On March 3, following a number of allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo apologized if the women accusing him “felt hurt” by or “felt pain” on account of his phrases and actions. “I by no means knew on the time I used to be making anybody really feel uncomfortable,” he mentioned.
The press convention adopted a statement Cuomo released over the weekend providing a tepid apology if his phrases and actions had “been misinterpreted as an undesirable flirtation.” He wrote, “To the extent anybody felt that method, I’m really sorry about that.”
It is extra of the identical, drained gaslighting we have seen from almost each highly effective man accused of harassing and harming girls in recent times.
If the governor’s nonapology assertion and press convention — which centered on what he claimed have been the intentions behind his actions reasonably than their affect — felt like déjà vu, there is a cause. It is extra of the identical, drained gaslighting we have seen from almost each highly effective man accused of harassing and harming girls in recent times. Time and again, highly effective males, and particularly male politicians, have “apologized” if a girl they allegedly harassed or harmed “felt” or “interpreted” their phrases and actions in a sure method. In different phrases, the abuse was all within the girl’s head, and the person accused would not bear duty. To this point, Cuomo has refused to resign. And he has but to make clear how he’ll face accountability or what, if any, adjustments he is making to stop future misconduct.
Any assertion that purports to apologize however claims a girl misinterpreted the change is rooted in sufferer blaming, as if it have been their sufferer’s option to be offended or intimidated, doubling down on the hurt that is already been inflicted. This protection towards allegations of sexist misconduct can also be deeply infantilizing, treating girls as in the event that they lack the maturity, expertise, or worldliness to know the right way to correctly learn a scenario and denying them credibility relating to their very own lived expertise.
The allegations against Cuomo primarily come from women who labored for him. Former high staffer Lindsey Boylan was the primary girl to supply a detailed accusation last week, alleging that in 2016, her boss informed her Cuomo had a “crush” on her. Boylan mentioned that in 2017, the governor steered they play strip poker, and in 2018, he gave her an undesirable kiss on the lips. One other former aide, Charlotte Bennett, 25, mentioned that final yr, the governor requested her plenty of invasive questions on her private life whereas they have been in his workplace, together with whether or not she had been with older males, and informed her he was open to a relationship with a girl in her 20s. And a 3rd accuser, Anna Ruch, mentioned she had by no means met Cuomo earlier than a marriage they each attended in 2019. Simply after they met, she mentioned, he positioned his hand on her naked decrease again, then put his palms on her cheeks and requested if he might kiss her. (These allegations additionally come as Cuomo faces different critical allegations associated to his alleged cover-up of nursing-home-related deaths amid the pandemic.)
It is irritating as a result of it is precisely like each nonapology we have heard earlier than, sneakily and insidiously shifting blame onto victims of abuse.
For the reason that sexual-harassment allegations towards Cuomo first surfaced, a small however rising group of Democratic lawmakers, together with New York Congresswoman Kathleen Rice, in addition to the New York Working Households Celebration have referred to as for the governor’s resignation. Others have defended Cuomo by claiming calls for his resignation are “premature” — to which New York state Sen. Jessica Ramos responded in a biting tweet, “You recognize what’s untimely and unfair? Grabbing somebody’s face with out their consent.”
In line with a 2016 examine by the US Equal Employment Alternative Fee, 60 percent of women say they experience “undesirable sexual consideration, sexual coercion, sexually crude conduct, or sexist feedback” within the office. And regardless of the claims of highly effective males like Cuomo that they’ve benign intentions and that their “pleasant” therapy of girls is solely being misinterpreted, male staff and males usually are hardly ever if ever subjected to the identical “pleasant” therapy. The inappropriate touching and feedback by males like Cuomo concentrating on girls and feminine staff are paternalistic and infantilizing at greatest and abusive and predatory at worst.
When girls allege a strong man sexually harassed or harmed them, they face the identical sexist scrutiny, the identical insistence that requires fundamental accountability are untimely, and the identical condescending assertions that they weren’t truly harmed however merely misunderstood one thing. Cuomo’s nonapology is not irritating as a result of it wades into any kind of new territory within the #MeToo period, which has uncovered seemingly numerous highly effective males accused of comparable behaviors. It is irritating as a result of it is precisely like each nonapology we have heard earlier than, sneakily and insidiously shifting blame onto victims of abuse.
The change we desperately want in workplaces throughout the nation, and in society at giant, requires us to carry these in energy to the next customary. It requires us to imagine girls who say they really feel violated and assign worth and significance to girls’s consolation and security, over sustaining the identical energy buildings that received us right here within the first place.