On Thursday afternoon, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) gave a speech denouncing abusive language aimed at her by Representative Ted Yoho (R-CA). For Ocasio-Cortez, the speech was not only about Yoho, but patterns of abusive speech used by men to degrade women. In particular, Ocasio-Cortez used the situation to highlight the many instances of abusive language directed at her by Republican politicians. She denounced the combination of sexism and racism that often characterizes these attacks.
Early this week, Ocasio-Cortez was reportedly confronted by Representative Yoho on the Capitol steps. Reportedly, he called her “disgusting” adding she was “out of your freaking mind.” As he walked away, thinking Ocasio-Cortez was out of range, he referred to her as a “f***ing bitch.”
On Wednesday, Yoho offered a semi-apology. Mr. Yoho said he wanted “to apologize for the abrupt manner of the conversation I had with my colleague from New York.” He continued by claiming, “No one was accosted, bullied, or attacked.” He explained, “This was a brief policy discussion, plain and simple. We have our differences. The fact still remains, I am not going to apologize for something I didn’t say.”
“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.”
Notably, Yoho mentioned his daughter and wife as defense against allegations he does not respect women. In response, Ocasio-Cortez said, “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. I am someone’s daughter, too.”
Ocasio-Cortez is a 30 year old who represents New York’s 14th Congressional district, which includes parts of the Bronx and Queens. Due to her gender, youth and political ideology, the political world has often disrespected her.