On Tuesday, Andrew Cuomo revealed his resignation as governor of New york city. In his address to the state, he continued to reject the allegations of unwanted sexual advances detailed in Attorney general of the United States Letitia James’s report and refused to take responsibility for his actions. The issue, he discussed, was that he could see no way to progress regardless of his innocence. “This situation and moment are not about the truths. It’s not about the fact. It’s not about thoughtful analysis. It’s not about: How do we make the system better?” he stated. “This is about politics, and our political system today is too often driven by the extremes.”
Cuomo wasn’t alone at the press conference. His statement was preceded by a declaration by his individual attorney, Rita Glavin. The strategy was basic: Possibly you would not think Cuomo, however here was Glavin claiming her legal and feminist authentic–” I believe that females must be thought”– while knocking the report and state private investigators “as the district attorneys, the judge, and the jury of Guv Cuomo.” Glavin’s function was a familiar trope during Cuomo’s time in office: a powerful female functioning as a shield for the guv and his abuses. A kind of representational politics and optics honed to a point that could draw blood. It was, it turns out, his method up until completion.
As the report itself information, Cuomo used his power and the power of his workplace to persuade females, press their limits, and touch them inappropriately. He didn’t act on his own: The report likewise lays out the many ways in which his administration’s top assistants, numerous of them women, systematically worked to implement a poisonous workplace and to silence anybody who came forward with problems that may threaten their manager and, with him, their own effective positions. That wall of protection was clear to the people around the guv: As Charlotte Bennett, one of Cuomo’s accusers, said of senior personnel: “I have no concept of how far they ‘d go to safeguard him and didn’t want to find out.”
On Monday, Melissa DeRosa, Cuomo’s leading aide, resigned from the administration, another sure indication that the political fallout for the governor was becoming illogical. The Cuomo administration has long promoted his track record on reproductive rights and marital relationship equality as a method to deflect criticism of his progressive efficiency. (He did the exact same in his resignation speech, reciting precisely the very same concerns as more vindication of the sort of male he is.) The report, which catches the actions of a violent guy, also outlines in shocking detail how the systems and people supporting these men, including a number of prominent women aides, were able to weaponize feminism, gender, and progressive optics to silence victims and perpetuate abuse. If the Cuomo report and his resignation are a lesson in anything, it’s that the ideal policies, and women in leadership positions, will never be enough. Change isn’t a matter of discovering the ideal gatekeepers– it’s about completion of gatekeeping.
DeRosa and other leading assistants utilized a series of strategies to safeguard Cuomo, and themselves, at all expenses, including trying to reject Lindsey Boylan, one of the governor’s accusers, by orchestrating a campaign to leak her workers submit to the press to undermine her trustworthiness. DeRosa also drafted and flowed an unpublished letter to disparage Boylan, which was evaluated by several individuals, including Roberta Kaplan, the chairwoman of Time’s Up, a celebrity-driven group that formed in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein abuse revelations and raises money for victims of sexual harassment.
However the report shows the more nebulous methods which the culture of worry promoted by Cuomo’s top assistants secured abuse. Boylan, for example, testifies about how DeRosa would shriek and curse her out and she tried, on several occasions, to resign from the executive workplace. Brittany Commisso, an executive assistant who declared that Cuomo had actually pestered her, consisting of reaching under her blouse and groping her breast, affirmed that after the guv asked her to take a photo with him and not to share it with anyone aside from another executive assistant, she was terrified particularly of Cuomo’s top assistants learning. “If Stephanie Benton or Melissa [DeRosa] heard that, I was going to lose my job. Since I knew that I certainly was going to be the one to go.” Bennett discusses in the report how she went to great lengths to smooth things over with DeRosa and Benton, sending them an e-mail enhancing them, which was something she did “out of desperation to ‘make it look like whatever was totally great.'” All of this supports current reporting on the administration’s hazardous office environment: “Many people I talked to about their relationships with the guv have memories of being chewed out, threatened, or insulted by senior female associates, especially Melissa DeRosa,” New York City publication’s Rebecca Traister reported in March.
The powerful females who work for Cuomo have actually long deflected any criticism of their actions by decrying such criticism as misogynistic. “Have not you heard? Ladies aren’t allowed to be mad or battle– being tough and direct makes you a ‘bitch,'” DeRosa tweeted last month In his reaction to the report, Cuomo himself made the exact same case: “A number of problems target female managers, which smacks to me of a double requirement. A strong male manager is respected and rewarded. A strong female supervisor is mocked and stereotyped. It is a double standard. It is sexist. And it should be challenged.” Lis Smith, a political expert, likewise recently defended DeRosa by claiming that she dealt with a double requirement. It’s frequently touted by the guv and his allies that DeRosa is on the chair of the New york city State Council on Women and is the very first woman in history to function as secretary to the guv, as if one can not abuse power while also inhabiting an effective position. (” I’m very happy with the truth that I have more females in senior positions than any governor prior to me,” Cuomo stated during his Tuesday resignation press conference, true up until the end. “The lack of variety on the state cops detail was an ongoing disappointment for me.”)
These deflections aren’t just public-facing; they’re also utilized in daily ways behind the scenes. When press reporters from the Albany Times Union asked the executive office about how Cuomo got a young female state cannon fodder whom he harassed reassigned to his protective detail, despite the fact that she didn’t meet the previous requirements— 3 years on duty– for the position, DeRosa accused them of sexism for even going down this line of inquiry. “You guys are attempting to minimize her hiring to being about appearances. That’s what men do,” DeRosa said.
The harassment in Albany went unchecked for so long in part due to the fact that these methods frequently work. During the pandemic, DeRosa had actually been the subject of multiple glowing reviews in women’s magazines– Harper’s Market included her in a summer season roundup of “voices of hope,” and a profile in Elle on DeRosa’s function in the administration’s coronavirus reaction checked out: “You can thank her for getting aid to those who require it most.” (Later on, it was reported that DeRosa helped the administration cover up the degree of Covid deaths in nursing homes.)
None of this was brand-new. In October 2017, just a couple of weeks after The New York City Times and The New Yorker released their examinations detailing years of sexual coercion and violence at the hands of Harvey Weinstein, DeRosa was invited to provide the keynote speech at a Females in Media conference hosted by Berkeley College. Assessing the Weinstein news, DeRosa spoke personally– she recounted the sexism she had faced in her career, and how misogyny “isn’t something women read or discuss in the abstract.” She continued: “We live it, and we know it when it happens, and all too often we don’t state anything.”
DeRosa went on to highlight that she herself was fortunate to work in an administration that “so highly values its female employees,” and listed policies that the guv had actually dealt with to protect women’s rights in health care and on college campuses. The ramification was that there was a difference in between the conditions of DeRosa’s work environment– where she was an effective official, proof itself of how much the administration valued females– and the rest of the state, where Cuomo’s workplace had to work to “further advance equality.”
Now the veil is, in some ways, being lifted, and not just with Cuomo’s resignation; on Monday, Kaplan, the lawyer who was involved in the Cuomo administration’s effort to reject Boylan, resigned from Time’s Up after a group of previous staffers and clients released an open letter stating that the organization was “stopping working all survivors” and had “lost its method.” The discovery reinforced as soon as again the superficiality of the feminism behind high-profile efforts to fight harassment. “Time’s Up has actually prioritized its distance to power over objective,” the letter reads. However in the very same way that getting rid of harassers from office is only just a start, last-minute resignations from females like Kaplan and DeRosa are far from adequate. And in the exact same way that it was not a surprise that the Cuomo administration’s bullying, power-playing, and backdoor design of politics produced a hazardous workplace environment, the type of oppositional “feminism” wielded by women like DeRosa and other leading Cuomo assistants has always been transactional and self-serving.
This pattern has actually been a long-held tension in feminism. From the wars around Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In to the pushback around commemorating powerful ladies like Hillary Clinton for shattering glass ceilings while being an enforcer of the structural inequities that keep countless ladies locked into systems of poverty and violence, the concern as to what feminism needs and whom it is for continues to be the main one. The fallout around Cuomo’s resignation and the question of where to go next will revolve around comparable battles over what a just future will really indicate.
The effective females who surrounded Cuomo up until the end worked as gatekeepers who maintained institutions of violence and retaliation. Now we require to promote the kinds of structural and labor-oriented reforms that will remove the gates and produce real responsibility. As Melissa Gira Grant wrote in March, when the unwanted sexual advances claims versus the guv initially broke: “To the extent that individuals conceptualize unwanted sexual advances as existing on a continuum of gender-based violence, it tends to cloud over the truth that it likewise exists on a continuum of labor abuses.” However we also need to stop being impressed over and over again by the fancy concept of women in high places as any response to the problems at hand– something that is already beginning as Cuomo’s replacement, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, is now being touted as the “ first female guv” in the state’s history. We should not content ourselves with such easy stories about change.
As DeRosa herself stated in her 2017 keynote speech: “I’m uncertain which I discover more offending– the truth that this sort of behavior has actually been permitted to continue to go on as long as it has, or the idea that everyone is acting as if they are just now finding out about it.”