New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D), in his third term in office, is under fire following a recent slew of allegations of sexual misconduct.
In late December 2020, the New York Times reported that former gubernatorial aide and current Manhattan Borough Presidential Candidate Lindsey Boylan came forward with accusations of sexual misconduct against Cuomo . Boylan claimed initially that Cuomo had created a toxic work environment; she went on to explain how he allegedly forcibly kissed her in 2018 and, further, how he had tried to coerce her into having sex.
Since Boylan’s allegations arose, eight other women—Charlotte Bennett, Anna Ruch, Ana Liss, Karen Hinton, Jessica Bakeman, Valerie Bauman, Alyssa McGrath, and one anonymous complainant—have also levied allegations of misconduct on the part of Cuomo.
Claude Taylor, Monmouth’s Director for Academic Transition and Inclusion and member of the Program in Gender and Intersectional Studies, said that this alleged pattern of impropriety is symptomatic of the balance of power in play between Cuomo and these women.
“I can’t speak on behalf of women,” Taylor said, “but as a thinker of political behavior, this is a signal to me of the fact that this type of power that leaders have wielded both in the past and present can be a conduit for these patterns.”
He continued, “What I appreciate about this story thus far is that the speaking-up about this kind of misconduct means that women are having the courage to rise up against people who abuse that power. In the past, this sort of issue likely would’ve been pushed to the margins.”
Over 100 representatives and social advocacy groups at the federal and state levels have condemned the Governor for his apparent conduct. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, also a Democrat, has repeatedly slammed Cuomo for these allegations, saying in a March 11 news conference, “It is deeply troubling. The specific allegation that the governor called an employee of his―someone who he had power over…to a private place and then sexually assaulted her is absolutely unacceptable.” He has since called for Cuomo’s resignation. “It is disgusting to me,” he said, “and he can no longer serve as governor; it’s as simple as that.”
Taylor expressed his agreement with Mayor de Blasio.
“My sense is that his political dexterity—how he is able to negotiate and invoke his elected authority—is in question,” said Taylor, “and I do believe it’s untenable for him to continue for the rest of his term under the shadow of these circumstances, whether he resigns, which is unlikely, or is removed by the state legislature.”
Jennifer McGovern, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Sociology, explained that the pattern of abuse suggested by the allegations is not uncommon, especially in the workplace.
“…[W]omen are often sexualized more than men are. This means that women are judged on their physical appearance, viewed as objects for men’s pleasure, and not taken seriously for their other qualities, such as intelligence,” McGovern said. “Research shows us that views like this are especially prevalent in male-dominated spaces, such as politics or certain business settings.”
She further explained what effects these patterns of sexual harassment can have on women within their places of work. “…[It] can lead to work environments where women’s sexual qualities are discussed more than their contributions to the workplace, making women feel undervalued,” she said. “This problem can be exacerbated when men are in positions of power, such as Cuomo. Oftentimes, women feel like they have to go along with these types of behaviors because they don’t want to ‘rock the boat’ or be seen as someone who can’t succeed in those spaces.”
Jasmine Ramos, a communication student, also commented on how these behaviors impact women.
“Women see these types of patterns all the time, whether it be at work or on the street or even in our homes,” Ramos said. “We should always feel safe and not have to worry about any harassment or assault being thrown our way, especially at work: we are there to do a job, to support ourselves, and to live our lives. I am glad women—and some men—have started this revolution of calling these actions out and saying ‘enough is enough.’ Hopefully, we are on the path to making the world a safer place.”
Ramos agreed that this is unacceptable behavior for anyone, especially an elected official, saying, “With these allegations, his reputation is tarnished. You see him in a different light. The people that govern should be set to a certain standard and this isn’t it.”
“Regardless of whether he resigns,” Taylor said, “this will be damaging for Cuomo’s political career. We are in a time and a place where these behaviors often lead to political jeopardy.”
“I think it’s really disappointing and sad for New York State to have to go through this in a time when they’ve already endured a lot of trauma related to COVID regarding loss of life and livelihood,” Taylor said, “and my heart is with the people of New York.”
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