On behalf of YWCA Metro St. Louis, I want to express my outrage at the behavior of Florida Congressman Ted Yoho toward New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
To be clear about what I am addressing, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and a reporter overheard Rep. Yoho call Rep. Ocasio-Cortez “a f***ing b***h” on the steps of the Capitol. He was apparently incensed that she (like most academics) linked crime rates to economic marginalization. I am not shocked by the language. Many women, and particularly women of color, have been the target of misogynistic slurs. And we are inured to shrugging off these remarks. It is that common.
But Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, after hearing Rep. Yoho’s fake apology and false denial on the floor of the U. S. Congress, decided not to shrug it off. She called him out in a speech that resonated with millions of women and hopefully with many men. Rep. Yoho said that he has a wife and daughters, so of course, he could not have used that language. Our courts are full of men charged with far worse crimes who also have “wives and daughters.” Are they likewise innocent?
Rep. Ocasio-Cortez noted that she is two years younger than Rep. Yoho’s daughter and exposed his defense for what it was, a shield and an excuse. Her determination to ensure Rep. Yoho’s behavior was not condoned in the Halls of Congress, nor entered into the Congressional Record unchallenged, is important. Rep. Yoho’s remarks came on the steps of the U.S. Capitol and his “apology” went into the official record. Now, so have Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s remarks.
Hopefully, this will not become simply another political divide instead of what it should be: a call to action to all who identify as women, and those of all political beliefs, to no longer shrug it off and to support each other on this call for respect. Debate our politics, discuss our views, criticize our actions, but please disabuse yourself of the notion that behavior such as this incident will be tolerated in silence.
The mission of YWCA Metro St. Louis is eliminating racism and empowering women. Today, we stand with Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and every other woman who has been called names for doing her job, standing her ground, or holding to her beliefs.
Adrian E. Bracy is CEO of YWCA Metro St. Louis.