“I love those barrettes in your hair, man. I tell you what, look at her, she looks like she’s 19 years old, sitting there like a little lady with her legs crossed.”
Joe Biden looks at a little girl in the audience, the daughter of a veteran, and says “I love those barrettes in your hair. Man I’ll tell you what, look at her she looks like she’s 19 years old sitting there like a little lady with her legs crossed.” pic.twitter.com/DbH8ihG2Mj
Although some say it was just a joke or that he didn’t mean any harm, I am fairly concerned about this comment.
Let me explain.
Taken by itself, it may seem innocent. Like maybe people are blowing things out of proportion by being concerned about it. He’s just complimenting her, right? He’s just a sweet and harmless old man making a little joke about her age and complimenting her physical appearance, and it’s ridiculous to make it a big deal.
In a somewhat odd moment at tonight’s AFT town hall, Biden tells a 10-year-old girl, “I’ll bet you’re as bright as you are good-looking.” He takes her over to the assembled reporters, then stands behind her and puts his hands on her shoulders while he’s talking.
I’ll share a very personal example, the details of which have been seared into my brain.
A few years ago, there was a very nice young adult man at church. He was beloved, smiley, cheerful, and fun. Everyone loved him. Everyone trusted him. I quickly noticed that he was particularly fond of young children, about toddler through 6. He often picked up the small kids. He loved to tickle, poke, touch, rub, and hug them. This included my sweet 5 year old daughter. No one seemed concerned. No one ever said anything. In fact, he was a frequent babysitter for families with young children as he was single and quick to offer. I felt uncomfortable about his behavior but decided I would just be extra vigilant since everyone else seemed not to care. Maybe it was nothing, and I didn’t want to make a mountain out of a molehill.
One day he lifted a chunk of my daughter’s hair and sort of fingered one big curl. He told her (and me) that she had gorgeous hair and he loved this one beautiful curl on her left side. It was his favorite, he said. It was a public complement accompanied by unsolicited physical contact. Several people witnessed it. It was kind of weird, but not overtly inappropriate. I mentioned to another mom later that I didn’t feel comfortable with him touching her hair and talking about it. She scolded me for blowing things out of proportion. She said it was an innocent compliment and I shouldn’t be concerned. He didn’t mean anything by it and he was a nice guy. I shouldn’t make it a big deal.
She said exactly what some people say of the many concerning Joe Biden comments and actions involving women and girls.
Then one day he told my daughter (again in front of me and several others), “You have such pretty little feet! They are so lovely! Like a grown up woman!” He grabbed her ankle and sort of admired her foot in her church sandal. She was understandably flattered to receive the complement from an adult man. It endeared her to him and made her more likely to be around and interact with him. And it made her feel very grown up.
Again I was uncomfortable and I immediately removed her from his presence, but I had already been scolded for worrying. So I thought, “It could be innocent. Maybe he’s just complimenting her and trying to make her feel good about herself. Maybe I don’t need to make a big deal out of it. It’s just a single comment. Not overtly inappropriate all by itself.” Kind of like this Joe Biden comment. But I was nevertheless glad that I was keeping a close eye on her.
Then shortly thereafter he told her, “You have such a pretty big-girl body. Such a beautiful little waist and strong legs.” He didn’t know I was around the corner to hear this conversation. I hustled to her side and got her away from this man. She felt so flattered by his attention and compliments. But I felt sick to my stomach. This was yet another example of him drawing attention to her body and complimenting her in a way that endeared her to him and worked to convince her that she was grown up. More grown up than she really was. My husband and I explained to my daughter that we didn’t want her around this man anymore. But by then he had already accomplished his goal with her. She liked him and wanted to be complimented and entertained by him. She wanted to be near him.
He had groomed her to be comfortable with and perhaps even desire his attention and physical contact.
Then one Sunday I found him sitting on a couch at church with his legs spread apart and my little girl standing between his legs, way too close to his crotch. He had his hands on her hips and bottom, and he was saying things to make her laugh while he ran his hands up and down over her hips and bottom.
I freaked. I totally lost it. I was sick to my stomach for weeks and am still sick thinking about it.
But here’s the thing.
None of his previous comments or actions were overtly inappropriate when considered individually. He wasn’t sexually explicit and he didn’t do anything vulgar. The comments were easily dismissed. Many people before and after me have done so with this man. It was only in the context of the pattern of grooming behavior that the comments were concerning.
The same is true of Joe Biden. He sniffs girls hair and puts his face close to them. He puts his hands on their shoulders or back. He strokes their hair. He puts his hand on their waist. He pays particular attention to compliments their bodies or what they look like. He makes comments about young girls looking grown up or mature. Taken individually, his comments are often dismissed as a joke or an innocent complement. But when considered as one part of the predatory grooming whole, such comments are obviously inappropriate and should not be dismissed.
Ultimately, because of my experience with the predatory grooming of my own child, I can confidently say that I would NEVER feel comfortable with Joe Biden being near my children. My experience allows me to identify his frequent predatory grooming behavior. So while some dismiss such comments or actions as an awkward old man who is making jokes, and some mock or dismiss me for thinking it’s a big deal, I am nevertheless concerned. If he’s confident enough to say and do these things in public, what would he feel empowered to say and do in a more private setting? And after years of the people publicly dismissing his inappropriate behavior and comments, I fear that insecure girls and women might feel pressured to quash their own concerns and discomfort, thus empowering the very powerful predator.