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AOC offers a lesson in standing up for yourself

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Yet again, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has taken the internet by storm.

AOC gave a nearly 10-minute speech on the House floor in response to Rep. Ted Yoho’s verbal assault on the Capitol steps earlier last week. 

“I was minding my own business, walking up the steps and Representative 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. Yoho later hurled an expletive label, layered with racist and sexist undertones. 

In her speech, Ocasio-Cortez ensured the insults were not deeply hurtful. From the Capitol steps to working in restaurants to taking the subway in New York City, verbal harassment was nothing new. As a young woman, especially a young Latina, taking up space dominated by older white men, it comes as no surprise. As Ocasio-Cortez put it, “It’s just another day, right?” 

It was until Yoho attempted an apology. For one, Yoho never specifically named Ocasio-Cortez, only alluding to her as “a colleague from New York.” Much of his statement described his empathy for those living in poverty, something he and his wife once experienced at age 19. 

“Having been married for 45 years with two daughters, I’m very cognizant of my language,” Yoho said. “The offensive name-calling words attributed to me by the press were never spoken by me to my colleague, and if they were construed that way, I apologize for their misunderstanding.” 

Not only did Yoho not take any blame, but he tried to inflate his respect for women by the fact that he has a wife and two daughters. 

Sticks and stones

Ocasio-Cortez’ response is a masterclass in defending your integrity. She rarely glances down, her tone full of conviction. At one point, it seems she has tears in her eyes, but assumedly because she is talking about her father who passed away in 2008. 

“I am two years younger than Mr. Yoho’s youngest daughter. I am someone’s daughter too,” she said. “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.” 

Words may not hurt for Ocasio-Cortez, but she understands how Yoho’s actions illuminate our society’s larger culture of misogyny. She goes on to sum the problem at hand: “Having a daughter does not make a man decent. Having a wife does not make a decent man.” 

To have to see someone’s humanity by understanding they are someone’s daughter or wife is not to see someone’s humanity at all. This idea rationalizes that a woman can only be respected through her connection to a man. 

“What Mr. Yoho did was give permission to other men to do that to his daughters,” she said.

And with her speech, Ocasio-Cortez gave women the fuel to demand better. 

You can watch AOC’s full statement below or read it here. 

Haley Bosselman
Haley Bosselman is the editor-in-chief of Culturas. She grew up in Orange County and moved to Los Angeles after earning her bachelor's degree in journalism from Arizona State University. In May 2020, Haley completed the Master of Science in journalism program at the University of Southern California. She's written a lot about music, but is geared toward any culture-related storytelling.
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