A few weeks ago, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was insulted by Representative Ted Yoho being called a “f—ing bitch” and “dangerous.” Afterwards, Rep. Yoho gave an apology which lacked two crucial points: accountability and responsibility. AOC had no problem calling him out on his failure to own his own prejudice and misogyny in a powerful response highlighting the overarching issue of sexism in the American government.
Every woman who saw the news report on the insults spat at AOC was not surprised at what happened. The issue of verbal abuse was not special because it happened between government officials. The men in higher seats of society are not expected to meet a higher standard. The overall reaction was a sigh and shake of the head.
Women, for years now, have been battling the issue of verbal abuse. They have sought therapy to avoid mental and emotional damage. They have stood up against their suppressors and taken back ownership of hurtful words like “bitch.” AOC was merely every other woman who had been degraded in either the form of an insult or disrespectful joke.
It is expected, especially at the government level, for women to still struggle against the entitlement men feel and have been feeling since they wrote women out of the laws of the land. According to the men in office (especially the president), AOC doesn’t belong in a place of power to make important decisions for the country guided by patriarchy. Not only because of her controversial views, but mainly because she is a woman.
On the unpublicized level, women in their workplaces and homes have dealt with being belittled, called out of their names and disrespected. The fact a man can feel comfortable approaching a woman with such hate further proves the point of how misogyny and sexism have manifested themselves into society despite our efforts to dismantle them.
Rep. Yoho is not the only man who has failed to take accountability or responsibility for their actions. Every man who feels compelled to defend their verbal abuse toward a woman is simply too prideful to accept they are wrong. Instead, they try to make women feel bad for not accepting their weak apologies and gaslight them into feeling sensitive or rude.
Rep. Yoho probably knew before approaching AOC that she was familiar with being insulted in such ways. Yet it wasn’t enough to hold his tongue. He knew before approaching her that if anyone were to insult his wife and daughters in that way, he’d deem it unacceptable. But that didn’t stop him from approaching her.
AOC said it best, “Treating people with dignity and respect makes a decent man.” Having daughters, sisters and wives has nothing to do with a man’s ability to be hateful. Apologies are not meant to force the victim to accept your actions nor are they a way to conjure sympathy for yourself. Rep. Yoho exposed his own prejudice by his lack of ability to own his actions.
Featured Image by Dimitri Rodriguez on Flickr.com