NEW YORK ― Ashley Judd said she doesn’t think anyone should get a pass for inappropriate touching ― even those in elected office who have traditionally been seen as allies of women.
The actress and Me Too activist was speaking on Thursday at Tina Brown’s 10th Annual Women in the World Summit in Manhattan when she discussed her thoughts on the allegations of inappropriate touching against former Vice President Joe Biden.
Judd referenced two articles, one on The Cut by Rebecca Traister, who was also on the panel, and another by Sofie Karasek in The Washington Post. Karasek, herself a survivor of assault, was captured in a photo with Biden as he leaned his forehead against hers, his eyes staring closely at her face, at the 2016 Oscars.
Looking back, Karasek described the interaction as “unwelcome, uncomfortable and strange.” Judd said the photo itself is disturbing.
“I’m very uncomfortable looking at those images and they do feel paternalistic and condescending,” she said.
“Even the Girl Scouts are teaching little girls these days, you have the right to say no to any hug or approach or touch from an adult that doesn’t feel right for you,” Judd added. “We need our bodily autonomy and sexual integrity. ”
Biden, who is expected to announce a 2020 presidential bid soon, has been accused of inappropriate touching or kissing by multiple women. All of them said his behavior made them uncomfortable.
Also on the panel alongside Judd and Traister was Rutgers University professor and author Brittney Cooper, Human Rights Campaign spokesperson Sarah McBride, and moderator and journalist Katie Couric.
Traister explained how Biden’s conduct is paternalistic in its manner, and reflects his policies as a whole.
“The stories about the inappropriate touching are important because what they display is a kind of paternalism that is actually key to the kinds of policy he has made in the 50 years of his political power,” she said.
“It is a paternalistic approach that is visible in his policy record around abortion, around integration, around crime,” Traister continued. “And that is why the stories of the touching are relevant, because they take us directly to the way he has governed, and his view of the role of government and power over the bodies of those who are governed.”
Biden supported a range of anti-abortion legislation including the Hyde Amendment and a ban on federal funding for abortion during his 40-year tenure in the Senate.
All four women on the stage seemed in agreement about one thing: This reckoning, pushed forward by women and people of color, is essential, and any growth that will occur will depend on power brokers taking real responsibility.
In the words of Judd’s fellow panelist, Cooper: “The future is female, it is not an old white man.”
Watch a segment of the discussion below.
CLARIFICATION: Biden has been accused of inappropriately touching or kissing, but no one has publicly accused him of sexual misconduct.