subscribers. Police took the unusual step of naming Cho after five million South Koreans signed petitions demanding his identity be revealed. His arrest comes just months after the “Burning Sun Scandal”, in which a number of K-pop stars were implicated in a prostitution ring.
Should women be eligible for the US military draft?
A congressionally mandated commission thinks so. The National Commission on Military, National and Public Service released a report on Wednesday recommending that women register for possible obligatory military service.
Incels are thrilled with the coronavirus lockdowns
The week in pet-riarchy
The one silver lining to the public health crisis we’re currently facing? New York City, the center of America’s pandemic, is running out of shelter animals. There’s been a huge spike in people fostering dogs and cats to help them get through these ruff times.