Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, Democratic Representative from New York, since the start of her career, has stood her ground as a young member of the House of Representatives who has never been afraid of speaking her mind. She has attempted to evolve traditions, and progress Congress into a space for the next generations to come.
On Tuesday, July 21st, A.O.C. took the floor of the Congress to speak out, in possibly her most iconic and influential moment, against Representative Ted Yoho from Florida after he called her a “fucking bitch.”
Not only was this comment not said in private, but in front of reporters, to her face. His half-assed apology on Wednesday, for his demeaning, sexist language, among stating other things about the young woman, enraged A.O.C. enough to make her speak out. The apology lacked any mention of A.O.C’s name, instead came across as a fake justification, basing his concept of his cognitive language on having been married for 45 years with two daughters. You would think having two daughters and a wife would force a man to sympathize with women who face this abuse.
In her 10-minute Congressional rebuttal, which went viral and was place dinto the record, A.O.C starts by setting the scene and the incident, then speaking out about incidents like this as a whole: “This issue is not about one incident. It is cultural. It is a culture of lack of impunity, of accepting violence and violent language against women and an entire structure of power that supports that… I could not allow my nieces, I could not allow the little girls that I go home to, I could not allow victims of verbal abuse, and worse, to see that. To see that excuse, and see our Congress accept it as legitimate and accept it as an apology and to accept silence as a form of acceptance.”
She explained that this kind of language is something that she is used to, growing up as a woman. Women are constantly verbally and physically abused for the pure fact that they are women. If she were to stay silent against the comments made by Yoho and other men, she would be embracing the problem instead of finding the solutions. Especially during a presidency such as Trump’s that has exhibited bigotry, sexism, and hatred, on top of many other issues, these abuses against women have been heavily amplified by not only the public, but by other politicians, such as Yoho, as well.
On the basis of Yoho’s familial defense, Ocasio-Cortez claims that she too is someone’s daughter, and that has no impact on how women, including herself, have been treated. She declared: “You can have daughters and accost women without remorse. You can... project an image to the world of being a family man and accost women without remorse and with a sense of impunity. It happens every day in this country.” This notion seems true. If you talk to most women, a majority will say they have been verbally sexualized and abused by random strangers on the streets as well as people they are familiar with. I have literally been called a bitch for the sole reason that I ignored a catcall on the street, and that is the most basic and common example. It has become so accepted for women to expect this language. Instead of teaching boys to not insult or abuse women, we teach girls to ‘take it on the chin’ or take the abuse as a complement.
The invigorating speech by Ocasio-Cortez sparked outrage by women and men who have been impacted by this abusive language. David Remnick from the New Yorker goes as far as to claim that she possesses rhetorical dynamism that has vanished long before from the House of Representatives.
As an older member of Generation Z, I find Ocasio-Cortez to be a breath of fresh air to the old Congress that rules this country still. Even for those who don’t agree with her politics completely, she is not afraid to stand up for her beliefs. She excels at using her voice against those powerful white men who are holding onto Congress.
Her moment is a movement for all of the younger women who are not afraid to speak up. She emphasized the power dynamic that must be changed so that women, not only in Congress, but in every area of life, can feel like they can speak their mind and be vocal. A.O.C. proves that we, as women, should not simply accept the abuse from men, but instead to stand up for ourselves. Because if we don’t fight for us, no one will. If Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez can be a “fucking bitch” for refusing to be quiet, I’d be damn proud of that, because as she claims in a tweet “But hey, bitches’ get stuff done.”