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Today Cuomo, Tomorrow The World: Why Men Should Fear Women In Today's Society

Photo: David McGlynn / Shutterstock
Today Cuomo, Tomorrow the World: Why Men Should Fear Women in Today's Society

One of the first things that comes up in people's minds whenever a famous man in power has been confronted by a disgruntled woman who claims she's been sexually harassed by him and wants to take him all the way down is this question: Is that fair?

Does the punishment meet the crime, meaning ... does the man in power 'deserve' to have his entire career destroyed because he was so stupid as to touch a woman who worked for him in a way that made her feel icky and uncomfortable enough to do what women have shied away from doing for centuries, namely, saying no — out loud, for others to hear and notice. 

"No, I don't like this. No, I do not give you permission to touch me or leer at me lasciviously. This is my JOB we're talking about. No, do not touch me. No, do not make sexual jokes to me. No, I am not interested in you, sexually, romantically, or even platonically. This is work, not play, not a party, not a beauty contest where I get judged and promoted for my adaptable behavior. This is my job, and I am not here to bait myself so that I can meet your predatory needs. No means NO."

Does this man, who may have done many great things for the world deserve to have everything he's worked so hard for taken away so that an example can be made of him, one that heeds all too well to the idea that women are NOT to be touched without their consent, flirted with or sexually harassed? In other words, is it fair to destroy a man's career because he's been accused of sexual harassment?

According to the old standards, no, it is not fair. The old rule book belonged to and was written by the Boy's Club, and that antiquated way of thinking allowed for men to get away with everything, all the time. No matter what. Touch a woman on her shoulder? Big deal, "I'm only being friendly." Make a sexist joke to a woman in the office, backed up by your male buddies who are all waiting to see her reaction to said joke? Who cares, it's "just a joke. She needs to lighten up. That's not sexual harassment, it's humor! Are we not allowed to make jokes anymore, guys, huh?" 

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The old rules are there to protect men, only. It's why women, to the day, do not report their rapists — they fear no one will believe them. It's why women, to the day, fear the backlash at work if they don't comply with the touchy-feely flirtations coming from their male superiors — they know the Boy's Club will see to it that the men win — and the women lose.

For years, women stayed asleep in that long coma of compliance, never questioning, always going along with whatever men wanted. Until one day they all seemed to just ... wake up. And in that waking, they started seeing what was so very, very obvious: They had been lied to, stifled, stomped on, belittled, devalued, used, abused and they all realized, all at the same time that they didn't have to take it anymore.

The new standards are here now, written by self-respecting women who value their lives, their independence, and their autonomy, and these women have run to their windows to reenact that famous scene from the movie Network: "I'm mad as Hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!"

And so, to answer the number one question, "Is it fair?" The answer, according to the new rules is, "Yes."

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When someone as revered as Governor Andrew Cuomo gets caught in the crossfire of several sexual harassment accusations, people get up in arms. Wasn't he just the Hero of the Day a few months back? Didn't he stand up against Donald Trump, who was always an abomination in the eyes of women? Wasn't Andrew Cuomo one of the good guys, and so what if he touched a woman's face, or back, or arm, or leg, or hair, or, or, or...?

If fairness is what we're looking at here, then we need to see what the individual was feeling — meaning the woman who claims she was harassed by him. The Boy's Club ignites the old school thinking: "Ah, it's not so bad." "She's just looking for a book deal." "Hey, she's pretty, what does she expect?" "Hey, she's not even pretty — why would he 'harass' someone who looked like that?" "She's just another whore looking for attention."

But the woman herself: is there any possible chance that perhaps she really did feel threatened, or put upon? Is there even the slightest chance that maybe she didn't LIKE when the Governor of New York put his hands on her? Is it even worth considering that maybe, just maybe, she was just not up for being his sex object du jour, or that she didn't like being put in the position of having to be polite?

For the sake of fairness, you need to understand this: women resent having to shut up in order to protect men who harass them. Women resent having to back down when they know they are in the right. And women are sick and tired of allowing themselves to be made into sexual conquests just to keep their damned jobs.

And now, they can fear not being hired, too. Because men don't trust women, and even though they made them into objects, they know these objects might turn on them, what with their female dispositions and all. Might as well not hire women at all. All the more reason for women to create more opportunities for other working women.

The Boy's Club has made sure that women have suffered, on the job, for decades. There are no protections for women — certainly, none that actually work, that's for sure. So, women are taking their safety into their own hands now, and until a world exists where both women and men are equal and respectful of each other as human beings, nothing will ever be considered fair again.

So, today Cuomo, tomorrow the world. When men can prove to us that they can treat us with respect in the workplace, then we'll have no reason to accuse and remove. Boom! Obviousness. Fairness! When men in the position of authority can stick to using their power to bring the world together, rather than to get away with harassing every female in the office, then we'll resume the balance.

Women are like animals who've been beaten. Eventually, they bite back, and where they bite, how deeply or how severely is not a matter of fairness  it's a matter of natural reaction. 

Is Andrew Cuomo now in the same boat as Kevin Spacey? Or Marilyn Manson, or Jeffrey Epstein, or Harvey Weinstein? Is he really as scuzzy as all that? The truth is, we may never know.

If we really want fairness, then we need to learn and imbibe these lessons, as if our lives depend on them. There are two lessons, one for men, and one for women:

Men: Do not touch women without their consent. Do not flirt with them in the office, especially if you are married, or if they are married. Do not make sexist jokes to women. Do not leer at women's body parts. Do not for one second assume any woman is OK with your innuendos. Treat women with respect, at all times, no matter what. Do not assume they are all out to capture and punish you, but do not assume they won't, either.

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Women: Say NO. Don't wait. If there is a man that you work with, or for, and he's touched you in a way that makes you uncomfortable, or if he's said something that is inappropriate, then say something right at the top. Don't wait for it to become reportable sexual harassment. Save yourself the humiliation and proceed with your work uninterrupted, while floating on a wave of self-respect.

Speak up ahead of time. If you really do care about how you are treated, then do not let a man get away with offending you even once — stop him and prevent him from thinking he can keep getting away with it, because he will. If you want to be FAIR to both you and the man in question, then tell him right at the very beginning of a dubious encounter: NO. Don't wait for a future date to report what you believe to be harassment or an abuse of power on the day you experienced it.

Don't wait for your strength to show up in numbers at a later date, so that the doubting world can doubt you, suspect you, lump you in with whatever conspiracy theory avails itself at the time. Yes, it's scary to get up the nerve to say STOP, but how else is it going to stop if you don't stop it at stage one? Say NO, and say it professionally, fearlessly, and promptly. That's where your strength is, and that is where the idea of fairness starts.

No means no. Say it. Get used to saying it. It's OK.

Dori Hartley is primarily a portrait artist. As an essayist and a journalist, she can be read in The Huffington Post, ParentDish, YourTango, The Daily Beast, Psychology Today, More Magazine, XOJane, MyDaily and The Stir. Her art books ‘Beauty’, ‘Antler Velvet’, and 'Mads Mikkelsen: Portraits of the Actor' are all available on Amazon.