The United States has been patiently waiting on Joe Biden's to announce whether he will enter the 2016 Democratic presidential primary. Much of the media has had a surprising amount of patience while speculating about whether Biden's late entry could hurt his support — especially given the stellar debate performances of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Biden is a longtime politician and the current vice president, so it makes sense that media respects him. That said, it's not far-fetched to say that reactions to his delayed announcement would be very different if he were a woman.
Biden has been mulling a presidential bid since May, when reports surfaced that his late son, Beau Biden, urged him to run for president while on his deathbed. Biden has been grieving Beau, and said that he was trying to decide if he and his family have the "emotional energy" to endure a presidential race. White House spokesman Josh Earnest told CBS that Biden is "thoughtfully considering" the run, rather than agonizing over Clinton as competition.
The reasons for Biden's delayed decision make perfect sense. He's suffered a heartbreaking loss, and he's approaching the end of two terms as vice president of a horribly gridlocked administration. Anyone would take the time to think over something as grueling as a presidential campaign. Biden has the luxury to think it over, too. He is the vice president, Americans are understanding of his loss, and he is a respected politician — a respected male politician.
But Clinton has made it clear in past interviews that reporters have asked her questions that they would never ask a man. She traveled to Kyrgyzstan and spoke to a television reporter about a number of political issues within the country, when he suddenly asked "Which designers do you prefer?" Confused, Clinton asked, "What designers of clothes?" and when the reporter confirmed that that was the question, she said, "Would you ever ask a man that question?" and the surrounding crowd applauded.
If Clinton — or any other powerful woman considering a presidential run, like Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren — were to make the press and the American people wait this long to find out whether they were going to run for president, there would be hell to pay, regardless of her reasons. Author Mark Harris pointed out what would be a double standard on Twitter Monday morning — and he's totally right.
If Clinton or Warren had asked the public to wait as long as Biden has, people would be crediting their indecision to the "innate" personality traits that all women have, such as their "natural" indecisiveness. Further, the long wait would hurt a woman's potential campaign. The throes of sexist Twitter trolls would be asking, "If it takes her this long to decide whether she's going to run, then how will she get things done as president?" These kinds of remarks haven't been heard at all during Biden's almost five-month delay.
Then, the wait would be used as fodder for people who claim that there's a biological difference between the reasoning capabilities of women and men. Those people would say, "Well, all men know how long it takes a woman to decide what to wear, so this is no surprise." Even worse, when a female politician makes a real error or is involved in a scandal, Twitter users are quick to say that she is a "disgrace to all women." But when politicians commit acts of war that kill innocents, or if a man is accused of rape, men get very angry when people call him a disgrace to all men. In such instances, they want to claim that the man doesn't represent the group.
No one — women or men — are making such blanket statements about Biden's decision. And I'm not saying that they should be. Biden is an inspirational, respectable politician, and as someone who has suffered loss, I would never rush someone's decision after such a tragic event. But there is definitely a double standard inherent in our acceptance of Biden's careful thought process, even though we should accept such thoughtful decision making all the time.