Florida Representative Ted Yoho made headlines this week when he called Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez “crazy” “disgusting” “dangerous” and a “f**king bi**h.” He later issued an apology and mentioned he was a father and husband. Using women as shields when confronted with his disrespectful behavior led AOC to deliver a powerful, nearly 10-minute takedown of the culture of acceptance of men disrespecting women.
For AOC, it wasn’t just an affront to her, it was an insult to all women who have had to deal with this in some capacity. His comments weren’t particularly hurtful or piercing to her because this “language is not new,” the 30-year-old said recalling her time waiting tables, taking the subway, or simply walking the streets of New York City.
“What I do have issue with is using women, our wives and daughters as shields and excuses for poor behavior,” she said on the House floor. AOC mentions that her mother had to witness that behavior toward her and it was Yoho’s tired excuse that led her to speak up.
“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.”
The very fact that it wasn’t something new for her or any other woman is the real problem she wanted to address: The “culture of lack of impunity” where violence and violent language against women is accepted. The list of men who have insulted her include President Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. This culture of power for men perpetuates the mistreatment and dehumanization of women.
The excuse of being a husband and father when it comes to attempting to make amends for disrespectful behavior is an indication of their ignorance and sense of impunity. Much like someone accused of being racist saying they have friends of color, their proximity to the people they disrespect does not erase or excuse their disrespectful behavior.
“Having a daughter does not make a man decent, having a wife does not make a decent man,” she said, “Treating people with dignity and respect makes a decent man.”