For those who fear a woman would be too emotional to be president, last Thursday’s Twitter scrap between two men — one currently in that position, one potentially the next in line — might change their minds.
Behaving characteristically like an upset toddler, President Donald Trump called out former Vice President Joe Biden on Twitter with claims that Biden was “weak, both mentally and physically,” and that he could take Biden down “crying all the way.”
This kind of outburst from the self-assuredly masculine president of the United States has become so regrettably common over the course of the past year that it feels almost useless to even discuss why it’s so outrageously wrong. What’s more interesting, however, is the initial incident that brought it on this time.
Biden isn’t known for being delicate with his choice of words, but he seemed to touch a nerve with Trump last Tuesday during a talk with students at the University of Miami when he said he’d “beat the hell out of him” if they both had been in high school. While it might be easy for most Americans to sympathize with such a sentiment, it’s problematic coming from a public figure like Biden for several reasons.
Politics, especially in the United States, have a long history of being a “old boys’ club.” It’s not by coincidence that women, who are roughly half the population, make up less than 20 percent of both chambers of Congress — and there is still a significant degree to which public officials are expected to be masculine and to avoid femininity. And while Biden’s outburst may not have been solely responsible for creating this environment, it’s worth asking why we should accept threats like his in the public sphere.
Part of what makes living in the Trump era so constantly terrifying is the threat from the conflict between the oversized egos of our mostly male leaders, who strive to appear as masculine as possible. Contests of who has the biggest muscles or the largest sexual organs are inherently emotional and unreasonable events, and the men who are involved in them on a national and international scale are unquestionably a present danger to our society.
Of course, that isn’t to say that we shouldn’t allow men to serve at the highest ranks of leadership in the United States — such a point of view is as absurd and overly reductionist as someone who thinks a woman going through menstruation is liable to start a nuclear war. Without a doubt, both Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans have a number of politicians of more than one gender to look to as potential standard-bearers whenever the next general election comes around.
Biden has more than a few qualities that might make him an appealing choice for the Democratic Party in 2020 — among them his edge in rust belt areas like ours where he holds considerable appeal. But when someone like him, who is in strong consideration to challenge Trump for control of the presidency in 2020, publicly announces he wants to beat another politician up, we should begin to wonder if we want to face four more years of size contests.