Once again, I find myself writing about a man in power getting caught abusing women. It turns my stomach. The ink is barely dry on my blogpost about Bill Cosby. This time it’s Andrew Cuomo, the governor of my state, New York.
The title for this blogpost came from a comment made by news anchor, Nicolle Wallace as she was hosting a discussion of men behaving badly. The history of holding powerful men to account is a slim one at best. When I think about the Bill Cosby case, I realize that the laws are working as they were designed to – to protect men. We still have an ex-President who hasn’t been called to account for anything. We have two Supreme Court justices who are credibly accused of abuse. And they have achieved the pinnacles of power, for life. There are just too many instances of abusers rising to power for it be accidental.
And if by some happenstance, a powerful man is called to account, the work and the time involved are staggering. As I write this, New Yorkers are discussing how to remove Andrew Cuomo from the governorship. Whether he is impeached or resigns, that is just baseline accountability. There is also talk about criminal prosecution. Go Letitia James (the NY Attorney General)! Still, I will believe that when I see it. Cuomo has been our governor for over 10 years. Those of us living in New York, have long been aware that Cuomo isn’t just a bully but a long-time abuser. But then so were Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein. In fact, their crimes went on so long that statues of limitations ran out in many cases.
I remember when I first read the groundbreaking book Against Our Will by Susan Brownmiller published in 1975. It came out right around the time I was raped so it felt (and still feels) very personal. Her first chapter is titled “In the Beginning Was the Law.” She traces the history of how women’s bodies have been treated from a legal POV. Mostly she recounts how a crime against a woman’s body was mostly treated as “a crime against a male estate.” That is because women were seen as property, their value being in their purity. When a woman’s virginity was “stolen,” men were considered the injured parties. In fact, kidnapping and forcible rapes were once a perfectly acceptable way for a man to obtain a bride, even the preferred way. Brownmiller tells us that this went on as late as the 15th century in England. Although it feels like a long time ago where women were legally seen as chattel, the attitude that created that system is alive and stronger than we’d like to believe.
Then there is the issue of virtue which is still a thorny issue in the legal system. Even to the Bible, the woman is at fault in any sexual intercourse:
And whosoever lieth carnally with a woman, that is a bondmaid, betrothed to an husband, and not at all redeemed, nor freedom given her; she shall be scourged;
they shall not be put to death, because she was not free.
I am sure the Leviticus law was seen as merciful in that it only prescribed scourging, not death for a woman even though she had no personal agency of her own.
As Brownmiller traces the history, she goes onto describe in sweeping fashion how the law has changed through time and has grown in fits and starts in relation to women’s issues in general and rape in particular. Clearly that business is unfinished. Even to this day, the law still looks at the “virtue” of a woman in deciding the merits of any abuse or case of rape. All is fair game from the clothes she was wearing to her sexual history.
And in that vein, Cuomo is a master of manipulation and gaslighting. He has a whole community of enablers protecting him and discrediting the women in an effort to damage their reputations and take away their voices. That is a time-honored way of slithering out of abuse allegations. And why? Because it has worked. Cuomo feels entirely entitled to bully and grope because that is the tradition that men have inherited from biblical times forward. And women . . . well women are seen as too sensitive, too incapable of understanding, too fragile. Aren’t those old lines too worn to be believed?
Alexis Grenell wrote in The Nation, that former assistant Charlotte Bennett was not only intimidated and threatened but that Cuomo “weaponized her status as a rape survivor” by “implying that her trauma” made her incapable of accessing a situation.
Let that sink in: He weaponized her status as a rape survivor.
It’s even hard to write that sentence.
I think what I find is most disturbing from a larger societal standpoint is our culture’s willingness to overlook “women’s issues” as minor or an impediment to what people really want. Gina Bellafante in the NY Times notes that the warning signs about Cuomo were all there but “the impression of competence was intoxicating enough to leave supporters overlooking a lot.” He was re-elected twice and going for another term where he was the hand’s down favorite to win. And then there’s our former president who was elected after being caught on tape discussing in the starkest terms how he was an abuser of women. And they both have designs on running again.
And as shown again and again, once abuse begins, the abuser doesn’t stop with women. It’s all part of a pattern of how we treat people, any people
I will wait patiently (or more likely not so patiently) to see if powerful men who are abusers finally have to answer for their crimes in a meaningful way. Only then can we know that deep, abiding change is truly happening.
Janet Maika’i Rudolph. “IT’S ALL ABOUT THE QUEST.” I have walked the spirit path for over 25 years traveling to sacred sites around the world including Israel to do an Ulpan (Hebrew language studies while working on a Kibbutz), Eleusis and Delphi in Greece, Avebury and Glastonbury in England, Brodgar in Scotland, Machu Picchu in Peru, Teotihuacan in Mexico, and Giza in Egypt. Within these travels, I have participated in numerous shamanic rites and rituals, attended a mystery school based on the ancient Greek model, and studied with shamans around the world. I am twice initiated. The first as a shaman practitioner of a pathway known as Divine Humanity. The second ordination in 2016 was as an Alaka’i (a Hawaiian spiritual guide with Aloha International). I have written three books: When Moses Was a Shaman, When Eve Was a Goddess, (now available in Spanish, Cuando Eva era una Diosa), and One Gods. In Ardor and Adventure, Janet.now available in Spanish. Cuando Eva era una Diosa