Earlier this week, Florida Republican Congressman Ted Yoho called New York Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez a "f**king b*tch" on the steps of the Capitol. Fellow Republican Roger Williams of Texas stood beside Yoho and watched it happen, but did nothing to stop or reprimand Yoho.
According to Williams, he was too busy thinking.
AOC was quick to call Yoho out on his behavior, as were others who overheard the exchange. Several key government and public figures—even those who have been outspoken AOC critics in the past—were just as eager to decry the behavior. So was the general public.
Yoho eventually made a statement where he didn't apologize, but denied that he called her anything at all. According to him, he said the words but he didn't say them directly to her.
He also brought up his wife and daughters and how much he loved his family. And Christianity. And America.
He also used family to try and distance himself from his actions.
"Having been married for 45 years with two daughters, I'm very cognizant of language."
His logic dictates that, because he has a wife and daughters, Yoho is too aware of how words impact women to have called AOC anything directly. Ted Yoho then blamed his rage filled outburst on his deep love of God.
The closest he came to an actual apology was saying he was sorry if some people took what he said and thought he said it to AOC—doubling down on the "I said it, but not TO her, so it doesn't count" narrative.
Media outlets called it "A master-class in how not to apologize."
Rather than accepting the fauxpology, AOC took to Twitter to explain in detail why it was actually a non-apology and why people should never be taught to accept that sort of dismissal.
- Does not apologize or name any action he did - Does not accept responsibility - Lies (this was not a “conversatio… https://t.co/vupdgPyRZd— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez)1595432997.0
She could have left things there, but instead AOC decided to use the incident as a teaching moment. She took her time speaking from the House floor to deliver some more thoughts on Yoho's behavior and how it reflects a systemic issue.
She started out by making it clear that she did not expect nor actually want an apology from Yoho. He already had his chance and made it clear to everyone that he didn't actually want to apologize and that was fine.
She certainly wasn't going to lose sleep waiting for a meaningless apology from a man who didn't want to give one. In fact, she was going to ignore the whole thing until Yoho brought it up in his speech.
The fact that he tried to use his wife and daughters as some sort of excuse or defense spurred a response from AOC. How could he use women as his defense for his terrible disrespect towards a woman?
She slayed the idea that Yoho was a "decent man" just because he had a wife and daughters.
"This issue is [about] a culture of accepting violence and violent language against women, and an entire structure… https://t.co/zyfAIFLSmB— Robert Reich (@Robert Reich)1595550139.0
She spoke for close to ten minutes, but it's these snippets that have gotten the most attention.
"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. You can take photos, and project an image to the world of being a family man, and accost women, without remorse, and with a sense of impunity. It happens every day in this country."
"I am someone's daughter, too. Thankfully, my father is not alive to see how Mr. Yoho treated his daughter. My mother got to see Mr. Yoho's disrespect of me on the floor of this House, 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."
"This harm that Mr. Yoho levied – tried to levy – against me, was not just an incident directed at me. But when you do that to any woman, what Mr. Yoho did was give permission to other men to do that to his daughters."
"In using that language, in front of the press, 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."
"I do not care what your views are. It does not matter how much I disagree, or how much it incenses me or how much I feel that people are dehumanizing others, I will not do that myself. I will not allow people to change and create hatred in our hearts."
"And so 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. 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."
Her words strongly insinuated that Yoho could not, in fact, call himself a decent man until he took responsibility and genuinely changed his behavior. She didn't stop at just Yoho, though.
AOC took Williams to task as well. Not because she needed him to defend her, but because him choosing to be a bystander and participant showed that the issue isn't just men like Yoho. The issue is also the countless "decent men" who do and say nothing (or join in but to a lesser degree, sometimes trying to add levity) about harassment and disrespect towards women.
She took aim at the pattern, not the people.
"Mr. Yoho was not alone, he was walking shoulder to shoulder with Rep. Roger Williams and that's when we start to see that this issue is not about one incident, it's cultural. It is culture of lack of impunity, of accepting of violence and violent language against women and an entire structure of power that supports that."
"Because not only have I been spoken to disrespectfully, particularly by members of the Republican party and officials of the Republican party, not just here but the President of the United States last year told me to go home, to another country with the implication that I don't even belong in America."
"The governor of Florida, Governor DeSantis, before I was even sworn in, called me a 'whatever that is.' Dehumanizing language is not new. And what we are seeing now is that incidents like these are happening in a pattern. This is a pattern of an attitude towards women and dehumanization of others."
Twitter is seriously impressed.
Whether they agree with her views or not, people have to admit she handled Yoho gracefully, powerfully, eloquently, and with a mind towards fixing the actual issue.
Sexism permeates our culture—and members of Congress are not immune. Thank you @AOC for that powerful speech and… https://t.co/9biT4H72eT— Kamala Harris (@Kamala Harris)1595525292.0
@AOC Thank you @AOC. You are amazing and I am proud to serve with you ♥️— Deb Haaland (@Deb Haaland)1595559428.0
There's a lot going on, but there's a reason @AOC's speech today on the House floor is resonating. She says what fo… https://t.co/uMiL98s1yd— Dan Rather (@Dan Rather)1595524183.0
@HereticalStoic @SawyerHackett @nycsouthpaw @AOC @RepTedYoho +1; AOC's point is really a good one. The issue wasn't… https://t.co/yXMPX3Kimn— Tom_b (@Tom_b)1595526003.0
@RBReich @AOC I don’t need it to sink in. I have known this for as long as I can remember. I know it not because I… https://t.co/kYOwptEOFF— enufs-enuf (@enufs-enuf)1595552092.0
@GreenProphet68 @SawyerHackett @vanderDonkCarin @AOC @RepTedYoho THIS is the problem. He is around women who do not… https://t.co/XkdudkFo5U— Kimberly (@Kimberly)1595517160.0
@thewildriverdog @SawyerHackett @ZaackHunt @AOC @RepTedYoho Agree or Disagree with her, one thing she is amazing at… https://t.co/ohr21g3SwA— nthny (@nthny)1595521549.0
Misogyny has no place in Congress.
Or anywhere else.