If you’ve spent any time on Twitter over the past few years you will almost certainly have met the “woke toddler.” This is where progressive parents share the super cute and achingly right-on insights of their tiny charges.
Over time, potentially genuine anecdotes have given way to up-front political commentary. A classic of the kind might be the days-old baby who asks granny to name “one genuine economic benefit of Brexit.” With more people in on the joke, these tweets slowly died a death. So it was a surprise to see President Biden attempt to revive the genre this week by tweeting his response to “Charlotte.”
To be fair to Biden, his “woke toddler” had gone to some trouble. This was no mere anecdote but an actual letter. With scrawling handwriting and cute spelling errors, Charlotte wrote:
Dear Presitent Biden: I just wanted to tell something not fair to ladies. Men are getting more money then girls. I think you should fix this since your the presitent. Even I’m a child and I think we should do something.
To which Biden replied:
Charlotte, I couldn’t agree more.
Women lose thousands of dollars each year, and hundreds of thousands over a lifetime, because of gender and racial wage gaps.
I’m committed to building an economy where my daughters have the same rights and opportunities as my sons.
Let’s put to one side questions about the letter’s authenticity. Someone, somewhere, thought it would be a good idea to have Biden tweet out a response to Charlotte: and that person is an idiot. Perhaps responding to Charlotte seemed like a good opportunity for Biden to show off his feminist credentials, what with International Women’s Day having just been and gone. But the stunt falls down at every hurdle.
Attempting to appeal to adult women via a cute little girl is so patronizing as to be insulting. If Biden wants to speak to women voters, he needs to address them as adults in their own right and not lump “women and girls” together in one infantilizing category.
But it’s not just Sleepy Joe who thinks this is appropriate. Back in 2016, after conceding defeat in the presidential race, Hillary Clinton addressed “all the little girls watching.” And in the UK we have our own political “girl-ification.” In 2015, Labour’s Harriet Harman hit the campaign trail in a bright pink battle bus —presumably because women only understand politics if it’s pink.
Rishi Sunak is more subtle — but he has begun to do something similar. When discussing issues he thinks apply mainly to women, from online abuse to street harassment, Sunak almost always makes reference to his daughters. His sentiments are no doubt heartfelt, but policies to help women need to be driven by more than what’s in the best interests of your own children. Despite what all these people think, women do not need politics to be mediated through children.
But let’s get to the heart of Biden’s message to Charlotte. The president affirms her belief that there is “something not fair to ladies.” “Women lose thousands of dollars each year, and hundreds of thousands over a lifetime, because of gender and racial wage gaps,” he tells her. He implies that women get paid less than men, for the same work, just because they are women. This is simply untrue.
Women may, on average, earn less — but that’s often because they opt for lower paying careers, or, once they have children, choose to work fewer hours than men or don’t take a promotion that may involve extra commuting time. We can ask whether the cost of childcare or the structure of the working day impact the choices women make — but it is wrong to tell women they get lower wages because of their gender.
In his reply to Charlotte, Biden is adamant that he wants his daughters to have the same rights and opportunities as his sons. But where do the real threats to women’s rights lie today? There are clearly battles to be won in some states around reproductive rights and access to abortion. But for Biden to address such issues with any degree of credibility he needs to know exactly what a woman is — and it is not clear he does. On International Women’s Day this year, First Lady Jill Biden presented a “Woman of Courage” award to a transgender woman. The president had previously chosen to meet with the TikTok transgender “girl” Dylan Mulvaney. Biden has gone further than any other president in enabling male-bodied athletes to compete in women’s sports and making it more difficult to justify female-only spaces.
For all his talk of gender equality, Biden’s tweet to Charlotte shows he is happy patronising women with cute but duplicitous messaging. Meanwhile he’s doing all he can to undermine women’s sex-based rights.
This article was originally published on The Spectator’s UK website.