US Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took to the floor of the House of Representatives on Thursday, tearing apart the abusive language and lacklustre non-apology she received from Rep. Ted Yoho earlier this week.
We all know Ocasio-Cortez has a knack for delivering stunning speeches, but this one, which tackled the pervasive culture of misogyny that still exists in American life and politics, is a speech of a lifetime.
“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.
Later, in front of press, he called her “a fucking bitch”.
“This issue is not about one incident,” she said on the floor of the House. “It is cultural. It is a culture of lack of impunity, of accepting of violence and violent language against women and an entire structure of power that supports that.”
Rep @AOC: “I do not need Rep. Yoho to apologize to me. Clearly he does not want to. Clearly when given the opportunity he will not & I will not stay up late at night waiting for an apology from a man who has no remorse over calling women & using abusive language towards women.” pic.twitter.com/XKymFh3Oyf— CSPAN (@cspan) July 23, 2020
Ocasio-Cortez said she’d planned to ignore the abusive language she’d received from Yoho – and apart from sending out a tweet declaring “bitches get stuff done” and posting an Instagram story of her blowing a kiss in front of the Capitol, to the soundtrack of Doja Cat’s ‘Boss Bitch’ – she did.
As a woman who has worked in both hospitality and on the floor of Congress, she said she’s endured a lifetime of similar comments and was used to brushing them aside.
But it all changed when Yoho spoke about the incident in the House, refusing to apologise for “his passion”, explaining that it had all been a “misunderstanding”.
“Having been married for 45 years with two daughters, I’m very cognizant of language,” he said. “I cannot apologize for my passion or for loving my God, my family and my country.”
Ocasio-Cortez used her speech to address his flawed argument – that as a man with a wife and daughters – he could not possibly be a misogynist. She said Yoho cannot use his female family members as a shield and as an excuse for his abusive words and behaviour.
“I do not need Representative Yoho to apologise to me. Clearly, he does not want to. Clearly when given the opportunity, he will not. And I will not stay up late at night waiting for an apology from a man who has no remorse over calling women and using abusive language towards women,” she 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.”
“I am someone’s daughter, too. My father, thankfully, is not alive to see how Mr. Yoho treated his daughter,” she went on to say.
“My mother got to see Mr. Yoho’s disrespect on the floor of this House towards me on television. And I am here because I have to show my parents that I am their daughter and that they did not raise me to accept abuse from men.”
Ocasio-Cortez, the youngest woman ever elected to Congress in the US, explained that the harm Yoho levied, or “tried to levy”, was not just directed at her.
“When you do that to any woman, what Mr Yoho did, was give permission for other men to do that to his daughters,” she said.
“In using that language, in front of the press, he gave permission to use that language against his wife, his daughters, women in his community and I am here, to stand up to say that is not acceptable.”
Ocasio-Cortez drove her point home concisely at the end of her 10-minute speech.
“You can be a powerful man and accost women,”she said. “You can have daughters and accost women, without remorse. You can be married and accost women.
“You can take photos, and 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.”