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  • Reverend James Squire

Perspectives on Accusations Against Governor Cuomo

There is something about the accusations regarding Governor Cuomo that has not happened. There have been a growing group of women who have accused him of sexual harassment, but I have not seen or heard anyone who has said to him, “What are you doing? Stop! There is a concern among some that there may be a rush to judgement which is their perception of what occurred with Senator Franken. Hindsight can offer twenty/twenty vision. There are people that feel Franken’s removal from Congress was a cautionary tale for other male politicians.

The voters of the state of New York are split 50/50 over their support of the Governor. He continues to claim that he wants the process of the investigation to move forward and then he will accept the outcome. He is known to be a tough politician who has made many enemies along the way given his bullying style of dealing with people who disagree with him. He was also the poster boy for how to govern during the Pandemic although his nursing home numbers which were lower than they should have been may shed a new light on whether he really was the model for leadership in times of great struggle.

People have joined the cry to have him removed. Others are saying that “nothing was done about Trump’s indiscretions.” They are referring to the Democrats as “too self -righteous”.

I have questions and an observation. Why wasn’t he confronted along the way which would have been a more empowering response for women. Yes, I know that he is a bully and has enacted revenge on others. But as most sexual harassment statements state, a first step is to confront the person or take someone with you for support to do that. Second, why hasn’t anyone asked the Governor what he thinks constitutes sexual harassment? He is not stupid. Cuomo’s refrain has been that “he never touched anyone in anyway or been inappropriate.” If that is the case, how does he define sexual harassment?

People have forgotten about a very powerful group with which I have had many conversations about sexual harassment that are just as powerful as the “me too” movement. That group is the mothers of boys. When they look at what is happening regarding the Governor, they don’t see him, they see one of their sons who they want to protect from similar accusations.

People have forgotten about how emotional this issue is for mothers of sons as seen in a letter that was sent to the Notre Dame Newspaper (March 29, 2019) after Maryann White attended a Mass at Notre Dame. A group of young women all clad in tight, clingy Spandex and short tops, were sitting directly in front of her and her family. “I thought of all the other men around and behind us who couldn’t help but see their behinds,” the self-described Catholic mother of sons wrote.

What happened next is a microcosm of what may be happening across our nation as people read about the harassment allegations against Governor Cuomo.

She begged female students to “think of the mothers of sons the next time you go shopping and consider choosing jeans instead.” No one should fail to see what response was coming. 1000 students indicated that they planned on showing up to class in their leggings following the publication of her letter. It gets better as Mrs. White went on to say, “We don’t go naked because we respect the other people who must see us. I’m fretting both because of unsavory guys who are looking at you creepily and nice guys (her sons) who are doing everything to avoid looking at you.”

The students’ response was just as strong and indicated that Mrs. White’s letter perpetuated a narrative central to “rape culture”. Other strong responses indicated that the leggings are “comfortable” and others challenged Mrs. White to know if her sons went shirtless at all because chests and abs are something that women found attractive.

Let’s not miss the larger lesson. Black parents send their sons out into the world after “the conversation”. So do parents of daughters have “the conversation” with them as well about challenges they may face, and so do parents of boys. All have strong feelings about the precarious world their children are entering where one misstep can lead to terrible consequences. Remember that these people are watching how Cuomo is treated and the plight of the women.

I have already raised the questions that relate to Governor Cuomo. Here is an exercise that students in my Ethics class found meaningful and helpful. Put yourself in the shoes of a parent of black sons. Put yourself in the shoes of parents of daughters as well as the parents of boys. Put yourself in the shoes of parents who have both girl and boy children.

As you are hearing about all the information about Governor Cuomo, how would you react if you were in one of these four groups? How does It change or confirm your perspective? What would that hypothetical letter that you wrote to the Notre Dame Newspaper look like? What would it say?

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