This is a piece about sexual harassment. Reading it may be difficult or upsetting for survivors of sexual violence. If you need to talk, the National Sexual Assault Hotline is available for help and support 24/7 at 800.656.HOPE (4673) & online.rainn.org.
When I heard the news that Andrew Cuomo is a sexual predator, I just felt…really, really tired. I have no emotional investment in him, and frankly I don’t care for any of the Cuomos. Now I care even less. But after 4 years of the trump assault, no one needed this, least of all his victims. There are now 3 women on the record, but we all know there are a lot more. There always are. No one should be surprised either at how freely he treated women in this disgusting manner. No one should be surprised because when they are in a position of power where there is no one to push back, abusive men talk to women like this—degrading comments, intrusive questions meant to humiliate, the literal and figurative breakdown of our personal space—ALL THE TIME.
I was sexually harassed on the job. I had finished my first round of graduate school and was at home for a few months before I moved to Boston with my best friend. I found a long-term temp job that would carry me until we moved and I actually liked it. It was a family-run company that made some kind of light industrial goods that I don’t remember. The secretary was going out for surgery, but as she told me as she trained me my first day, she was never coming back. I could handle the bookkeeping and accounting so I was happy to have the steady income.
The day-to-day management had passed from the father to his son, who was in his 40s and a big flashy spender. He had a fancy car and an airplane and was desperate to impress me. As it was summer and all of my siblings were working, I got dropped off and picked up as part of the roving family carpool so I’d bring my lunch and eat in the little anteroom to the women’s bathroom. It was clean and private, and I was the only woman working there so it was fine. I always had a book and it was a quiet hour alone. Or it was when my boss didn’t come in to chat with me about whether I had a boyfriend or what I liked to do for fun (sound familiar?). I began to dread my lunch hour.
Luckily the shop foreman saw him go in one noontime and came and called him out to the shop floor. Later the foreman came to see me, apologized profusely for not knowing, told me he’d told my boss never to do that ever again, and gave me the keys to the company pickup truck ostensibly so I could go the bank and make the daily deposits but really so I could get out at lunch time. I’ve never forgotten his kindness. And naturally that didn’t stop my boss, it just redirected his efforts into trying to let him fly me up to Boston for my job interviews, you know, to save time that we could then spend together sightseeing. Ugh. That bothered me less because it was nowhere as menacing as being shut up in a small room with him, but it was still unwanted, unwelcome, and pathetic.
And that’s the thing the I see so clearly in Cuomo’s behavior: its pitifulness. It’s the behavior of insecure, socially deficient men, the kind of men that women immediately know to avoid at gatherings. I’ve been online a long time and one of the communities where I hang out is, and has always been, overwhelmingly male. The women who hang out there tend to either be pleasers or tough, intelligent women who stand up for themselves. Over the years, the pleasers have disappeared and the women who stayed insist on being treated respectfully. This sets up a lot of confrontations with a segment of the male membership. There is the obvious group, the ones who call women disgusting names to their virtual faces. And then there are Cuomos, the ones who are obviously forked up when it comes to women but who don’t immediately call you the c word.
Years ago, in a smaller private subgroup of the community, one of the women shared some intimate details. Years later, and in a less private community subgroup, a guy who had once told us that while he was in his truck he threatened to run over a woman he had catcalled and who flipped him off in return (he later told us that he was “joking” and that it never actually happened—he just thought it would be a funny story to tell (of course it really happened)) started a thread to demand she tell him all of the details again. When she got upset, he essentially pulled a Cuomo. It was supposed to be funny! It was just a light-hearted request! OK, well if you were offended then I apologize! Geez! I was only joking! You’re so uptight! Lather, rinse, repeat.
I hope all the women Cuomo demeaned and harassed and assaulted come forward and sink his political career. It’s time for a few small repairs.