Calling Out Sexism is Not an Ambitious Grab of Power

So stop saying it’s part of AOC’s “brand.”

Welcome to The Edit! This newsletter is about dissecting culture, media and trends. From politics to pop culture, I’ll be curating and engaging with relevant criticism while also writing some of my own takes. Every week, I’ll send out an essay, a list of good reads, work that I have recently published and a fun recommendation here and there.

After Rep. Ted Yoho’s rather meaningless apology for calling Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez “disgusting” and a “fucking bitch” on the steps of Congress, she had no other choice but to mop the House floor with him in a powerful speech condemning sexism.

“This issue is not about one incident,” she said, after clarifying she had no intention to take it to Congress until Yoho hid behind the I-have-a-daughter excuse. “It is a culture of lack of impunity, of accepting of violence and violent language against women and an entire structure of power that supports that...I believe having a daughter does not make a man decent. Having a wife does not make a decent man. Treating people with dignity and respect makes a decent man.” 

However, all the New York Times could focus on was how she “lashed out” and how her speech was exemplary of “using her detractors to amplify her own political brand,” playing right into stereotypical perceptions of women. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez did what any woman in her position would do — stand up for herself — and yet it’s described as a monumental ploy for power. 

In the past few years, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez has been “branded” as a chaotic force of nature with no respect (as well as other freshmen Congresswomen like Illhan Omar). As the Times puts it: “...she has upended traditions, harnessing the power of social media and challenging leaders, including President Trump, who are 50 years her senior.” But by framing her in this way, in this context, the Times is implicitly saying that AOC’s actions are juvenile, unpalatable and motivated by something other than altruism, and that Rep. Yoho’s actions somehow are not. Men who are “passionate” about the values they uphold are almost never painted as power-hungry (hence, Rep. Yoho’s “I will not apologize for being passionate” statement). What this screams is: It’s okay that Rep. Yoho called her a fucking bitch! It’s not her place to be loud about it! If she does, she must have ulterior motives!

Let’s be clear here: having to defend yourself and call out sexism is not an ambitious plot. It’s run-of-the-mill. I promise you that this speech was not something Ocasio-Cortez ever wanted to do. But women everywhere were keenly watching for her response: Will she ignore the insults they way we do when we walk home alone at night? Will she play it off with a joke the way we do when we’re cornered at a bar with no escape? Or will she turn it into a learning moment for her workplace and, arguably, the rest of the country? Frankly, it’s a waste of her time, having to defend her very existence to a bunch of other white men when she could be working on legislation – but she understood the message at hand. "I could not allow my nieces, I could not allow the little girls that I go home to, I could not allow victims of verbal abuse, and worse, to see that,” she said in her speech. “To see that excuse, and see our Congress accept it as legitimate and accept it as an apology and to accept silence as a form of acceptance. I could not allow that to stand.”

Then there’s the fact that the Times refused to attribute “fucking bitch” to Rep. Yoho, rather allowing Rep. Ocasio-Cortez to say it for them. I’m fully aware this has something to do with Times’ style of not using curse words in their copy unless someone else says it, but guess what, someone else did say it: Rep. Yoho. By attributing the language to Ocasio-Cortez, the Times is further “branding” her as troublemaker, when it’s really Yoho who’s the problem here. She was “vulgar” on the House floor, and he wasn’t. 

Sexism is more than curse words. It’s the language we use when we talk about women. Not only do men get away with using violent language against women on a daily basis, they get away with demonizing us when we say enough. And those who challenge that assumption are villains. Seems like the Times should question their own sexism at play before trying to write about it. 


Here’s what I read this week: 

Here’s what I published: lol NOTHING!!! However, I will be on a panel about the tokenization of food media on August 6, which you should reserve spots here!

And here’s a fun recommendation for your weekend: It’s National Tequila Day! But as a Mexican, I cannot let you have a margarita without some chips and salsa.Go to the farmers market, get some tomatoes and onions, roast them on a skillet along with jalapeños and garlic until the skins are black, plop those bad boys in a food processor or blender until smooth, add some diced onions for texture, and bam! A nice salsa for your weekend.