This week an older, White, male member of the House of Representatives, sought to dehumanize a fellow elected member of Congress, a younger Latino woman, by calling her…well you know what he called her.
Within her earshot.
In front of at least one reporter.
Apparently, Rep. Ted Yoho, a Republican from Florida disagreed so vehemently with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) for linking poverty with crime, he felt he needed to discredit her by calling her “disgusting.” But that wasn’t enough degradation so he added the specific slur used by men in the US especially since the 1920s suffrage movement, to suggest a woman who is straying from her designated place.
In his “apology” Rep. Yoho emotionally and audaciously attributed his slur to his passion and “love of my God, my family and my country.” Then, similar to the way White people invoke proximity to Black people as proof they are not racist, Rep. Yoho implied that his roles of husband and father made him immune to misogyny.
He concluded with a curious comment about being cognizant of his words.
My interpretation is he knew exactly what he was doing when he accosted AOC; he understood the power of the words he chose, and was conscious of the impact he hoped they would make.
It was a failed attempt to marginalize this remarkable young woman, and a public example of the way many husbands, fathers, brothers and sons disrespect, diminish and dismiss wives, daughters, sisters and mothers for daring to exist in what they consider male spaces…male spaces like Congress or even conversations.
It reminded me of the “good men” who willfully refuse to see men in the Black Lives Matter organization’s manifesto “that all Black lives matter” because it “centers those who have been marginalized within Black liberation movements.”
It triggered memories of “stand up guys” who speak over, ignore or interrupt when women are in charge or just speaking, because they can’t seem to imagine not being at the center of every human experience.
It brought to mind “decent men” who use their anger to shut down women when we dare to center ourselves to tell truths that men haven’t experienced or opinions that men don’t share.
It was another exhausting example of how the violent verbal, emotional, mental and physical abuse of women is an accepted part of patriarchy in this country.
Of course, prompted less by Rep. Yoho’s epithet and more by his attempt to refuse responsibility for his actions, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez delivered a calm, thoughtful denouncement of the specific assault, non-apology and general abuse, then proclaimed herself a Bad, Boss…you know.
And I was revived.
Renita Alexander, Leadership Unlocked
“You’re so vain
You probably think this song is about you
You’re so vain (you’re so vain)
I’ll bet you think this song is about you
Don’t you?” ~ Carly Simon