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Not so fast on Cuomo accusations

I’m sorry, I’m not buying it. I’ve read a few of the articles, seen Facebook posts. It’s not just politics. This is also about every man and their sometimes awkward, shy, misguided or even cringey attempts at gauging a woman’s interest. A touch on the arm, the back, a kiss walked away from. Is this the death of awkward flirting? Will men feel the need to always be guarded around women?

Where is Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s support? Crickets, from Democrats. Few men are brave enough to speak up. They fear being labeled misogynistic, part of the problem, good ol’ boys. Speaking up to support Cuomo would be political suicide for a man. When did it become guilty until proven innocent? No groping or grabbing has been alleged. Do the governor’s words and actions rise to the level of sexual harassment? I’m not so sure. If men can’t speak up over this, who will speak for them?

Why the two- or three-year wait for these women to come forward? Why now? Lindsey Boylan is running for a political position. Is this a publicity ploy? Sure, Elise Stefanik has been expressing other dissatisfactions with the governor, but she may be positioning for a gubernatorial run. If I made comments about male politicians muckraking to position themselves in better political light, no one would bat an eye at my opinion or assessment. Is this about gender, or about using any means possible to further political ambition? There were reasons Boylan separated employment from the governor’s office when she did. Among them, complaints by three employees against her for treating them like children, bullying them. Also there was some question of Boylan’s letting travel expenses pile up. I do not like being in the position of not supporting women, but things don’t all jibe here.

Cuomo, like him or not, has been elected governor by the people of New York THREE times. He was lauded by many–not just New Yorkers — for his clear communication during the dire early part of the pandemic. Did Boylan ever communicate clearly and directly to the governor, at any time since the alleged incidents, that his comments were viewed as advances and weren’t welcome? This is the 2020s.

At my first job with a large company, in the late 1990s, we had harassment training for new hires. It was a brief and effective policy. If an employee felt uncomfortable, targeted or harassed in any way, the FIRST thing they were required to do was to let their co-worker know that the interaction was not wanted or appreciated. If the co-worker continued the behavior after being told it was unacceptable, THEN the employee could document and take it to a supervisor or Human Resources. Allegations were taken seriously and could incur job action, but HR’s first question would always be, ‘Did you tell the person you found their comment or action unacceptable?’ Because if you didn’t, how was the person expected to know? The men in my class were not happy. “What?! You mean SHE gets to decide what is and isn’t harassment? How is that right?!” As the only woman, they all turned to me. I said, “This is perfect! You have an out. People are empowered by company policy to speak up. It’s expected. If you continue, then it’s on you.” When put that way, all agreed, “That works.” I was 33.

Boylan was 33, and she “had no words.” Until now. I completely understand. Some women don’t have a voice and cannot speak up, for many reasons. Now she’s running for office and has a voice. Do these allegations empower, and help her chances of winning, or hurt them? I don’t know. I do know that there’s a chance that Cuomo, like many men, may not be smooth, or a player. Some people are just socially awkward. Good flirting is an art; not everyone is an artist. In the words of Steve Martin, “Some people have a way with words, and others … uh … not have way.” I’m not condoning harassment, but I am waiting for the results of investigation before I judge.

Melinda Walton lives in Saranac Lake.

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