The news this week about extensive and repeated sexual improprieties on the part of New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo is yet another sad chapter in the annals of men of influence who wield their power in wholly unacceptable ways, attacking women (often on their own teams!) and perpetuating a stereotype that should have been discredited decades ago. History be damned! As the report of New York’s Attorney General makes clear, almost dozen women have come forward with strikingly similar stories about the Governor’s wandering hands and thoughtless lips. As a man, I am embarrassed and sickened by this continued behavior, and ashamed of those who share my gender.
Many years ago, I recall challenging society’s conception of “maleness” while working at Willowbrook Ministries, an innovative interfaith storefront in Wayne, New Jersey. We used the Unitarian Universalists’ Our Whole Lives sexuality education curriculum to confront gender-based stereotypes, including the “predatory male.” I was hopeful then that this idea of what it meant to be a real man was a thing of the past and that no one—let alone the Governor of one of our largest, most progressive states—found this model of masculinity to be constructive. Yet, here we are. Even in the post-#MeToo moment, how long are women to endure such dehumanizing behavior? I mean, really.
Some years later, I shot a video at (HBCU) Lemoyne-Owen College that featured a program called “Real Men Don’t Make Babies.” The name of the program said it bluntly to the young African-American students in the school who participated: the true meaning of manhood—whatever your ethnicity—does not include casual disregard for a woman’s body. And yet, here we are.
Years passed again and a major party’s candidate for President was exposed on a vulgar Access Hollywood tape to be utterly dismissive of women and entitled to exploit their bodies for superficial pleasure. And, we thought. “This is it. No one could ever be elected President after this.” And yet, here we are.
And last spring, at the height of the pandemic in the Northeast, I—along with countless others—was riveted by Andrew Cuomo’s daily news conferences as he outlined the “truth” about the pandemic, in juxtaposition to the lies from the White House. And I lamented, “If only he could be our leader.” But then we learned how New York virus deaths in nursing homes were underreported and behind the scenes there was a toxic workplace that protected the Governor while allowing victims of his lustful disregard for women drown in a toxic swill of male privilege and elaborate cover-ups. Yes, here we are.
So many other public figures have fallen on their libidinal swords and misled their constituencies. As the sordid details of their actions become known, their behavior is increasingly revealed as repugnant and their pathetic efforts to make excuses for their actions are found to be ever more baseless and squalid, causing us to cry out in the words of the Psalmist, “How long, O Lord. How long?” But alas, here we are.