The recent sexual harassment allegations against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo have shed new light on the politician’s past treatment of women.
While the Democratic governor has often portrayed himself as a champion for women through his support for abortion, Cuomo’s self-proclaimed commitment to feminism appears to be little more than a performative gesture.
Both feminists and female politicians could not help but notice that the WEP appeared to be focused more on helping Cuomo maintain political power than championing women.
Why Critics Believe Cuomo Founded the WEP
To Cuomo’s critics, it appeared that he was merely paying lip service to feminism to satisfy his political ambitions. For one thing, critics could not help but notice that the founding of WEP seemed to coincide with the then-incumbent governor’s need for female votes.
According to The New York Times, Cuomo founded the WEP after female law professor Zephyr Teachout challenged him for the gubernatorial position during the 2014 Democratic primary. In what appeared to be another appeal to female voters, Cuomo’s campaign also drove around in the “Women’s Equality Express,” a large bus with a pink stripe on the side.
Despite the political theatre, many noticed similarities between WEP and The Working Families Party, an organization that initially considered endorsing Teachout before supporting Cuomo.
“In actual fact, however, the Women’s Equality Party… seems inspired by nothing so much as [Cuomo’s] desire to undermine the progressive Working Families Party,” journalist Michelle Goldberg wrote for The Nation in light of WEP’s founding.
“Cuomo’s attempt to hijack feminism for his own petty ends is such a craven move it could have been dreamed up by the scriptwriters at VEEP,” she added. “It would be bleakly funny if it didn’t pose an actual danger to an organization that has always fought for New York’s women.”
How the WEP Failed to Support Female Politicians
On numerous occasions, the WEP demonstrated that, despite its name, it was not all that committed to advancing women’s political careers. Instead of supporting female candidates, the party often endorsed men.
In 2018, Democrat Liuba Grechen Shirley ran against then-Republican Rep. Peter King in Long Island. The aspiring politician and mother of two became the first female candidate to successfully petition the Federal Election Commission for permission to use campaign funds to pay for child care, according to The Times.
One would think the WEP — an organization supposedly devoted to creating equal opportunities for women — would have supported a female candidate who helped pave the way for mothers to have more opportunities to run for office.
The WEP instead chose to endorse Shirley’s Democratic primary opponent, DuWayne Gregory, at Cuomo’s request.
“I was a first-time candidate running for Congress with two babies,” Shirley tweeted on March 14. “The ‘Women’s Equality Party’ refused to interview me, but endorsed my opponent — a man who said I shouldn’t spend my campaign funds on childcare.”
I was a first-time candidate running for Congress with two babies.
The “Women’s Equality Party” refused to interview me, but endorsed my opponent — a man who said I shouldn’t spend my campaign funds on childcare. https://t.co/uJpk1NvhFE
— Liuba Grechen Shirley (@liuba4congress) March 14, 2021
But Shirley was not the only high-profile female candidate the WEP failed to rally behind.
Nixon referred to the party as something that the New York governor “invented” when it chose to endorse Cuomo over her. In Ocasio-Cortez’s case, even though she was also a female primary challenger running against an established male candidate, the WEP supported her opponent.
“[They endorsed] Joe Crowley as well,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “So, Cynthia and I have both been snubbed by the Women’s Equality Party as the only female candidates in our races.”
Men Like Cuomo Often Exploit Feminism for Cheap Political Pandering
Cuomo may publicly align himself with women’s issues, but mounting sexual harassment allegations combined with numerous attempts to undermine female politicians do not paint a picture of a man concerned with the betterment of the fairer sex.
Feminism is more than a cheap political prop. There is a difference between performative activism and a genuine conviction to women’s advancement, and Cuomo has done little to prove he does not represent the former category.
If voters want a candidate who actually cares about women’s equality, a man who feels compelled to continually advertise his alleged support for feminist principles while he works against women behind the scenes is probably not the right person for the job.
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