AOC offers decency and grace as a counter to almost banal cruelty

The wife/daughter defense for misogyny isn’t dead after today surely, but if this were a sane world, it was certainly dealt a death blow, nonetheless. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Democratic Representative of New York’s 14th Congressional District (the eastern Bronx and north-central Queens in New York City), was the one dealing the death blow.

But let’s back up to how we got here.

On July 20, Ted Yoho, the Republican Representative of Florida’s Third Congressional District (cities of Gainesville and Ocala), confronted AOC (as Ocasio-Cortez is known) on the steps of the United States Capitol, and called her “disgusting” for linking poverty to crime rates in New York City.

Let’s not get too down the rabbit hole on this, but for context purposes, on July 12, AOC participated in a virtual town hall and in one video, she talked about how crime is a symptom of a “diseased society that neglect its most marginalized people, and we do not solve that problem with police.”

She added, “Maybe this has to do with the fact that people aren’t paying their rent & are scared to pay their rent & so they go out & they need to feed their child & they don’t have money so… they feel like they either need to shoplift some bread or go hungry.”

Those comments inflamed a lot of conservatives. For example, the Editorial Board at The New York Post was pretty huffy and puffy about it.

“I was minding my own business walking up the steps, and Rep. Yoho put his finger in my face. He called me disgusting. He called me crazy. He called me out of my mind. And he called me dangerous,” she said, according to NPR’s report.

When AOC told Yoho his comments were rude, he told her she was the one being rude, and then apparently, later remarked in front of the press that AOC was a “f******g b*tch.”

According to NPR, “On the allegation that he used a pejorative, Yoho said, “Having been married for 45 years with two daughters, I’m very cognizant of my language. The offensive name-calling, words attributed to me by the press, were never spoken to my colleagues, and if they were construed that way, I apologize for their misunderstanding.””

Before I address those comments myself, let me continue setting the table. So that brings us to today, where AOC addressed the House floor to talk about Yoho’s comments. The full video, courtesy of C-SPAN, is below:

It’s worth posting these comments in full, even if you watched the video:

“Having a daughter does not make a man decent. Having a wife does not make a decent man. Treating people with dignity and respect makes a decent man. And when a decent man messes up, as we all are bound to do, he tries his best and does apologize,” AOC said.

So, AOC’s response on the House floor says it better than I could. And the thing is, there’s nothing political. Forget the “context” of why Yoho was “angry” with AOC. The comments he made, and the more than 10-minute speech she made in return have nothing to do with politics or policy positions or the spat over NYC and crime rates.

It’s just a basic fact: Having a daughter and having a wife does not make you a decent man. Being decent makes you a decent man.

And for Yoho in his comments to gaslight with, “Well, if you misunderstand my comments, I’m sorry,” is gross. That’s the classic non-apology apology, wherein, the person who did something wrong makes it out as if the person he wronged is at fault for misconstruing what was said.

There’s not much to misconstrue about “f*****g b*tch.”

Another interesting aspect of AOC’s speech, which also cuts through preconceived notions, is that she’s not saying she was personally offended or that she necessarily is seeking an apology. She’s pointing out the almost banality of how routine derogatory comments directed at her and other women are, even among sitting Representatives to the United States Congress.

When confronted with those derogatory comments, to then shrink back and say, “But my daughter. But my wife,” is cowardly. Your character is your own constitution, and sure, who you associate with says something about your character, too, but in this context, decency is measured by the character of the man, not the women he shields himself behind.

Bravo to AOC, for as she said, deciding to address it and stand up to it. Again, there’s nothing political about it. I don’t need to throat clear about AOC’s politics or anything like that.

Treat everyone with kindness. It’s pretty basic, and pretty easy. And it most certainly should be a rather mundane expectation of our representatives. Disagreements don’t open the door to cruelty. If I was going to dip my toe into a subtle political point, I would only say, one of the reasons we are where we are today, is that there are enough people to make a difference, who seem to think cruelty is the point.

Well, for at least 10 minutes on the floor of the House today, cruelty wasn’t the point, but decency and grace certainly were.

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