Letter 2 America for March 22, 2021

| No Comments | No TrackBacks
Dear America,

I have always felt that movements like "Black Lives Matter" and "#Me Too" were worthy of supporting by all of us because it is a given that some of the socially or physically strong and powerful victimize those of us who are possessed of less social or physical power and strength.  A movement that seeks to address the effects of this power disparity serves all of us, even those who are not in the specific group served by the movement.  I used to tell my children when they raised issues that reflected this phenomenon that the problem isn't politics or society.  It is that as a species, we are not sufficiently evolved to understand and eschew these injustices, and that hasn't changed in my mind, nor, I believe, has it changed in fact either.  The problem is ubiquitous.  But that there are so many on the disadvantageous side of this power imbalance doesn't mean that there can be no abuse of the momentum that develops in service of rectifying the injustice of it all.  

Take for example the first column on the left side of the New York Times front page this Saturday.  It is about something that we have all heard about: the purported sexual misconduct of New York governor Andrew Cuomo, and it goes like this:

"He called her and her co-worker 'mingle mamas.'  He inquired about her lack of a wedding ring, she said, and the status of her divorce.  She recalled him telling her she was beautiful--in Italian--and, as she sat alone with him in his office awaiting dictation, he gazed down her shirt and commented on a necklace hanging there."

Set aside the questions of fact that this account of an event precipitates: assuming that there was a desk between them, how could Cuomo have seen down her shirt without standing up and craning his neck; as it turns out, her interpretation of Cuomo's remark about her beauty is a function of her asking her parents, whom she claims to be sufficiently fluent in Italian to know, what Cuomo's comment meant, which makes her account impermissible hearsay, and so on.  Just consider her account of the interaction between these two unattached people in its entirety.  She accuses Cuomo of looking at her as if she were attractive to him (I assume she is in some objective sense) and inquiring as to her marital status and, by her implicit interpretation, that he was interested in her romantically.  It is true that there is a power disparity between the two people, all of it reposing in Cuomo.  Also assume that she did not express reciprocal interest, and that there were no consequences of her demurring.  I'm tempted to be flippant at this point, but I'll try to remain temperate and simply ask this rhetorical question: if this conduct by Cuomo is sexual harassment, who among us men seeking the company of a woman has never harassed a woman sexually?  And to put it into a slightly different perspective, when I was young I had an older, more powerful woman pat me on the ass at a co-ed softball game.  I don't think I was harassed on that occasion.

The rest of the article provides other details of this encounter and of other encounters between Cuomo and a friend of the woman whose complaint I just reiterated, as well as accounts of some other complaints about Cuomo, and at least one of them was not just significant, but serious.  He has apparently been accused by one woman of actually putting his hands on her intimately, and he is accused as well of kissing some women without invitation to do so, and those events might be significant, albeit perhaps with regard to the kissing no more than a function of questionable judgment as to how men should interact with women in general.  During the sixties, everyone hugged everyone else, and some of us flower-children ( not me, by the way) never stopped.  But if every flirtation...every overture from a man to a woman is forbidden, our species is just that much more susceptible to extinction.

Don't get me wrong.  If the woman in The Times told Cuomo that his attention was unwelcome and he persisted, even what I construe as a colorably benign fashion, that is a problem.  Also, before any of us touch any of the others of us, we should have a clear invitation to do so.  But if flirtation, even inept and presumptuous flirtation becomes grounds for ruining someone's life, more of us are in trouble than just governors and Supreme Court justices.

Your friend,


No TrackBacks

TrackBack URL: http://letters2america.com/cgi-sys/cgiwrap/attymwol/managed-mt/mt-tb.cgi/910

Leave a comment


Monthly Archives


Powered by Movable Type 4.38

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Michael Wolf published on March 22, 2021 5:22 PM.

Letter 2 America for March 16, 2021 was the previous entry in this blog.

Letter 2 America for April 5, 2021 is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Political Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory