When Andrew Cuomo announced his resignation as governor of New York, some started hailing the forthcoming ascension of Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul as another glass ceiling broken for women. But let me be perfectly clear: this isn’t a victory for women. It is questionably justice for women. A man who sexually harassed women and created a toxic workplace is being held to a (small) measure of accountability. Though I don’t know if the New York State Legislature will choose to pursue impeachment (thereby preventing him from running again), Cuomo’s resignation allows him to sidestep at least some responsibility and punishment. Though it may be the “right” thing to do in these circumstances, the better thing would have been for him to not have harassed and threatened women in the first place.
The 5 month long investigation into Cuomo’s conduct by New York Attorney General Letitia James sealed Cuomo’s fate. A man hailed by many–including me–for his decisive handling of the pandemic, was brought low by a former ally and her investigations. In January, Letitia James’s office revealed that nursing home Covid19 deaths had been severely undercounted. The 168 page report into the sexual harassment charges was the last straw for most Cuomo allies.
While I’m glad that New York’s new leader seems to be well-respected by her colleagues, hard working, and–a low bar–unlikely to harass people, I’m sad that women in high levels of power (government or corporate) are still perceived as “breaking the glass ceiling.” Though Kathy Hochul was elected to the role of Lt. Governor, she was not elected to the highest position in the state. She ascends to that role because a sleazy man did hurtful things. None of this takes away from her ability to successfully perform the duties of Governor. Just as we elect a President and Vice President on the same ticket, New York elects a Governor and Lt. Governor, and for the same reasons–so that if something happens to the top of the ticket, the bottom can take over. But it does put an asterisk next to her title: the first female governor of New York. Hopefully she will be elected in her own right next year. In the meantime, we can celebrate that two women, one of color, are working to undo the harm done by a white man. That’s something we can celebrate.
Girl Museum Inc.