During his press conference today, Andrew Cuomo said that, in America, “we have sexism that is culturalized and institutionalized.” Astonishingly, he failed to follow this submission with an emphatic, “And I, Andrew Cuomo, am the prime example of that in all of contemporary American politics.”
Whatever happened to “accountability”?
Andrew Cuomo is the three-term governor of the fourth most populous state in the country. He is the son of an extremely famous man who served as governor of New York himself, and the sibling of a CNN host who has routinely used his position to prop his brother up. In pushing back against the charges that have been leveled against him, Cuomo had the help of an organization that was ostensibly created to prevent sexual harassment, as well as of some of the most influential advocacy outlets in all of American politics. As John Podhoretz noted last week, Cuomo’s entire game was his “limitless willingness to use intimidation to get [his] way — and a limitless capacity to intimidate.” For years, Cuomo got away with what he did because people feared him and the machine he represented.
If there is a better example of “culturalized and institutionalized” sexism than this, I’m struggling to find it.
In the same speech he used to announce his resignation, Cuomo and his lawyer pushed back against the allegations, impugned the motives of his accusers and the investigators, argued that Cuomo “didn’t realize the extent to which the line has been redrawn” around appropriate workplace behavior, touted his political record (like Harvey Weinstein, Cuomo seemed to think that being in favor of gun control is a mitigating factor), and ultimately settled on the idea that he was doing New York a favor by resigning because an impeachment trial would be expensive, time-consuming, and liable to limit the efficiency of the government. At no point, however, did they explain how Cuomo’s actions might have played into the “institutionalized” problems that, even at this late stage, he still seems to believe he opposes.
For a problem to be “institutionalized” or “systemic,” we are told, there has to be a power differential in play. And boy was there a power differential here. As Nicholas Goldberg wrote a week ago in the Los Angeles Times:
of all the revelations in recent months, the story that really struck a chord was published in New York magazine by a reporter who had covered him as governor. She explained that he had often touched her on her arms, shoulders, back and waist without her consent, but that she never believed he wanted to have sex with her.
“He wanted me to know that I was powerless, that I was small and weak, that I did not deserve what relative power I had: a platform to hold him accountable for his words and actions,” she wrote. “He wanted me to know that he could take my dignity away at any moment with an inappropriate comment or a hand on my waist.”
Whatever else he did to other women, this description of him using physical dominance as a form of power and threat — that has the ring of truth.
This dynamic, Goldberg concluded, is in evidence throughout the AG’s report, which describes “a workplace environment of fear and intimidation, where protecting the governor from those he harassed was the goal, rather than protecting those who had been harassed.”
Or, put another way: Cuomo wasn’t some random guy at a bar with an antediluvian approach to women and too much liquor inside him. He was a walking, breathing, conscious manifestation of what people such as him have spent years identifying as the problem. In 2013, Cuomo tweeted that “there should be a zero tolerance policy when it comes to sexual harassment,” and promised to “send a clear message that this behavior is not tolerated.” Instead, he did whatever he wanted, and then used his position to cover it up.
“We have sexism that is culturalized and institutionalized,” says Andrew Cuomo.
No, not “we,” matey. You.