I’m so grateful the event that occasioned the unprecedented hour in the House of Representatives this morning calling out misogyny was not AOC’s murder by a crazed, bigoted misogynist (or Ayanna Pressley’s or Ilhan Omar’s or Pramila Jayapal’s or Rashida Tlaib’s or Debbie Wasserman Schulz’s or Barbara Lee’s or Nancy Pelosi’s) – so, so grateful. Sadly, though, judging from the horrid abuse they routinely hear on their voicemails and see in their social media feeds, it wouldn’t be surprising if such a thing were to come to pass.
No, what AOC and her sisters and brothers called out this morning was a garden variety, everyday form of misogyny. It was a handful of words, a very choice – if impulsively uttered – handful of words that a white male colleague hurled at her for daring to speak her truth. In my opinion, she spoke The Truth, but regardless of whether one agrees with her, she was speaking her truth and Rep. Yoho verbally attacked her for it and for daring to assert it.
As AOC, and many of the other women Representatives who spoke, pointed out, Yoho’s words and his attempt to intimidate and demean her were not new by any stretch. As the wall of women Reps and their three male colleagues so clearly articulated, women and girls the world over are subject to such abuse exceedingly routinely – it poisons the air we breathe, the water we drink – it’s a given that girls and women are denigrated in such ways by boys and men. For some of us, it stunts our growth while for others of us, it pushes us to grow stronger, but we’re all deeply affected by it whether we’re consciously aware of it or find ways to park it.
This time Yoho did his He-Man posturing in front of reporters, who he knew were there, which really, is a very bad sign since it telegraphs a degree of brazenness that I sure as shit wouldn’t want to be around. Additionally, because he made his non-apology on the floor of the House, Yoho gave a master class in how to utter a completely insincere, twist it back on the woman, farcical “apology.”
But you know, I’m with AOC in her decision to thank Yoho for what he did. In choosing to attack her and then disrespect his daughters, wife, and women generally with his subsequent bullshit statement, he laid bare what we are contending with and he helped clarify just how sick to its core the patriarchy is. Women know this stuff happens day in and day out because it happens to us all the time in one form or another. Some men know it happens because they perpetrate it or because they witness their male peers perpetrate it, which they condone with complicit silence. Fortunately, there are some men who know it happens because they believe women without having to actually witness the behavior.
But a whole lot of men have chosen to believe that it’s just a few “bad apple” men who behave in these ways, that the behavior is an aberration and not part of any systemic anything. These men need to be shaken awake. Sadly, I doubt many of them will watch the whole hour during which AOC and her supporters named the abuse and drew the “we’re done, enough is enough” line on it, but hopefully several hundred thousand will see the clip of her eloquent condemnation of the behavior for herself, her nieces, and all girls and women everywhere. And you know, even if only a couple dozen such men see it – all of us girls and women who got to see it today and who will use it for collective Zoom nights for weeks and months to come will feel seen and valued and loved and that’s even more important.
May we reset around values where it’s safe for everyone to speak their truth.
May we be willing to show up for one another and draw lines as needed.
May we strengthen our resolve to stand up to misogyny.
May we accept that insecure white men are dangerous and still not back down.