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Will Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s speech end the ‘daughter excuse’ for good?

July 24, 2020, 12:48 PM UTC

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Susan Pompeo is a powerful force at the State Department, Taylor Swift drops a surprise quarantine album, and AOC delivers a speech for the ages. Have a wonderful weekend.

– 🔥🔥. Something tells me you have already seen the video of the speech Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez gave on the House floor yesterday. But, please—do not let that stop you from watching it again!

To recap: After reportedly calling AOC a “f***ing bitch” on the steps of the Capitol, Rep. Ted Yoho offered a non-apology apology, saying he was sorry for the “abrupt manner” of their exchange, but insisting that he never engaged in “offensive name-calling” and that as a man with a wife and daughters he was “very cognizant of my language.” 

In response, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez set the House on fire—well, rhetorically, anyway! In that moment on the steps with Rep. Yoho, she says, she represented every congresswoman, and in fact every woman, “because all of us have had to deal with this in some form, some way, some shape, at some point in our lives.”

AOC was clear that she’s no delicate flower, unable to handle the abuse. “But what I do have issue with is using women, our wives and daughters, as shields and excuses for poor behavior,” 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 on the floor of this House towards me on television. I am here because I have to show my parents that I am their daughter and they did not raise me to accept abuse from men….What I believe is that 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.”

I’m not quite sure when or how it became a thing that having a mother, sister, wife, or daughter proved that a man could not possibly be a misogynist, sexist, sexual harasser or whatever else he might have been accused of—but I’m sure ready for it to come to an end. It’s wonderful to hear that these men have loving relationships with some women—but that fact in no way reflects on their relationships with the other 50% of the world’s population. And indeed, I have to believe that someone who would use this kind of language toward his own colleague must, at heart, believe there’s some fundamental difference between the humanity of the women he’s invoking as a defense, and the ones he deems worthy of attack.

Whether you agree with her politics or not, there’s a lot to love about AOC’s barnburner of a speech. Let’s hope her message resonates far beyond Congress and is heard by any man who tries to hide behind his female family members as a call to come out and do what Rep. Yoho has refused to do: take responsibility.

Kristen Bellstrom

Today’s Broadsheet was curated by Emma Hinchliffe


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"We saw this problem coming."

-Rep. Lauren Underwood on the women elected to Congress in 2018, and their efforts on paid family leave, health care, and other issues that have come to the fore during the pandemic