'This is not new, and that is the problem': AOC gives powerful speech against misogyny in response to being called a 'f***ing b****' by GOP lawmaker

'I am someone's daughter, too. My father, thankfully, is not alive to see how Mr Yoho treated his daughter. My mother got to see Mr Yoho's disrespect'

Alex Woodward
New York
Thursday 23 July 2020 19:22 BST
AOC responds to non-apology from Congressman who verbally attacked her

US Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez delivered a speech condemning Republican lawmaker Ted Yoho, who has been accused of accosting the New York Democrat and calling her a "f***ing b***" on the steps of the House of Representatives.

Speaking from the House floor on Thursday, she said that his language reflects a "culture of lack of impunity, of accepting of violence and violent language against women, and an entire structure of power against women" –including other abuses against her from Republican officials, including Donald Trump.

"This is not about one incident," she said. "Dehumanising language is now new, and what we are seeing is that incidents like these are happening in a pattern."

While she was prepared to endure his name-calling, she refused to defend the "excuses" made in his apology from the House floor on 22 July.

"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. "To see that excuse and to see our Congress accept it as legitimate and accept it as an apology."

Several Democrats and Republicans in the House joined Rep Ocasio-Cortez to speak out against misogyny and the marginalisation of women in Congress and in the communities they represent.

"Mr Yoho mentioned that he has a wife and two daughters – I am two years younger than Mr Yoho's youngest daughter," she said. "I am someone's daughter, too. My father, thankfully, is not alive to see how Mr Yoho treated his daughter. My mother got to see Mr Yoho's disrespect."

She added that "when you do that to any woman," his comments "give permission to other men to do that to his daughters."

Rep Ocasio-Cortez said that "having a daughter does not make a man decent" and "having a wife does not make a decent man."

"Treating people with dignity and respect makes a decent man," she said.

Minnesota Rep Ilhan Omar, who has faced routine attacks from right-wing media and elected officials, said one should respect women not just because of their relationship to men but "because they are an equal being to you."

"That's how my father raised me and how Alexandria's mother raised her," she said. "We will not allow sexism, misogyny and patriarchy to hold us back ... We will not apologise for advocating for women everywhere."

She said that an apology should show a genuine attempt to recognise and repair the harm done. Instead, "he gave permission to use that language against his wife, his daughters, women in his community, and I am here to stand up to say that is not acceptable," Rep Ocasio-Cortez said.

"I want to express to Mr Yoho ... gratitude. I want to thank him for showing the world that you can be a powerful man and accost women. You can have daughters and accost women without remorse. You can be married and accost women."

The controversy began when Rep Yoho approached the New York lawmaker as she was making her way into the House to vote on Tuesday. A reporter for The Hill overheard his exchange, in which he called her "disgusting" for suggesting that poverty and mass unemployment has contributed to a spike in crime.

"You are out of your freaking mind," Rep Yoho told her, according to the outlet.

She responded by calling his remarks "rude" – he called her a "f***ing b****" as he walked away, The Hill said.

Asked about his remarks, Texas Rep Roger Williams, who walked alongside Rep Yoho, said: "I was thinking about some issues I've got in my district that need to get done."

On Thursday, Rep Ocasio-Cortez called on other Republicans, including Rep Williams, to condemn the Florida lawmaker's remarks.

"But why is this only happening from one party?" she said. "This should not be a partisan issue."

She also said that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, the body's chief Republican, has not discussed his remarks with her.

Massachusetts Rep Ayanna Pressley echoed that the exchange was not limited to "one callous incident" but speaks to the the "structural conditions" enabling men to "normalise the marginalisation of women."

Longstanding US Rep Barbara Lee, who is black, said she has endured a "lifetime of insults, racism and sexism".

"This did not stop after being elected to public office," she said. "Women of colour are here to stay ... The impact of using this language, against anyone, dehumanises women and girls."

She said the exchange should serve as an example to "all the little girls who aspire to be who they are without being called disgusting names and barriers to keep their voices silent."

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that "there's no limit to the disrespect or the lack of acknowledgement of the strength of women. Nothing is more wholesome for our government, for our politics, for our country, than the increased participation of women. And women will be treated with respect."

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