Nevo: #MeToo means him, too

Lily Nevo, Columnist

Nearly one year after liberals gushed over Gov. Andrew Cuomo as the anti-Trump pandemic hero, he is the latest in a series of “nice guys” who women can no longer trust. Five women have come forward with accusations of sexual harassment against Cuomo. The allegations range from innapropriate conversations about a former aide’s sex life to unwanted touching and kissing.

So far, few Democrats have fervently condemned Cuomo’s behavior. One of them — New York Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the top Democratic leader in the New York State Senate— called for Cuomo’s resignation. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that the allegations were “extremely serious and painful to read,” and White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that the President “certainly would support any outside investigation,” though Biden has not yet pushed for Cuomo’s resignation.

Ironically, on Tuesday, as Biden avoids holding Cuomo accountable, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was reintroduced to the House after it expired in 2018. VAWA, sponsored by Biden in 1994, was a landmark bill for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. On the campaign trail, Biden frequently touted VAWA to distance himself from accusations of sexual assault by his former Senate aide Tara Reade. In other words, if Biden previously supported sexual assault survivors, then there is no way he could possibly perpetrate it himself.

This is where Democrats frequently fail survivors: they view sexual misconduct as a problem of character and not as a problem of power. They assume that if a man uses his power to advocate for gender equity then his power cannot be used to harm.

But perpetrators are not just creepy strangers or criminals. They are friends, partners and family members; they can be anyone. Over half of rape victims report their assailant being an intimate partner. This type of assault, also known as date rape, is particularly damaging because of the previously established trust between the victim and the perpetrator. As Democrats remain reluctant in vocally condemming predatory behavior of their own, they are dismissing the 50 percent of rape victims who were violated by someone they admired and who understand that character has nothing to do with someone’s ability to abuse.

In a show of good character, I suppose, Cuomo said, “I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable. It was unintentional and I truly and deeply apologize for it.” While an apology is necessary, it does not negate the fact that Cuomo maintains power and exerts control over the careers of his female aides. So long as this power dynamic exists, there is no reason why everything he is accused of could not happen again.

Yet, in politics, power is currency and surrendering it is bankruptcy. So long as Republicans continue to prioritize political expediency over all else, Democrats are doomed on the high road. While Republicans do not pretend to care about civil rights, Democrats do, and by virtue of being a political party — a group of people in power — they will never be exempt from sexual misconduct allegations. Existence as a political party and a champion of women’s rights, though extremely well intentioned, is bound to be hindered by hypocrisy. That is not to say that Democrats should abandon their platform on women’s issues, but rather that they must work extra hard to ensure that their leaders uphold the values they purport to hold.

If Democrats want to move forward with their feminist platform and rally behind #MeToo, we must acknowledge that it also means him, too. In other words, we do not get to harness the strength of “believe all women” to rally against ideological opponents if we are not ready to believe the inevitable accusations against our own.

Lily Nevo is a Weinberg Freshman. She can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.