By: Isabel Acevedo
Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, otherwise known as AOC, is a US representative for the 14th New York District. Recently, she had an encounter with Florida Representative Ted Yoho that involved a heated conversation about a difference in policies. Allegedly, Rep. Yoho called Rep. Ocasio-Cortez a f**king bitch, along with other vulgar language. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez then spoke on the house floor about the exchange in a lengthy speech. Her powerful words were repeated throughout the media. Not only did she publicly bash Rep. Yoho’s apology, but she also denounced his excuses and behavior, as well as others who mirror his behavior.
“Mr. Yoho mentioned that he has a wife and two daughters. I am two years younger than Mr. Yoho’s youngest daughter. I am someone’s daughter too. My father, thankfully, is not alive to see how Mr. Yoho treated his daughter. 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.”
Along with the expletive, Rep. Yoho also called the New York Rep. “disgusting” and “out of her mind.” However, in his apology, he admits he used harsh language but denies using the vulgar word that caused so much backlash. He followed this statement with his own logical reasoning; he is a father and a husband and therefore would be against using such language.
However, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez maintained her tone and hammered the fact that although she was used to this verbal degradation in her past, she would not simply stand and take it. Currently, each side of the incident is firmly standing by their stories of what occurred.
Whether Rep. Yoho said what he was accused of saying or not, Representative AOC’s point still stands. There can be no excuses for this type of behavior, especially in the House of Representatives. As of November 2019, there are currently only 101 women serving in the House out of the 435 seats. Most of these women are from the Democratic Party. If Congress does not work towards a safe working environment for Congresswomen, this could discourage women from running for office. With women still the minority in Congress, most issues involving women cannot be dealt with correctly until there is more representation.
Representatives like AOC give women a voice and allow us to deliberate on issues that affect us. Diverse representation is so important. We need a more diverse Congress, so that all issues are dealt with different perspectives and total collaboration. Representative Ocasio-Cortez should be treated with equal respect as every other representative in the house, regardless of her issues or her gender. Just like Rep. Yoho, Representative AOC is a voice for her constituents and although he disagrees with her stances, she should not have to be confronted and verbally degraded.
Representative Ocasio-Cortez is not the only woman in Congress who has experienced this type of behavior. According to an article published on Representative Joyce Beatty’s website, there is a clear pattern of sexism in Congress. Women at both federal and local levels have accounted for poor behavior, such as being mistaken for spouses instead of elected officials
at official events, or even waitstaff. The article (published in 2018), which details 19 personal accounts from Congresswomen, also describes how female officials had to grapple for spots on congressional committees while trying to balance family commitments and new work commitments. For example, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), while working as a senior staffer to Rep. Ron Dellums, explained how she had to work extremely hard to prove herself at work while being a single mom and a woman of color. “I remember being ignored in meetings made up almost entirely of white men,” she said. “But Congressman Dellums supported me and encouraged me to keep pushing forward.”
Congress is still non-inclusive towards Congresswomen who are also mothers; but changes are pushing forward, such as adding baby-changing stations to the women’s restrooms and advocating for schedules that allow for both duties of Congresswomen and mother to be served. These Congresswomen are paving the way for other women to pursue fields in political science and further break through the glass ceiling. I can only hope that more women will be elected in Congress and help further the changes that make the environment more inclusive. I have no question where I stand on this issue between AOC and Rep Yoho. I highly recommend everyone who has the chance to watch it. It is incredibly powerful, and her message goes beyond just this incident that is directed at her. Not only does she condemn Rep. Yoho for his excuses, but she also calls him out for setting an example for all men who hide behind their daughters and wives. Most of all, she holds him accountable for his behavior, and by extension sends a message that women will not tolerate that type of treatment.
Given everything that I have seen and read, as well as my own experiences as a woman, I cannot help but stand with Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.