At a March 20 anti-sexual assault rally at the University of Miami, the message of the day was to raise awareness and help create a college culture in which assault and gender-based violence is unacceptable. Vice President Joe Biden's quote about President Donald Trump and locker rooms may have missed the mark, when he said he would have "beat the hell out of" Trump if they went to high school together.
Biden, in a fiery address to the students in Miami, cited Trump's infamous p*ssy-grabbing comment, and his apparent befuddlement at Trump's rise to power.
"A guy who ended up becoming our national leader said, 'I can grab a woman anywhere and she likes it,'" Biden said. "They asked me if I’d like to debate this gentleman, and I said 'no.' I said, 'If we were in high school, I’d take him behind the gym and beat the hell out of him.'"
Apart from vowing violence at an anti-violence rally, Biden also made comments that fly in the face of body positivity, claiming that most men who disrespect women — verbally or physically — are fat and ugly.
"I've been in a lot of locker rooms my whole life," Biden continued. "I'm a pretty damn good athlete. Any guy that talked that way was usually the fattest, ugliest S.O.B. in the room."
In addition, Biden commended the country on its progress battling sexual assault and touted the #MeToo movement.
"Today’s @itsonus rally reminded us that we are responsible for creating an environment where sexual assault and gender-based violence is unacceptable," the University of Miami tweeted Tuesday evening. "Thank you @joebiden for bringing us your legacy of ending violence against women and empowering our students to take action."
Though Biden's comments may have been well-intentioned, many people on social media saw the remarks as feeding into the shaming and othering of body types.
Biden is no stranger to the occasional off-color remark. In 2014, Politico Magazine termed the phenomenon "Bidenisms," and speculated on whether it might end up in the American political dictionary.
On the campaign trail in 2007, Biden told CNN it was "a storybook" that Barack Obama was running for president. "I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy," Biden said. "I mean, that's a storybook, man."
Time Magazine reported that Biden quipped about his opponent's appearance in the 2008 election — then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. At a rally in Toledo, Ohio, Biden engaged in a back-and-forth with a female supporter about both his and Palin's appearance:
There’s a gigantic difference between John McCain and Barack Obama, and between me and, I suspect, my vice presidential opponent. And that is that — it’s obviously, really, she’s good looking. You know, there’s all these differences.
At a campaign speech in 2012 at New York University, Biden was touting President Barack Obama's successes countering terrorism when he mangled President Roosevelt's famous "big stick" quote.
This guy’s got a backbone like a ramrod. No, no, for real. We can’t say for certain what Gov. Romney would have done [with Osama Bin Laden] ... I promise you the president has a big stick. I promise you.
At a Senate swearing-in ceremony in 2013, Biden made borderline-creepy comments to women — young and old — who were in attendance. At one point he gestures to a pretty young woman and says "I want you next to me," while posing for a photo-op.
Biden enthusiastically told Missouri State Sen. Chuck Graham, who uses a wheelchair, to stand at a campaign rally in 2008.
It's clear that some of these examples of Biden's gaffes are well-intentioned, but it's important to realize the effect words have on our culture. Particularly in the post-#MeToo era, it bears repeating that there is no one type of sexual aggressor. And just as importantly, is how comments like Biden's — likely made in jest — can inadvertently demonize those who don't conform to popularized body standards.