Former Vice President Joe Biden was speaking at a rally against sexual violence on Tuesday night when he said he would have “beat the hell out of” President Donald Trump in high school for the way he treats women.
It was an odd sentiment, though Biden’s comments were met with laughter and applause from the crowd. And, of course, Trump responded.
“Crazy Joe Biden is trying to act like a tough guy. Actually, he is weak, both mentally and physically, and yet he threatens me, for the second time, with physical assault,” Trump tweeted Thursday morning. “He doesn’t know me, but he would go down fast and hard, crying all the way. Don’t threaten people Joe!”
As most things on the internet do, the feud ― between two grown men over 70 years old, might I add ― was retweeted, turned into a meme and quickly went viral. People on both sides of the aisle defended their party’s politician and dragged his opponent.
While I welcome any non-lady feud, there’s something troubling about the root of Biden’s and Trump’s comments. Biden boasted about beating up the president while he was at a rally against sexual violence for his organization It’s On Us. He later bizarrely suggested that men who treat women poorly are likely to be physically unattractive, essentially fat-shaming Trump.
Biden declined to comment further on his remarks through a spokesman.
Trump’s response ― specifically pointing out that Biden is “weak” both “mentally and physically” ― is a clear sign that Trump felt his masculinity was threatened by Biden’s remarks.
Both comments are peak toxic masculinity: Biden attempted to defend the honor of women with his brawny man strength and Trump responded to violence with more violence.
This macho rhetoric is, in fact, the root cause of the very issue Biden is campaigning against with It’s On Us. Responding to violence against women with more violence is wildly problematic. This feud, but specifically Biden’s initial comments, are exemplary of how men feel they need to prove themselves through violent or sexual acts to be seen as “real men.”
Toxic masculinity ― the concept that men are confined to strict gender roles that perpetuate violent and overly sexualized behavior ― is often the very reason for rampant sexual violence on college campuses and around the country.
When Biden essentially challenges Trump to a duel, he perpetuates the myth that women need good guys to protect them from the bad guys. In fact, what all sexual assault survivors need, but especially women, is to be seen as humans. Once women are seen as equals, they can no longer be used as objects men can consume haphazardly to make them look more manly to other men.
It’s safe to say that Trump’s track record with women is much worse than Biden’s. The president, who once bragged about grabbing women “by the pussy,” has been accused of sexual misconduct, ranging from harassment to assault and rape, by 21 women. Trump regularly denies allegations of sexual and domestic abuse against not only him but also his former staffers as “fake news.”
Biden has a somewhat storied history with his treatment of women. The former vice president, who launched It’s On Us with President Barack Obama in 2014, has long advocated for women’s rights, including drafting the Violence Against Women Act of 1994.
He has, however, been widely criticized for how he handled professor Anita Hill’s accusations of sexual harassment against Clarence Thomas during the latter’s 1991 Supreme Court confirmation hearings. Many people believe that Biden, who was then chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, didn’t do enough to ensure those allegations were given full consideration. More recently, Biden has taken on the good old “Uncle Joe” persona, during which time he has been caught on camera being creepy and borderline inappropriate toward women.
While Biden’s behavior toward women is nowhere near that of Trump’s, his recent actions call into question his understanding of rape culture and the root cause of sexual violence on college campuses.
I think I can speak for most women when I say: Please, men, don’t use women and our bodies as a pawn to boost your ego.