Dear Mr. Biden.

I believe you would make a great president. However, having watched the news unfold over the last week it is evident you still “don’t get it!”  Unfortunately you are in good company. For you to move beyond the mindset which clouds your excellent qualifications and moral character, you must become a man ahead of his time, more enlightened  than most. I believe you need an “AHA!” moment.  Please allow me to give you a nudge.

Patriarchy has been one of the defining premises for the evolution of civilizations throughout documented history. It has been the cultural norm globally for millennia.  Over thousands of years, philosophers, religious scholars and even scientists have taught us that men are superior to women. These beliefs, taught to generations of  children, have become deeply ingrained in all of us.  They affect how we see our world, how we treat one another and what we consider to be “common sense.”   Challenging such a deeply established construct rarely even enters our minds.

Yet inevitably the real life consequences of living within such a system creep into our consciousness.  That is because patriarchy is nothing more nor less than a very wide-spread and long-lived form of OPPRESSION.  {see The Creation of Patriarchy, 1986 by Gerda Lerner.}  All forms of oppression elevate one group of people to the detriment of another group.  In the case of patriarchy, men as oppressors enjoy the ability to maintain self-esteem, social status, power and wealth by denying the same to those they oppress (women.)  Those oppressed (women) may at first be complicit and compliant.  But eventually they may become angry, manipulative and rebellious.  Over the last 200 years or so we have witnessed how women have first recognized then attempted to change and overcome the inequality they have experienced.  Yet the benefits derived from such challenges remain tenuous, fragile.  In 460 excruciating pages, Susan Faludi described the ” two steps forward, one step back” characterization of these endeavors in her book BACKLASH: the Undeclared War Against American Women.  [Crown Publishers, 1991]

So you see Mr. Biden, recent criticism of your behavior toward women is not merely a comment on your intent nor on your invasion of another’s personal space.  In the former, no one can read your mind; in the latter, we (women) see paternalism if we are being generous, but possibly a declaration of relative status and rights if not.  Informing our reaction (even though we may be unable to articulate it!) is FEAR- fear of losing ground on our path toward freedom from oppression.  While newscasters talk about recent cultural changes which have altered our perceptions, understand that women have found and used their voices in the past only to be silenced by ridicule, indifference and the strong hold patriarchy has on society.  The backlash is already well underway.

How then might you run a successful presidential campaign going forward?  First: There has been much talk about how one must “stand up to Trump.”  In my humble opinion, the best way to do so is to ignore him, NEVER stoop to his tactics, and let your integrity and character speak for themselves.  Second: Step outside the box and consider how women feel living in a culture which considers them to be second-class citizens.  Talk to lots of women and ask about their life challenges and their aspirations.  Read more about some of the brave women who have challenged the status quo.  Third:  Run on a commitment to pass the ERA!!!  Our human rights will be more secure if legislation proclaims them.  Fourth:  Become the visionary our country craves.  Let your words and actions reflect your soul!

Most Sincerely,
Sue Ellen Valk

Read more about patriarchy in my blogs:   Women’s Voices, 1/21/18;  “Be A Man!”, 2/17/18;  Abortion in a Patriarchal Culture, 10/13/18.  Also: Wikipedia offers a good overview of patriarchy.