Column

The Importance of Believing Women — Even When It’s Politically Inconvenient

When it comes to Joe Biden, feminists must uphold their values no matter what

Jessica Valenti
GEN
Published in
5 min readApr 30, 2020
Photo: Barcroft Media/Getty Images

It’s not going to be easy, but feminists need to talk about Joe Biden.

As reporting on the sexual assault allegation against him uncovers new details — a former neighbor told Business Insider this week that accuser Tara Reade discussed the alleged incident decades ago — feminists are being put in a near-impossible position: Abandon our mantra to “believe women” and defend a man accused of serious misconduct, or speak out against him and in the process provide ammunition to a conservative movement fundamentally opposed to women’s autonomy.

Like many feminists, I’m terrified of Trump’s possible reelection; there is no overstating the damage that another term of his presidency would have on Americans and the world, especially the most vulnerable among us. But we can’t abandon our values out of fear. Doing so is not only wrong but would undercut all the credibility the women’s movement has built around #MeToo.

This is a test feminists have failed before. In the 1990s, when President Bill Clinton was impeached after lying about his relationship with then-White House intern Monica Lewinsky, mainstream women’s rights advocates were mostly absent or unhelpful as the then-22-year-old Lewinsky (Clinton was nearly 50) became a national punchline and was shamed worldwide. Observer at the time even published a conversation between high-profile feminist and female writers where one wondered, “Did Monica swallow or did she spit out” and another claimed that Lewinsky had “third-stage gum disease.” Betty Friedan, author of the iconic book The Feminine Mystique, called her some “some little twerp.”

In 2014, Lewinsky wrote in Vanity Fair about about the pain caused by this ostracism. “Given the issues at play — gender politics, sex in the workplace — you’d think they would have spoken up,” she wrote. “They didn’t. I understood their dilemma: Bill Clinton had been a president ‘friendly’ to women’s causes.”

That feminist-friendliness is why, when Clinton was accused of sexual harassment by Paula Jones and Kathleen Willey…

--

--

Jessica Valenti
GEN
Writer for

Feminist author & columnist. Native NYer, pasta enthusiast.