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Why AOC’s Clapback to the ‘Fucking Bitch’ Comment Is Unprecedented for a Female Politician

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Jul 24, 2020

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Image Credit: AP

“I have to show my parents that I am their daughter and that they did not raise me to accept abuse from men,” New York City representative and all-around badass Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) said in an excoriating, viral speech Thursday. Addressing a fellow politician, Ted Yoho, who had called her a “fucking bitch,” “crazy,” and “disgusting” in a personal interaction earlier in the week, she dragged the Florida Republican in a congressional administrative session, after he had made “excuses for his behavior” in a widely panned non-apology.

In his speech, Yoho had denied verbally abusing AOC, and invoked his family to assert his respectability — “having been married for 45 years with two daughters, I’m very cognizant of my language,” he had said, adding, “if they were construed that way, I apologize for their misunderstanding.”

Taking issue with this common gaslighting tactic, AOC clapped back, saying, “Mr. Yoho mentioned that he has a wife and two daughters,” she said. “I am two years younger than Mr. Yoho’s youngest daughter. I am someone’s daughter, too.” She added, “I could not allow my nieces, I could not allow the little girls I go home to, I could not allow victims of verbal abuse and worse to see that, to see that excuse and to see our Congress accept it as legitimate.”

This notion of respectability, especially one that is interwoven with family, has long-afforded ‘family men’ the power to get away with abuse, without remorse and with impunity. Being able to use one’s family as a vehicle to appear more respectable is also a gendered privilege. While men, especially male politicians, get lauded for parading around their families in the public eye as a testament to their caretaking and providing capabilities, women, especially female politicians, get penalized for doing the same. In invoking her own family and upbringing as a testament to her values, AOC flipped the script, charting a course few female politicians have had the liberty to traverse.


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More often than not, women politicians are denigrated, seen as less capable or efficient, for asserting their family ties, be it to parents, partners or children. Their caregiving capabilities are often perceived as a weakness, as hampering their ability to do their ‘real’ jobs. This burden, needless to say, is not put on men, who only bolster their reputation through their family ties, illustrated perfectly in how Yoho used his family as a shield to defend himself from criticism.

In unashamedly boasting her family ties and in grounding herself in familial values, AOC put the concern she felt for the girls and women in her family (and in the world) front and center, treating it as a strength of character rather than as a professional weakness. She also foregrounded her need to speak up and call out Yoho’s sad excuse for an apology as arising directly from how her parents raised her, which is again flipping the script on what we consider ‘respectable’ among women. Most parents raise most girls to tolerate abuse, to give their abusers the benefit of the doubt, to simply let it go and not create a scene. In time, we have learned to glorify this approach as silent resilience, signaling strength of character. In displaying absolutely no tolerance for Yoho’s behavior, AOC showed we can change the way we perceive what a ‘good’ daughter looks like, and how a woman from a ‘respectable’ family behaves.

In establishing her need to stand her ground and not stay silent, AOC also showed how we could flip this respectability narrative, instead prioritizing an upbringing in which parents teach young girls to respect their own selves first and foremost, and be able to demand respect from those who don’t.

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Written By Rajvi Desai

Rajvi Desai is The Swaddle’s Culture Editor. After graduating from NYU as a Journalism and Politics major, she covered breaking news and politics in New York City, and dabbled in design and entertainment journalism. Back in the homeland, she’s interested in tackling beauty, sports, politics and human rights in her gender-focused writing, while also co-managing The Swaddle Team’s podcast, Respectfully Disagree.

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