Written by Hannah Corsini
CW: sexual assault, war, police brutality
There is something so uncomfortably familiar about Joe Biden – something that recalls every interaction with every man who has ever made me or my female friends feel unsafe – but I would believe Tara Reade even if there weren’t. To discredit her allegation (no matter how politically ‘inconvenient’ it might seem to some) would be to play into the hands of a society which allows and endorses violence against women, and then ignores us when we try and speak out.
More than anything, I hope Tara Reade and her family are safe and well, after having had both liberal and right-wing media drag her name through the mud, having had every aspect of her personal life dissected so openly and voraciously, only to then be forgotten. Amidst all of this, like so many others, Reade has lost her job and her housing in the coronavirus pandemic, all whilst her assaulter is on the verge of becoming president.
I’m a little pessimistic about Biden’s chances of winning next week, but even if he does win, I’m unconvinced that his term would be markedly different from a Trump term. At the end of the day, it would come down to comparing small variations in numbers of deportations, numbers of drone strikes, numbers of police sent out to terrorise black and brown neighbourhoods, numbers of lives lost under a hostile government. Expending effort to elect Biden seems fruitless, when the most marginalised in America will continue to be victimised under his term.
When we talk about the failings of Joe Biden, the conversation does not end with the sexual assault of Tara Reade. We need to think about how Biden has continuously advocated for cuts to social security, cuts that disproportionately affect women – and especially women of colour – and the crime bill that he helped to author in 1994 which escalated the war on drugs and continues to this day to target Black communities across America, and how, as chair of the Senate committee on foreign relations in 2002, he helped to ensure the invasion of Iraq, leading to the needless deaths of thousands of people and imprinting unimaginable trauma.
Liberal feminism has, as it always does, thrown the most marginalised women under the bus. Prominent liberal feminists who previously heralded the MeToo movement are now coming out in support of Biden, contradicting their own pleas for people to believe women. The National Alliance of Women urged Elizabeth Warren not to endorse Bernie Sanders under the claim that he had “done nothing for women.”What has Bernie done for women? Well for one thing, there are no sexual assault allegations against him. The bar is low; Biden (and Bloomberg) failed to meet it.
Their statement was a result of the way in which mainstream liberal feminism has constructed itself: it works as a tool to pay lip service to white middle-class women like me, falling into the trap of viewing itself as separate from working-class and anti-racist movements. It does not seek liberation, only visibility. This is reflected in its modern obsession with empty gestures, like Biden announcing he would have a female running mate (wow, feminist king!). We need to stop focusing on achieving more female corporate CEOs, CIA operatives and yes, Vice Presidents. ‘Lean in’ feminism allows a small fraction of women to access the same power as white men, merely giving a new face to the same systems of oppression. Feminist movements in both the US and the UK should be centering their efforts on protecting the most vulnerable amongst us. That means battling against austerity, which has seen welfare benefits cut and domestic violence shelters closed; fighting to stop immigrant deportations and against a carceral system which only perpetuates gender-based violence – a carceral system which Biden’s choice, Kamala Harris, worked time and time again to uphold. Ultimately, feminist movements need to focus on protecting the women electoral politics so often overlooks: trans women, women of colour, sexual assault survivors, disabled women, poor women – they should be working for all women, not a select few.
In 2017, Nancy Fraser wrote in the aftermath of the Trump election that to build a new left, the liberals who worked on Hillary Clinton’s campaign would need to confront their “own share of the blame, for sacrificing the cause of social protection, material well-being, and working-class dignity to faux understandings of emancipation in terms of meritocracy, diversity, and empowerment,” and in 2020, we’re stuck in the same futile election cycle. Joe Biden is not going to liberate women – we have to do the work ourselves.