Passion and the Patriarchy, a Dangerous Cocktail

Yoho called AOC out of her name, and we all can draw strength from her clapback

Screencap of AOC addressing Yoho’s remarks.
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez responds to remarks made by Representative Ted Yoho. Photo: House Television/Associated Press

It’s been a week since Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was called out of her name by her colleague Rep. Ted Yoho. It’s been four days since she took to the House floor and provided the most elegant clapback that eviscerated Yoho’s paltry excuse for an apology and explained why his “I’m a husband and father” respectability politics don’t matter anymore.

Building on the tireless and oftentimes silent sacrifices of our grandmothers and mothers, today’s women just aren’t having it anymore.

“I could not allow my nieces, I could not allow the little girls I go home to, I could not allow victims of verbal abuse and worse to see that, to see that excuse and to see our Congress accept it as legitimate and accept it as an apology,” Ocasio-Cortez told her peers.

AOC uttered these words because Yoho had the audacity to say such awful things about her, and she knew she couldn’t allow little girls and women alike to think she (and they) must just sit back and take it. “You’re disgusting.” “You’re out of your mind.” “F***ing bitch.” After his comments were overheard by a Hill reporter and outrage on social media ensued, Yoho took to the House floor last week to provide an excuse for his repulsive behavior. He said that he was “passionate” and has a “wife and daughters” and is “cognizant of my language.”

When he was caught up in a scandal, he relied upon the Republican playbook of pseudo respect. But this playbook is old and tired. Being a father does not erase one from being disrespectful. Do you know how many men have wives and daughters and disrespect women on a regular basis? Donald Trump has two daughters, and that hasn’t stopped him from saying how he can “grab a woman by the p**sy.” Some want to believe that Yoho is “just” a manifestation of Trumpism, and if not for the rise of the misogynist in chief, this Republican man would still be a gentleman, except that notion is completely and totally false.

The Republican Party as a whole has never respected women, just take a look at their policies. Since Roe v. Wade was decided, they have been trying to remove a woman’s right to choose. They create legislation like vaginal probes that serve no medical purpose except to humiliate women seeking abortions. They have voted against the Violence Against Women Act, which protects women from all forms of abuse. They have consistently denied the Equal Pay Act, which would provide women equal pay for equal work and make it illegal to pay women less than their male counterparts for doing the same job. They offer no legitimate policies that would ease the strain of working mothers like financial assistance with childcare. The fact that women succeed at all in this country is a wonder given that most women work under duress — and if you are a woman of color like Ocasio-Cortez, then you are forced to consistently deal with the one-two punch of misogyny and racism.

It was amazing that Yoho has the audacity to say he won’t apologize for his “passion” when modern-day women of color are not even allowed to show emotion — let alone passion — without the trope of the “angry Black woman” or “spicy Latina” being thrown their way. We have reason to be filled with (at times) suffocating rage, and yet we must look as unbothered as Mother Theresa, Buddha, Allah, or Jesus while White men are able to scream with impunity. Need a refresher? Brett Kavanaugh got emotional at his confirmation hearing, so did Sen. Lindsey Graham during the impeachment hearing, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo went off on an NPR reporter. What all of these incidents have in common is the rage was directed at women in power for having the audacity to take up space. The desire of the Republican Party has always been to limit the power of women. Why? Because modern-day Republicans operate from a scarcity ideology. If purposefully placed obstacles are removed from the pathway of White women and women of color, then what does that leave for White men? You see, White men have never had to compete with anyone other than other White men — that is how White supremacy and patriarchy were set up — for their sole benefit.

If we don’t make it a point to haul every bad actor to the front of the room and admonish them and hold them accountable for their behavior, the toxicity doesn’t only persist, it grows like wildfire.

White women in power and women of color in power disrupt this White male worldview. We hold the same positions as them, (in many spaces) have more prominence than them, and excel more than they do, and this is all an affront to their belief in White male dominance. AOC and the blue wave of women of color that struck the Hill in the 2018 midterms sent these men spinning and spitting with rage. Now it’s 2020, and they are still mad, but they might as well get ready because we won’t be backing down.

Yoho ain’t new to this; he is true to the realities of toxic White masculinity. He was exhibiting what the good ol’ boys have been legislating and saying in their “men’s only gentlemen clubs” for eons. The difference now is that we no longer sweep these insidious comments and actions under the rug under the premise that “boys will be boys” or it was “just locker room talk.” What we understand to be true is that sleeping dogs do not just lie, they multiply, and if we don’t make it a point to haul every bad actor to the front of the room and admonish them and hold them accountable for their behavior, the toxicity doesn’t only persist, it grows like wildfire. In this case, Ocasio-Cortez’s response was the fire extinguisher:

Having a wife does not make a decent man. Treating people with dignity and respect makes a decent man. And when a decent man messes up, as we all are bound to do, he tries his best and 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.

There will be no more excuses for White male rage. There will be no more “moving on” after deep disrespect. If we want to shift culture and make the road a little less steep for the next generation of powerful women, then we must do what the congresswoman did — speak up and out with deep passion and conviction and teach people how to treat us moving forward.

is the host of #WokeAF & #PMMood & co-host of the podcast #democracyish. She covers all the news and happenings at the intersection of politics and pop culture.

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