Like every woman in the United States at this moment — this month, this year — I’m exhausted. And it's not just that I've been worn down by the demands of life during the pandemic, in which women have been forced to balance multiple stress- and anxiety-inducing roles, including but not limited to public safety enforcer, social distancer-in-chief, ever-productive worker drone, remote learning supervisor, primary child care provider, home office-and-remote-school space designer, vaccine procurer and head chef. Meanwhile, even amidst the lockdown juggle, I’m also emotionally run ragged by the continuing parade of men who are revealed to be sexual harassers, predators, handsy dudes and lechers — plenty of whom are in the public eye.
In other words, I’m suffering creep fatigue.
And, though the stories over the last few months about Shia LaBeouf and Woody Allen and Burger Records and Chris D'Elia and Reps. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C., and Ronny Jackson, R-Texas, have certainly contributed, the last straw, for me, was New York's Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Less than a year ago, Cuomo was lauded as an early Covid-19 crisis hero, having grabbed the reins while then-President Donald Trump faltered. He was elevated as a national leader, media darling and crush object.
Cuomo is saying he will not resign in response to the list of allegations against him and calls for him to do so. Such resistance, grounded in denial, is typical.
Cuomo is now under fire as multiple accusers have come forward with reports that he sexually harassed them (all of which he has denied, though he apologized for making "people feel uncomfortable"). As of Sunday, four former Cuomo aides, dating from his years in the Clinton administration to his time in the Executive Mansion in Albany, have accused him of inappropriate acts, and another woman said he attempted to extract a kiss from her upon meeting her at a 2019 wedding. (Have you seen that photo?)
Democratic dreamboat? That ship has sailed. New York Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Democrat, has called on Cuomo to resign, a sentiment that her Democratic colleague from Manhattan, state Sen. Liz Krueger, echoed and which New York Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie referenced when he called into question the governor's ability to continue in his role.
I’m glad these politicians have begun pressuring Cuomo. I’m glad they have energy where I — for now — really don’t, even though he's my governor, too.
At the beginning of the #MeToo Movement, I had ample fight in me to push for meaningful change — all day, every day. Now I’m tapped out. I want to keep protesting against sexual harassment and the more egregious victimization of women in our society, especially at the hands of powerful men like Cuomo. But I am so tired.
It's not like Cuomo stopped during the #MeToo movement, listened to what women were saying about their lives and changed his approach to what his defenders call “flirting."
I’m tired of the never-ending revelations of supposedly good guys who are supposedly on our side actually being sleazebags. I’m tired of women who come forward constantly being derided and their stories being discounted, if they’re even allowed a platform at all. I’m tired of men skirting repercussions for their actions, even if dozens of women come forward and the evidence backs them up.
I know this is creep fatigue. I've experienced it before, because I've experienced creeps before. And I know, like before, that I’ll rally once again, possibly as soon as I wake up tomorrow. But for now? I’m beat.
Women can deal with creep fatigue any number of ways. We can avoid the news. We can systematically weed the creeps out of our personal lives when their creepiness becomes apparent, and offer solace and support to women who have been sexually harassed and violated. We can educate our daughters, our female and femme relatives, and our younger friends about how to keep their radars attuned and their boundaries firm, as well as underscore their right to insist on accountability from men who harass, demean and harm women.
We can teach our boys to respect girls, femmes, women and our boundaries, we can educate our male loved ones when they do something that is a little (or a lot) wrong, and we can boycott art, media, business run by men and politicians who engage in egregious behavior toward women (or try, at least).
We can and must do all of this — continuously. This work is clearly still necessary. This work is also unrelenting, infuriating, often discouraging and, again, exhausting.
What’s most exhausting about this for me is that, even with ample pushback to these behaviors and demands for accountability, too many men and our culture at large are so slow to change. Plus, the women who speak up are met with denial and indignation, time and time again. For instance, it's not like Cuomo stopped during the #MeToo movement, listened to what women were saying about their lives and changed his approach to what his defenders call “flirting": two of the five present allegations date to 2019 and 2020.
Currently, Cuomo is saying he will not resign in response to the list of allegations against him and calls for him to do so. Such resistance, grounded in denial, is typical.
If you are honestly looking for advice in navigating this not-really-new frontier of relating to women, keep your hands to yourself and treat us like people instead of projections of your desire
The touchy-feely-nosy maneuvers like those cited in allegations against Cuomo have a kind of built-in plausible deniability. He apparently used no brute physical force, sent no unsolicited X-rated photos or phone messages or pervy texts, and his come-ons pushed the lines of the employer-employee relationship but weren't egregiously crude. You might argue such behavior is a gray area, landing Cuomo somewhere closer to oaf than offender. That is, you might argue that if you discount the experience of women, which we often do.
These tactics — touching, the “I’m just curious” comments and questions — make women uncomfortable, but when recounted later, such discomfort can and is often met with incredulity by those who insist on playing dumb about what constitutes appropriate behavior. What, we’re not allowed to ask someone about her personal life? What’s next? I can’t tell a co-worker she’s wearing a pretty dress? I didn’t mean any harm, I just love women. How is what I did wrong?
Often, men who answer tough questions about their dubious moves with more questions do so as a tactic of obfuscation. They don’t really seek to be educated; they want to muddy the water, so their alleged intentions assume primacy over the way in which their behavior is received. Oh, was that inappropriate? I meant it as a compliment! They don’t want a corrective. They want to be let off the hook.
Still, I suppose I can offer this one last time: If you are honestly looking for advice in navigating this not-really-new frontier of relating to women, keep your hands to yourself and treat us like people instead of projections of your desire, for starters.
Knowing such counsel is likely to be dismissed, though, makes me tired anew. There is surely another allegation, and another creep, to come along.