Recent headlines about New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s fall from grace may have shocked some people, but Tanya Selvaratnam wasn’t surprised to see another so-called good guy bite the dust.
In a world filled with a seemingly endless supply of bad guys, we’ve become starved for good guys.
In her book “Assume Nothing: A Story of Intimate Violence,” published in February, the writer and producer recalls the chilling details of her physical, verbal and sexual abuse at the hands of a different public figure, former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Notably, the allegations against Cuomo are of a different nature than those levied against Schneiderman. Still, hailed and depicted as an actual superhero in the media and by highly influential political figures like Hillary Clinton, Schneiderman, much like Cuomo, indulged in the male savior fantasy attributed to him by the left.
But as he enjoyed the adulation of the press lauding him as the only hope to lock up abusers like former President Donald Trump and Harvey Weinstein by day, Schneiderman was assaulting, choking, spitting on and calling Selvaratnam his “brown slave” by night.
Thanks to the bravery of Selvaratnam and his other accusers, Schneiderman was forced to step down. He therefore won’t be the one leading the investigation on Cuomo regarding allegations of sexual harassment. (Cuomo has denied allegations of inappropriate touching, but has apologized if he made any women feel uncomfortable.)
In an interview, Selvaratnam told me, “We have to chip away at the cults of personality that form around powerful supposedly progressive men who commit insidious harm in private — when they think no one is looking and that no one will tell on them."
Many may have buyer's remorse for all those "Cuomosexual" pillows.
Now, a mere few months after women and men alike proudly came out as “Cuomosexuals,” celebrating Cuomo’s seemingly irreproachable style of leadership during one of the worst periods in recent American history, many may have buyer's remorse for all those "Cuomosexual" pillows.
As a seventh woman came forward with serious and credible accusations of sexual harassment or inappropriate touching, it's been hard to believe so much public adulation was reserved for a man who could have done so much harm in private. There’s no term for the special sting of discovering that the man who convinced you he could assure your safety turns out to be dangerous himself.
But there is a simple explanation for our naiveté. In a world filled with a seemingly endless supply of bad guys, we’ve become starved for good guys. After four consecutive years of a cartoonish representation of the worst definition of masculinity courtesy of the 45th president, any elected official who wasn’t bribing mistresses and misspelling his own wife’s name felt like a pretty decent guy.
It feels important to emphasize the extent to which Trump helped fuel the overfetishization of Cuomo. But, as MSNBC’s Hayes Brown has detailed, there’s actually an uncanny level of parallel between the two men. What it comes down to is that what overt male abusers like Trump did in public, covert abusers like Cuomo were conniving enough to do in private.
The deliberate deceit is what makes the “good guy” so dangerous. He convinces women they deserve better only to treat them with the same degrading behavior, adding a bonus layer of gaslighting by purporting to be committed to their liberation.
Cuomo is the con artist of feminist activism.
While former Attorney General Bill Barr defended Trump against rape allegations, Cuomo’s longtime adviser Larry Schwartz has been gauging "loyalty" (one of Trump’s favorite words) with local Democrats, prompting one Democratic official to file an ethics complaint about it.
Trump reportedly sexually harassed women in plain sight when he referred to his campaign manager as “baby” and when he came onto a female reporter while in the Oval Office. Cuomo is accused of similar treatment of his female employees; the only difference is that he waited for everyone to leave the room and for the cameras to be off.
While Trump infamously bragged about the size of his hands on the debate stage, Cuomo allegedly did it in private. According to Charlotte Bennett, one of Cuomo’s accusers, who produced 120 pages of contemporaneous records, the governor had a “preoccupation with his hand size and what the large size of his hands indicated.”
She also recalled him pressing her on whether she would consider sleeping with an older man. “I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared,” the 25-year-old former aide told the New York Times.
One way Cuomo differs from Trump is that he didn’t just tacitly enjoy being glamorized as a feminist hero; he actively crafted a pro-woman persona to protect himself and get impunity. It helped him construct an impenetrable male progressive shield and earned him magnanimous endorsements, hefty donations and unbounded electoral power.
He self-appointed himself as a feminist and even founded a bogus Women’s Equality Party to effectively endorse himself and beat his female challenger at the time. His scam worked. Organizations that champion women's rights like Planned Parenthood backed him, even endorsing him over his female rival in the gubernatorial race, Cynthia Nixon. Cuomo is the con artist of feminist activism. He personally profited off feminism for political gain, in an effort to accumulate power and control over unsuspecting women.
The deliberate deceit is what makes the “good guy” so dangerous.
Selvaratnam’s own abuse at the hands of a venerated male progressive gave her firsthand knowledge of the urgency to do away with the pedestals we all willingly place at the feet of undeserving men.
She emphasized to me that we must "subvert the myth of indispensability — that if we take out a public-facing ‘good guy’ but private-facing ‘bad guy,’ he might be replaced by a guy who doesn’t represent our values," she said.
“There is always someone better to take the bifurcated guy’s place,” Selvaratnam said. “It happened when Eric Schneiderman resigned. He was replaced by Letitia James. Thank goodness she’s overseeing the Cuomo investigation and not Eric.”
The idea of one abuser investigating another abuser is indeed quite the harrowing visual.
She added, “We also have to call out the enablers, including what I refer to as ‘female patriarchs,’ who are a key part of the ecosystem that perpetuates the cognitive dissonance.”
People of all genders need to realize that in our hopeless attempt to separate the good guys from the bad guys, we create a binary that incentivizes a kind of phony male feminism packed with empty calories and deceptive virtue signaling. And that all of this puts women at risk. Instead of rewarding men desperate to prove they’re good, perhaps we should ask why they’re so desperate to convince us in the first place.
If you or someone you know is facing domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence hotline at (800) 799-SAFE (7233) for help, or go to www.thehotline.org for more. Individual states often have their domestic violence hotlines as well.