AOC Explains It–Clearly

As Monica Hesse, a columnist for the Washington Post advised,

If you click on only one thing today, let it be Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Thursday morning speech, delivered from the House floor and directed to a fellow member of Congress, but really to us all.

I echo that advice. You can view the speech here; it’s ten minutes and it is absolutely worth your time.

For those who’ve been in a coma or otherwise out of touch, Ocasio-Cortez (familiarly “AOC”) was responding to an encounter with Rep. Ted Yoho (R. Fla.) on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. He was angered by a claim she had made during a discussion of crime, linking a spike in criminal behavior to poverty and unemployment; he called her “disgusting,” he said she was “out of [her] freaking mind,” and when the discussion ended, and she walked into the Capitol to cast a vote, Yoho turned to another congressman and said–in a voice loud enough to be heard by the reporters who were clustered at the foot of the steps– “fucking bitch.”

As a report of the incident in The New Yorker noted,  Yoho approaches matters of criminal justice from a decidedly conservative perspective, having recently voted against making lynching a federal hate crime. (He claimed that such a law would be a “regrettable instance of federal overreach”–to the best of my knowledge, he has yet to weigh in on the considerably more significant degree of “overreach” exhibited by sending federal goons to Portland and Chicago…)

The incident received considerable publicity, and Yoho found it prudent to come to the floor of the chamber and make a non-apologetic apology, in which he 

invoked his wife and daughters and said that he objected to Ocasio-Cortez’s views because he had experienced poverty when he was young. “I cannot apologize for my passion or for loving my God, my family, and my country,” he said. It was unclear who had asked him to apologize for his religious faith, his patriotism, or his love of family, but he was ardent all the same.

AOC began her “point of personal privilege” by saying she hadn’t planned to respond at all; as she noted, as someone who has waited tables and ridden the New York subway, the terminology was hardly foreign to her. And (in a passage I particularly applauded) she expressly disdained the pose of a “hurt” woman, a victim. She said she’d decided to respond only after Yoho’s non-apology on the House floor, and her target wasn’t Yoho–it was the cultural misogyny that permits men to behave despicably to women “with impunity.”

She took especial aim at the “pervasive and ludicrous concept that sexist men listing their female family members is an ironclad defense against charges of sexism — as if Harvey Weinstein, Bill Clinton and Donald Trump haven’t had wives and daughters.” As Hesse put it,

Most important, she made it clear that her grievance was not with a profane sentence, but with the story it appeared in — a long history of casual misogyny disguised as “passion” or even, God help us, as patriotism. Rep. Yoho presented his own explosive emotions as righteous, while allegedly casting Ocasio-Cortez as the b—- who made him explode.

It is worth noting that while Ocasio-Cortez lays all of this out, she does so in a tone of voice that never veers above mild irritation. In her floor speech, which totals about 10 minutes, she never raises her voice or resorts to calling names. She is exactly as measured as women are always expected to be, and as men are always assumed to be. And she made it clear that, to her, none of this was personal.

I found AOC’s conclusion especially powerful:

Having daughters is not what makes someone a decent man,” she said. “Treating people with dignity and respect is what makes a decent man. And when a decent man messes up, as we all are bound to do, he does apologize. Not to save face. Not to win a vote. He apologizes, genuinely, to repair and acknowledge the harm done, so that we can all move on.”

I have previously had mixed reactions to AOC; while I respected her intellect and tended to agree with her on policy (not always, but a good deal of the time), I’ve been put off by her disinclination to sit back and learn the ropes before jumping into the spotlight.

That reaction is probably generational, and her response to Yoho has converted me.

Consider me a fan–and watch the video.


  1. Sheila-I did watch the respectful video with new found respect for AOC. As you wrote, her calm demeanor allowed this of us watching to understand the gravity of the issue. I, too, a knowledge that Congressman Yoho’s no apology, apology was meaningless. As usual, Sheila, thanks for your words.

  2. AOC was speaking for all women who have been subjected to and forced to tolerate and ignore insults and sexual harassment in all areas of the work field. Having only worked in Indianapolis City Government or areas connected to government; I can attest to the fact that it was rampant during my 22 years by those in positions of authority leaving no one to report the problem to. Like the problems with too many police officers today; who do you report to?

    Rep. AOC is an elected member of Congress being insulted in public by a fellow Congressman who is merely going along with the highest power in the world and the greatest offender of women in general, Donald Trump. Who can she report to but the entire body of Congress and the public at large. Kudos to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for her determination to address a problem which, in my opinion, is another national problem in this country for which we need to consider “taking a knee” to out those in the current administration and Congress who parrot Trump’s daily diatribes which he considers his right due to his lofty position and abuse of power.

    “AOC began her “point of personal privilege” by saying she hadn’t planned to respond at all; as she noted, as someone who has waited tables and ridden the New York subway, the terminology was hardly foreign to her.”

    This issue regarding gender disrespect can actually be taken back to high school level when boys snapping girl’s bras was ignored and college level where panty-raids were listed under the heading of “boys will be boys”.

  3. AOC handled exactly right. She spoke up for all of us with class and decorum. Yoho’s apology that wasn’t couldn’t begin to measure up to her comments. I hope all Members of Congress learned a lesson from her, but it’s likely some are slow learners. I’m with the women. PERSIST.

  4. There seems to be a cabal of disrespectful, white privileged males in Florida that continue to soil the fabric our our Constitution and any sense of decency, no matter who is writing that script. Rick Scott, Ron DeSantis and Matt Gaetz are three other misogynistic swine that come to mind. Now we can add Yahoo to that pantheon of disgusting wretches who are clearly ill at ease with what passes for their masculinity. They all are, of course, Republicans.

    And whether or not one agrees with AOC’s politics, one should have at least a glimmer of respect for her story and her messaging. Republicans should get used to having their mindless buffoonery stuffed back down their throats by people – men and women – like AOC. There is much more on the way.

  5. One thing I have always liked about AOC is the way in which she scares the devil out of the right wing. Everybody who goes to DC believes that they have some sort of mandate from their voters and they get more than a little impatient with others whose mandate is a bit different from theirs. The good ones stick it out, learn to negotiate and to be patient. I sincerely hope that the entire “Squad” does that. They are a breath of fresh air.

  6. Peggy, they are a breath of fresh air! I think AOC deserves the highest of kudos for her complete put down of Yoho, especially done in such a way that shows her intelligence. My first instinct when I heard the story, I almost laughed. So he called her a F*ing B*. This is what these pig men do when they can’t argue with you, they resort to name calling. I would have left it there and proudly carried the name. But yet she had an avenue to call him out, workplace harrassment, censuring by his govt. cohorts, so she took that route and she body slammed him to the ground with her words. You go, AOC!

  7. I was so proud of her as a woman when I watched that video. Her measured, calm words didn’t take away from the fact that she was utterly disgusted by that pig of what passes for a man. To me, her speech was perfect, and delivered her message – no victims here…move on. I hope he felt like the tiny bug he is after she was done.

  8. Her response should serve as a checklist for every apology a male public figure needs to make going forward.

  9. I found both C-Span videos – of Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’ speech and the one of all the supportive remarks from her colleagues.
    I have never been so proud of a group of politicians -their eloquence and witness to something most women in this nation have experienced.
    What an amazing group of people this nation has elected!

  10. Amazing how much Yoho sounds like Yoyo! More than likely, LOL, one is the root of the other. It’s very telling that he has not approached his male colleagues in this manner. Although given the spineless nature of politicians, I wouldn’t imagine there would’ve been repercussions. I just hope AOC has security with her, because the target on her back has just grown exponentially. If she doesn’t have security, Nancy Pelosi needs remedy that situation.

    The world is full of mouth breathing troglodytes, they breed like rats and nest like cockroaches! They are calculating bottom feeders, only coming out in the darkness of ignorance and maleficence.

  11. Congressman Ted Yoho brought nothing but shame to his claim for love of family, country and the Constitution. Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez was right in her calm, deliberate voice to call him out on the floor of the House of Representatives. She spoke with brilliance and dignity and now it is written into the Congressional Record to hold Congressman Yoho accountable for his base behavior on the steps of the Capitol. I am writing my Congressmen to support censure proceedings on Congressman Yoho. The citizens of Florida should be embarrased. Of all the good people in Florida, this is the best they could do to send such a person to Congress?

  12. I know that AOC is younger than, I don’t know, maybe all other Representatives. She has been accused of being where she is because of her looks, which certainly are pleasing. She has been accused of being uppity rather than assertive in her demeanor. She has been told, probably not to her face, to respect the more senior experience of those who know better than she. She has never been accused though of being unclear about who she is and who she represents and why.

    This little video of a common incident though to me justifies her early press recognition.

    You go girl. You go far. You continue to defend your place in society as earned by what befits a leader at any age. Please keep up making the world a better place for everyone.

  13. From the above: ” I’ve been put off by her disinclination to sit back and learn the ropes before jumping into the spotlight.”

    I have never been “put off” by AOC. I never believed AOC needed a permission slip from the Democratic Leadership in House to speak her mind. Yoho and and his other fellow travelers that trade in sexist comments have been given a free ride in the past. It is no wonder Yoho felt emboldened enough to say what he did. Even though he did a quick retreat – It was just a Nod and Wink – A Dog Whistle. The Trumpet for sure has provided even more cover.

    The Reactionary Right Wing Republicans on Face Book have been at war with AOC since she was elected. All manner of demeaning diatribes have been circulated and re-circulated. They even tried photo-shopping her to look ugly.

  14. Monotonous; THANK YOU! Women have been forced to “sit back and learn the ropes” for centuries; which is why we were kept “barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen” till WWII when the men were off fighting the Nazis and women had to replace them in factories and war plants. Then we were booted out after the war and had to start over forcing our way into all work fields; even those who were widowed by that war and were single heads of households. The “glass ceiling” in this 21st Century may be badly cracked but we still haven’t broken our way through. Even Tammie Duckworth has been insulted and demeaned after losing both legs and nearly her life flying a rescue helicopter along with her military brothers.

  15. Agree her speech was excellent, also am not charmed by the extreme hate she invokes from Republicans, do not see where this helps our cause. Take this line from Peggys post ” learn to negotiate & be patient. she could have won points with that speech from Republican women but most wont even click on it because she is just a little to progressive.

  16. Florida is doing its very best to remove the disgrace of being number one in Covid-19 cases from New York. We are also doing our best to prove to the world that the GOP is incapable of governance by sending people like Yoho, Gaetz, Scott, and Rubio to Washington.

  17. Dr. Kennedy, “made him explode”? – Mr. Yoho chose to explode. No one forced him, asked him, or told him to explode. Mr. Yoho needs to take responsibility for what comes out of his mouth. It takes personal discipline to do this and he needs to practice this for himself.

  18. Her speech was outstanding and went to the heart of the matter beyond his no apology apology and disgusting reference to being married to a woman and having daughters, as though that were a defense to his dehumanization by gender. I also married a woman and have daughters, and that is totally irrevelant to my or his name calling conduct. I tweeted when it happened and before her speech that he should resign due to his dehumanization of not just AOC but by extension all women. Of course he will not, nor will he get over his cultural dehumanization based on gender.

    I am thinking in this day of social revolution of Moms in Oregon and Black Lives Matter that this virus has opened the door to other designations, and I hereby coin one to read Womens’ Lives Matter. We have discovered during this emergency caused by the virus that it is not the stock market, titans of commerce or power lusting politicians that keep a cohesive society afloat; it is ordinary citizens, so I here suggest that we have a Grocery Workers’ Lives Matter, Bus Drivers’ Lives Matter among others (fill in the blanks of those who are risking their lives to keep us afloat on the road to a vaccine), speaking of which yesterday was the 11th anniversary of the last time the federal minimum wage was adjusted, so many of those who are (literally) saving the rest of us while risking their lives are enjoying (?) an 11 year cut in purchasing power in a disgusting show of ongoing wage inequality. Where’s the outrage or, alternatively, where are the pitchforks? GRRRR!

  19. Bravo to all comments from men and women today. I’ve always been an AOC fan mainly because of her progressive spunk and the fact she is not sitting in the back of the bus waiting her turn as was “suggested” by the DNC and Nancy Pelosi.

    F*** that!

    Wall Street owned DNC is spending millions to run opposition against her to both censure and censor her. I hope the NY voters send another message.

    Remember, she is a Justice Democrat and Democratic Socialist. The Republicans aren’t her only problem in Washington and never have been.

    For those suggesting Nancy Pelosi provides security for AOC, well, you haven’t been paying attention to AOC enough to understand she is disrupting the status quo. AOC and “The Squad” are causing problems with just their presence in DC. I’m sure Yoho isn’t the first misogynist calling them names, whether they be democrat or republican.

    As for the Wall Street owned DNC, they need to burn to the ground.

  20. Todd E Smekens…..SPOT ON!!!

    I, too, have seen a real sister in AOC from the very first time I saw her biography on TV right after her surprise win in Brooklyn. As you say, she is a TARGET of the DEMOCRATIC ESTABLISHMENT (think Pelosi, Clinton’s Obam, Biden, et al).

    How many true working class people have we had in the last 40 years become a federal representative. Few and far between. Clinton’s sense of self and self privilege went to his head (both of them). I still say he was the best Republican (pro-corporate) President since Reagan. Obama, economically speaking and militarily speaking, is a close second.

    AOC is a throwback to REAL Democrats who spoke and served REAL blue collar people who, today, are literally dying in this f-ed up country. I know, I have been blue collar most of my life, even though I got a “professional degree,” it NEVER afforded me the privileges and luxuries of the Corporate Class (not that I am sorry, frankly I am grateful….).

    I am convinced we will be having the SAME problems of misogyny, sexism, ageism, racism, poverty wages, police brutality, etc, long after (assuming) Trump is gone and Biden (or whoever) is President. The Corporate Class STILL own and operate most of our government officials. That’s just a plain fact I wish someone on this blog would be willing to refute based upon evidence!!!

    Yes, AOC has been and is my hero right there with FDR son, Bernie Sanders. She reminds me of my mom, bless her soul. Big problem though: she and her friends are outnumbered by the hundreds….literally. The Oligarch Class and their intellectual apologist will NOT let the Green New Deal or any other REAL change take place… UNLESS they can make money and more power for themselves from the progressive agenda.

  21. Am a retired federal attorney. Women, professional or not, have been called names by men since forever for our opinions and for doing well in the workplace. We’ve all experienced it. Vividly remember once being called a “bitch” by a junior colleague. One whom I trained and mentored. Even wrote a recommendation for him to gain entrance to an advanced law degree program at IU. Thought after two years he was more knowledgable and experienced than I was after more than 20. Ignored my kindly given advice, constructive criticism on a case brief (which he asked for), then said I shared in his loss. A misogynist in actions and attitude. Reported the ‘bitch’ calling, but did not file anything formal. Action taken was that he got promoted to a senior supervisory position. Heard later, he screwed up and was removed from that position, moved, with a note in his file to never make him a supervisor again.

    I was very impressed by AOC’s response to her colleague’s words. To quote from previous comment by Pete: “You go girl. You go far. You continue to defend your place in society as earned by what befits a leader at any age. Please keep up making the world a better place for everyone.”

  22. By any measure, AOC made a fine speech and blew apart a few poisonous ideas in the process. Now that we know she can do it (with, I believe, more effect than anyone else in government) I hope she will apply the full measure of her talent to advocating other issues, like…well, start by going after the suicidal idea of trickle-down economic theory. Dear AOC, Do not let your legacy stand on one issue and one speech inspired by a personal insult.

    Today, after listening to her speech, I have more hope for our country than I’ve felt for fifty years. She may be the Bobby Kennedy of these times.

  23. I too originally thought AOC was a cultural fluke and of course her policy positions are exactly what you’d expect of a representative of a densely-populated, culturally-diverse, poor and working class district. But reading her bio and educational credentials got my attention. She isn’t just smart – she’s worked hard at becoming a very well-educated and well-informed adult – WAY BEYOND what too many people think is typical of a Millennial, a woman, or a person of color. AOC is all three AND very attractive too boot. My God, no wonder paunchy, balding old white guys react to her with such visceral disgust. They know they can never have her so they must destroy her.

    But one reason she’s been so successful in politics to date is that she has, among other things, mastered the arts of grace, poise and careful messaging. To me it was all just a simple case of what I’ve seen many times in my business and personal lives – a guy using his “passion” as a lame excuse for just being an asshole in dealing with people, but especially women. That’s it. But unlike me, AOC was able to say essentially the same thing (and more) that I did but with the aforementioned qualities and talents that continue to elude me in my seventh decade. 

    This topic cannot pass without some mention of the AWFUL coverage of the incident by the New York Times, which essentially characterized AOC as a disruptor and blamed her aggressive political ambition for inciting a white male counterpart to confront and verbally assault her in clear view of the press and other witnesses. I’ve had a very long-running feud with the NYT but this crap pushed me over the edge – I will never read that rag again. For an outstanding essay on the incident and the NYT coverage of it I recommend the article below in The Cut:

    AOC 2028. I hope I’m still around to watch it.

  24. AOC terrifies Republicans. She’s a young, attractive, charismatic, intelligent female representative with strong leftist beliefs. And all those aspects scare them mightily, of course. However, despite her relative youth and inexperience, she displays an innate and incredible skill with politics. It’s honestly wondrous to behold. And _that_ truly terrifies them.

Comments are closed.