It was hard to miss the spectacle of Vice President Joe Biden at the swearing-in-ceremony for the new Secretary of Defense, Ashton Carter. The Veep’s hands were clasping the shoulders of the Secretary’s wife, Stephanie Carter, while he appeared to be whispering “sweet nothings” in her ear.
Biden’s behavior was inappropriate. What was he thinking? We wonder how he would react if the situation was reversed and Secretary Carter was all over Jill Biden?
That’s No Way to Behave
Twitter and the news media were on it immediately with the hashtag #creepyveepy. Mr. Biden once again opened himself up to ridicule. This newest incident added to his record of gaffes. Watch the video below and you’ll see Secretary Carter turn to acknowledge his wife and put his hand on her shoulder.
You can interpret that any way you want, but it seemed to us as if he were laying claim to her. Bug off, Mr. Vice President!
We expect a certain level of decorum from our elected officials, especially those who think they lead our country. They should be the models of behavior for everyone. If a male executive in an office grabbed a female employee and leaned into her ear it could be grounds for sexual harassment.
Even doctors, who are licensed to examine us, need to watch where they put their hands. It’s not permissible to touch and feel when it isn’t part of the exam. It’s routine these days for male doctors to have a female nurse present when examining a female patient.
It’s particularly offensive when male executives feel they have license to close in on a woman and wrap her in a bear hug. If the woman’s direct boss does it, she is put in a very uncomfortable position. She may fear offending, or even angering him, if she asks him to stop.
If this happens in public, rumors could start to fly about the boss and his subordinate. People may snicker behind their backs, but it’s not a joking matter.
How to Fend Them Off
It’s never easy, but it is possible to fend off these kinds of advances.
A colleague told me how she handles these situations. First, try to avoid someone who is known to be the “touchy feely” type. A male member of her professional association attends many of the same meetings she does. When she sees him coming she walks the other way.
He’s very democratic about who he grabs in a bear hug. Almost any woman in the room will do.
If you’re victim of a surprise attack, you need to handle the situation when it occurs. Say something like, “George, you’re hurting me. Please let go of my arm.” Then pry his arm off, walk away and find someone else to talk to. You don’t need to just grin and bear it
If you see a guy known for his unwanted advances coming toward you, stretch your hand out as he leans in to land an unwanted kiss on your cheek. Clasp his hand firmly and push him away from you.
Some people just need a gentle hint. Like Joe Biden, they may be the touchy-feely types and sincerely think you’d enjoy the intimate gesture. But invading a person’s private space is never appropriate, and certainly never on a public platform.
According to etiquette expert Thomas P. Farley, a.k.a. Mr. Manners, there are three rules to follow to keep from getting too up-close and personal:
- Stay three feet away from the other person.
- Touching head and shoulders are off limits.
- If you tap or touch someone on the arm, don’t hold the touch for very long.
While we’ve been using men as an example, women don’t get a free pass. A happily married man standing with his wife at a company reception may not appreciate a big smooch on the cheek either.
Good manners are always the rule for everyone, especially if you don’t want to find your misstep going viral on social media and starring on YouTube.