AOC Shellacking of Rep. Ted Yoho Shows How Little Progress Women Have Made

Even though Florida Representative Ted Yoho put a target on his back when he had the gall and cluelessness to use the House floor to double down on a cowardly attack on New York Representative Alexandria Ocacio-Cortez on the Capitol steps, I have to confess to being bothered by the acclaim for her speech putting him in his place. It’s been hailed as a model for women. My take is that if women have to be pitch perfect in order to score a win, we’ve made perilous little progress.

In case you managed to miss this contretemps, AOC was trundling up the Capitol steps for a vote when Yoho and his colleague, Texas Representative Roger Williams, were descending. As recounted in The Hill in Ocasio-Cortez accosted by GOP lawmaker over remarks: ‘That kind of confrontation hasn’t ever happened to me:

In a brief but heated exchange, which was overheard by a reporter, Yoho told Ocasio-Cortez she was “disgusting” for recently suggesting that poverty and unemployment are driving a spike in crime in New York City during the coronavirus pandemic.

“You are out of your freaking mind,” Yoho told her.

Ocasio-Cortez shot back, telling Yoho he was being “rude.”

The two then parted ways. Ocasio-Cortez headed into the building, while Yoho, joined by Rep. Roger Williams (R-Texas), began descending toward the House office buildings. A few steps down, Yoho offered a parting thought to no one in particular.

“Fucking bitch,” he said.

Even though Yoho has since tried to deny this account, first in his speech on the House floor, where he effectively tried to pass of the idea that as a husband and father, he didn’t use dirty words, and then later by claiming he said “fucking bullshit” and the reporter heard incorrectly, I have yet to see any evidence that Yoho has demanded a correction from The Hill.

AOC later provided more details:

Ocasio-Cortez was walking up the east front steps of the Capitol to cast a vote Monday afternoon when both Yoho and Texas GOP Rep. Roger Williams approached her as they were walking down the steps.

Yoho erupted at her instantly and kept “escalating the situation,” she said.

“Do you really believe that people are shooting and killing each other because they’re hungry? You know, You’re unbelievable. You’re disgusting,” Yoho said, according to Ocasio-Cortez, saying the Florida conservative was wagging his finger at her.

Ocasio-Cortez then said she “tried to calm him down, but he wouldn’t.”

“And then I just told him he was being rude and he got even more angry, when I called him rude,” she said.

If you read the full account, Representative John Williams also went off the deep end.

For your convenience, below are the dueling speeches, first from Yoho:

Needless to say, these remarks aren’t an apology. Yoho does not even own up to getting in AOC’s face, much the less calling her names. And the excuse that he didn’t say “fucking bitch” to her directly, or that AOC has no business opining about the social effects of poverty because Yoho was once poor and therefore knows better, is precious.

Now to AOC:

Needless to say, this was fine speech. Her presentation looked off the cuff, and she made her case concisely. She was explicit that she would have let Yoho’s confrontation pass had he not escalated by going to the House floor, a point too often lost in media coverage. She also displayed emotional range, getting a quaver in her voice when she mentioned her deceased father, then shifting to a steelier tone when she returned to Yoho’s offenses.

Her final charge, that men like Yoho brandish their status as family men as proof of character, is empty, that being a husband and father does not confer decency, indicted hoary yet still-firmly-entrenched notions of propriety. AOC’s observation vitiates the long-established conservative position that starting a conventional family is proof of maturity, respectability, and hence fitness to lead.

So what’s not to like? The problem I have is that the praise of AOC is effusive. That signifies that it is still exceptional in America for a woman to be able slap down a boorish but influential man. Only an unquestioned political talent like AOC can do so, and even then, she had to deploy the authority of her office.

AOC was also aided by class trappings: despite coming from a modest background and having worked in bars, AOC absorbed elite social skills (the posture of graciousness, the relaxed manner, the measured cadence of speech) during her time in private school, while Yoho, a hard core Tea Party Republican, apparently believes that he gets a free pass for being true to his views, which includes not just being opposed to abortion but also opposing making lynching a hate crime.

Look more carefully at what happened in the altercation. AOC is 5’4″ and small framed. I can’t find either Ted Yoho’s or Roger Williams’ heights, but Yoho is beefy and looks to be at least average male stature (5’10”) and probably taller. Two of them coming down the stairs, looming over AOC, would only increase the level of physical intimidation. And to make clear who was boss, Yoho got in AOC’s face and wagged his finger.

It is seldom discussed in polite company how much of much of male-female interactions revolve around women avoiding challenging men because the average man can beat the shit out of the average woman. Why do women smile so much? Make requests rather than give orders? Understate their incomes when they make more than their significant others? Even let men drive and otherwise pander to men’s manliness? Because they have been deeply indoctrinated to be afraid of pushing a man so far that he strikes out. Mind you, this isn’t just based on individual experience; in fact, I suspect only a minority of women have been hit by men growing up, and then that likely occurred in families when boy children would have been beaten too. It comes in the pressure on girls to be demure and not rowdy, in the ways girls are subtly discouraged from competing with men by excelling in science and math, and even in popular role modeling. For instance, I am now subjected to regular doses of TV crime shows. With the exception of NCIS LA, the female cops and agents are completely dependent on guns. Even with watching these shows out of the corner of my eye, I’ve seen way too many instances where female law enforcement officers wind up pleading with a male aggressor when they should have had the training to render him incapable of acting despite the women being smaller, slower, and weaker.1

In other words, the strong conditioning for women not to meet a male bully with anger, or even to get confrontational, limits their ability to respond effectively to dominance threats, even in situations where violence is not in the cards. It’s so hard to find real life examples that I’m forced to rely on a fictionalized account. In the movie Erin Brockovich, a biopic of sorts, Erin is portrayed as a corporate Pretty Woman: an attractive and super smart woman from the wrong side of the tracks who learns how to operate and rises as a result. Erin is transgressive, and early on wears trashy clothes and doesn’t understand basic office behavior. She’s also volatile and treated as borderline comical in how she blows up when confronted with bullying or pandering.

In this clip, our heroine has made considerable progress in learning the professional ropes but the old Erin comes roaring out when provoked. The attempt at dominance here is delivered by a woman but the power dynamics are the same as if a man were in charge. Notice how Erin interrupts her boss and takes over the meeting:

So the fact that AOC walked a not-sufficiently-well-recognized gender and power minefield successfully was the real reason her speech got so much notice. It’s sadly all too reminiscent of how women were viewed at McKinsey back in the stone ages of the 1980s. No matter how well a woman manager had done, when she approached the partner selection window, almost inevitably, doubts were voiced about her “style” which was code for “Can she build relationships with/sell to senior executives?” The presumed answer was always “no.”

Women nevertheless deemed to have potential were sent to Roger Ailes (yes, that Roger Ailes) for coaching. And despite the regular determination that women up for partner somehow didn’t have the magic “it” factor, most of the ones who left walked into jobs where they successfully sold to McKinsey-type executives. One woman even started a firm doing exactly what she had done at McKinsey and landed so much business that she had hired 24 people by the end of the first month.

Shorter: it should not be a headline event for a woman to dress down an asshole colleague, but it apparently is in America.

Actually, there is a real world counterpoint to the AOC-Yoho contretemps, and it comes from Australia. Despite the regular use of coarse speech down under, the flip side is Australians also tolerate directness from women better than Americans do. It is also worth noting that Australia has done a lot better on gender equity than the US. When I was in Sydney, in 2002 to 2004, public companies were required to have to have at least one woman director on their boards. And people in business, politics, and the press all agreed that the women directors were better than the men.

Similarly, Australia has made more progress with pay equity:

The key factoid embedded in that graph is that the highest gender pay gap in the last 20 years in Australia took place in November 2014, at 18.5%. As the data from the National Committee on Pay Equity shows, the best level the US has attained in the last 20 years, of a pay gap 20.4%, is worse that Australia’s worst performance. And this isn’t a matter of women having lesser credentials or focusing on family-friendly professions that are less well paid. A recent Bloomberg report on MD pay found that woman doctors made 14% to 20% less even in the highest paid specialities.

So even though I can’t explain why, the pay data alone attests that Australia is further along in achieving gender equity than the US.

Further confirmation comes via this speech by former Prime Minister Julia Gillard (oh yes, and Australia has had a female national leader too), in which she dressed down the smarmy head of the opposition, Tony Abbott. This speech has been voted the most unforgettable moment in Australian TV.

You’ll quickly observe that Gillard freely shows anger, but it’s a cold sustained fury, not a hot display that could easily be stereotyped as harpie-like. And despite using notes only to make direct quotes, you’ll also see she demonstrates her deliberateness and control through her use of rhetorical devices, particularly anaphora (“I was offended….I was offended”). Lambert correctly regarded her speech as a classic in the making when it was broadcast, and did a long-form, much discussed analysis. I hope you’ll take the time to read his post, since it also illustrates how Parliamentary debate shows our US legislative chatter to shame.

Gillard does not play a class card either. Her chewy Australian accent has no signs of elocution-buffing into plumminess; she’s also wearing merely nice lady manager attire, while the smirking Abbott’s suit looks finely tailored. In other words, Gillard didn’t have to wear power clothes to show her authority. She knows she has it. It’s too bad American women feel they have to send so many signals just right to be taken seriously.


1 The key is being trained to be disinhibited about inflicting trauma, like gouging someone’s eyes out, and then knowing what points on the body are vulnerable.

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  1. Expat2Uruguay

    De nada.
    It’s sad when women’s contributions are erased, and they don’t even get recognition or thanks.

  2. sd

    I’m an American woman now 60. In the course of my life, I have been hit 4x by men, one of whom was my father. And each time I was hit, it was for fighting back.

    It’s a steeper climb than appears.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I’m very sorry. I was never hit. I was once spanked with a belt (as well as sometimes by hand), but that was clearly punishment for misbehaving in school, and my father made that clear by setting a time and putting me over his knee, that the blows were not out of anger but discipline.

      I have a friend who was regularly hit by her father at dinner, along with her sister and brother, with little warning. She’s a recovered alcoholic. Brilliant and very successful professionally but sort of clueless as to how rough edged she is personally. Not many people in her shoes eventually land well. And the health costs for all her years of drinking have yet to show up.

  3. PlutoniumKun

    AOC deals with it brilliantly, but I wonder if Yolo will suffer electorally from this. Trumps success at brushing off his crudity seems to have empowered a lot of aggressive right wing men who previously would have at least pretended to be civil in public to women (or anyone else).

    It is odd how politics sometimes generates its own culture of abuse separate from general culture. Ireland shares Australia’s love of strong invective, but there is no way that an Irish politician would publicly attack other politicians verbally in the way Australians do. It’s just considered inappropriate. I suspect its down to the influence of electoral systems. The Irish proportional representation system means its very important that politicians don’t alienate voters (including those who support other parties) on a personal level, as voters always have a wider choice, they are not limited to ‘their side’ as they are when faced with a simple X in the box.

    1. voteforno6

      Yoho is retiring from Congress. If he ever runs for office again, this will probably be forgotten.

  4. JBird4049

    >>>“Do you really believe that people are shooting and killing each other because they’re hungry?
    You know, You’re unbelievable. You’re disgusting,” Yoho said, according to Ocasio-Cortez, saying the Florida conservative was wagging his finger at her.

    Representative Yoho might have been born poor, but I suspect that the man has had too many good meals since then. Nor taught manners. It’s only been about five months since the economic crash. Around 40% of the unemployed still haven’t gotten any unemployment. I suspect he couldn’t have his ideology defamed with facts.

    On violence, people do have very strong inhibitions to violence, but that’s of sane people, isn’t? Or maybe it is that like taxes, rules are for the little people.

    The choreography that sometimes leads to a fight to ensure that people really want to and to have a “fair fight.” People who break that dance and hit the woman, whip out the knife or a gun to fight, are dangerous to the social order.

    Then again, we have been seeing a lot of that recently, especially of the rule breakers either accusing their often victims of the same or lying about breaking those rules. Everything from Bernie Sanders’ campaign to George Floyd. Good way to break apart society and drive up violent crime. If the government can not be counted on fairly, or at least equally, maintain the King’s Peace, then that means that the community and the individual exclusive of the government government has to do so. And they don’t have jails. They do have fists, bats, knives, and guns. This is a reason why violence is so high in corrupt, oppressive societies.

    Not that I am saying that the political and legal establishments are corrupt and oppressive or anything…

  5. Nikki

    The Poison of Male Incivility When a woman dares respond to it, she’s seen as “disruptive.”
    By Rebecca Traister

    Excerpted: What is also true and unsaid here is the way in which degradation and dismissal of women — as disgusting, as crazy, but also as Jayapal’s examples remind us, as infantile, incompetent, irrational, and stupid — has been key to the building and maintenance of disproportionately male power in American political, economic, social, and sexual life. …But white male opportunism, whether in the form of aggressive insult displayed by Yoho this week, or merely accepting the advantages that broad systemic disrespect of others affords them, is rarely examined as the kind of active force that it has always been.

    Instead we are trained to recognize the reactions of those who are not white men to white men as some sort of useful path to power. We are told, in lots of ways, that people who are not white men get to play certain kinds of cards — race and gender cards — to get ahead, whereas white men just … get ahead. White male power is so assumed as to be wholly indistinguishable from what we simply recognize as “power,” and with it, the whispered implication that those with authority have somehow earned that authority fairly and squarely, while those who challenge authority and its abuses are wily manipulators.

  6. Nikki

    DId not recall that AOC attended a private high school. Quick check with Wikipedia,
    Yorktown Heights, a public high school is where she was a student– no mention of another

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      The post nowhere says she went to a private high school. She went to a private college and her high school was in a sufficiently affluent community as to be close to on a par to a private school. Student/teacher ratio of 13:1. High level of AP participation. Recall she won a science prize and got an asteroid named for her while at that school. However, second tier Ivies like Cornell and UPenn appear more popular with its grads than Harvard and Yale.

      The second high school I attended was like that, three tracks for English (an advanced as well as AP), foreign languages starting in 7th grade, AP science and math classes….in a graduating class of 160. My calculus class had five people in it. AP French had 11. At least two of the teachers I had had come from private schools.

      Having said that, it’s conceivable that she developed her manner of speaking much younger, particularly since her father was a professional, but I know parents in the NYC suburbs who explicitly chose their kid’s high school for them to acquire social skills as well as get educated. And I also know of people at Harvard who came from blue collar backgrounds yet were able to successfully learn to behave as if they were to the manor born in a remarkably short period of time. A Stanford undergrad contact who later went to Haas made an even bigger status jump, growing up in a family of migrant farmworkers. He too in a remarkably short period of time greatly improved his used vocabulary and his poise. He wound up in private equity.

      1. Nikki

        You wrote “…AOC absorbed elite social skills (the posture of graciousness, the relaxed manner, the measured cadence of speech) during her time in private school…” and when I see “private school” I always take this to mean high school, as would anyone else. Colleges which are private rather than public are also designated as colleges. I stand by my observation. Otherwise, your clarification above is really unnecessary as it mostly recaps what was stated in your essay.

  7. skippy

    Sadly Yoho was not upon his trusty force multiplier the horse, would have been more historically accurate, get in the car thingy …

    Anywho Gillard = barf for genuflecting to corporatists after putting the shiv in to the guy attempting to throw a spanner in Hayeks mob, but I’m Ellen and idpol is a great corporatist smoke screen – I can ride a horse too … just don’t fall off in front of the unwashed …

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I am not passing general judgment on either Gillard or AOC. I agree Gillard seems to come out of a Labour pattern right after I left Oz, of promising Shadow Ministers (first Rudd, then Gillard) coming a cropper when they became PM. But you have to concede that turning the mess of those Slipper texts to her/Labour’s advantage and whacking that smarmy Abbott was quite the move.

      As for AOC, readers have been critical of her of late, and I am hearing corroborating noises from DC contacts. The 50,000 foot version is that AOC was successfully pressured by Team Dem into dumping two key staffers who helped get her elected (one IIRC over alleged campaign improprieties, although that sort of thing is common, she was running a newbie campaign, and the usual outcome is a fine). Those staffers were solid on economic policy such as anti-monopoly and higher wages. Had Bernie stayed in the race and kept doing rallies (a huge counterfactual) her campaigning with him might have stiffened her spine on inequality issues. But my contacts are saying she’s gone full idpol, which is a real waste of her talent.

      1. Joe Well

        >>But my contacts are saying she’s gone full idpol, which is a real misuse of her talent.

        You can see that in her Twitter feed, especially her reaction to the infamous Letter.

        Still possibly the best member of Congress there is.

      2. PlutoniumKun

        Thats very sad if thats true. She is a hugely talented politician.

        Unfortunately, politically ‘Idpol’ is ‘easy’, while economics is difficult. I’m finding it increasingly depressing to see how many talented young politicians and activists are getting sucked into that cosy little dead end. My twitter this morning was full of invective at a local representative of mine, a very dedicated and hard working Green politician, who dared take an alternative stance. And all from supposed left wing activists.

          1. PlutoniumKun

            Yup, I don’t know where the Idpol term came from, but I get a headache just typing the words ‘identity politics’.

      3. Burns

        I thought the slide to idpol was apparent during the AOC-Pelosi spat last summer, when AOC said Pelosi’s was disrespectful for singling out the freshmen lawmaker women of color for criticism.

        It looked to me that Pelosi was trying to establish hierarchical authority as Speaker of the House over (outspoken and high profile) new Congressional members. Then she’s criticized as singling out people of color because AOC says stuff about her she doesn’t like?

        AOC couldn’t or didn’t want to address the merits of the criticism so she went for the cheap shot. Of course, when asked directly if she thought Pelosi was therefore a racist, she demurred and said no.

        Maybe Pelosi really was crossing the line with her criticisms but it’s such an easy way out to claim persecution and avoid addressing the criticism. I agree with many of AOC’s positions on inequality but that incident really took the shine off for me.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          I have to confess not following idpol debates since so much of it is a distraction from economic justice issues, which have a vastly more tangible impact on people’s lives. But even I dimly remember that row. And I agree that AOC misplayed her hand.

          1. JBird4049

            Idpol is used because it is such a fine distraction. It is insidiously effective when it is woven into economic justice issues with such proposals as reparations.

      4. JohnnyGL

        I’ve certainly seen it, as well. However, I feel the need to be forgiving. What passes for the left in congress has become so quickly and easily cowed during the recent crisis. Bernie’s refusal to apply any kind of public pressure on either biden or on the dems in congress has been incredibly frustrating.

        I think AOC tried to lay down a marker during the swift, undisputedly corrupt passage of the rotten CARES act, but she got ZERO support. She had to quiet down or find herself on an island. Even bernie crowed like a victor over the $600/week in unemployment benefits. This was like a tip for looking the other way while the robbers drove off with the loot.

        If you’re surrounded by such ‘allies’ that are content with collecting pocket change from felons…it’s hard to do the right thing. It’s probably tactical idiocy.

        1. Dirk77

          I had never heard AOC speak before. As a prepared speech – wow. I even learned some things. I had mentally given her a hard time about idpol and her vote in the first CARES act, but not anymore. As you say, the fact that such a person is having trouble making her way in the Blob says an awful lot. And about the state of this country. It also says a lot about Bernie who didn’t develop Stockholm Syndrome till this year.

      5. skippy

        I’m just cranky Yves and not taking issue with what you posted.

        Gillard was a know quantity from her legal days [shades of her asbestos gender contemporary in the LNP], so its just a bit of a sore spot, dragging the labour party even more economically too the right whilst making the party look in disarray to voters and how that all played out. Add on her and Joe Hockey’s footsie whilst she grandstands [legal court room practice] over the BBQ brawlers Abbotts knuckle dragging was a safe bet for burnishing her image, seems to have translated well for her in post public office employment.

        I mean this sums her up in my opinion –

        Upon taking over as leader of the Labor Party on 24 June 2010, Gillard said she could “assure” Australians that the Federal Budget would be in surplus in 2013.

        Fast forward and now Hillsong from marketing is stuck in economic purgatory over his own pink batts type of conundrum. Can’t deploy state money into government programs with long concrete benefits, so its funneled through business or individuals to support – create demand.

        I think our Queensland and the NZ PM are several notches above her in the discharge of their public duties. Guess Gillard can treat the symptoms of the economic disease she helped at beyond blue. AOC on the other hand is early days and one needs more time to marshal political clout before pushing against ingrained self serving forces. Yet one has to acknowledge that environment can change people over a protracted period and in some cases one has to leave to retain their ethical stance – been there and done that more than a few times.

        Thinking of you and yours – Cheers.

  8. GettingTheBannedBack

    I don’t think the situation with AOC is remotely like the Gillard situation. AOC had been publicly bullied and was due a right of reply.
    I’m probably the only person on the planet who voted for Gillard and thinks her misogyny speech was a cynical distraction. And yes the man she was addressing was and remains a terrible misogynist.
    But it just so happened that at the very same time she was doing her theatrical speech in the House of Representatives, her government was legislating in the Senate to throw a lot of single women with children into poverty by cutting their government benefits.
    Being cruel to be kind is pretty much how she rationalised it. She was targeting those who were in dire circumstances for whatever reason. Having sick or disabled children. Having physical or psychological issues. Victims of domestic violence as either children or adults or both. Force them to get jobs by cutting their government benefits. Where have I heard that before? Reagan? Thatcher?
    Call me cynical, but that sounds like a neoliberal to me. Not what I expected from a Labour government. And some of her government apologised later for this heartless legislation, but they never DID anything, like actually rolling it back. In the 1980s and 1990s the Hawke/Keating government actually made sure that the disadvantaged got benefits that were not poverty line. Gillard got her job by a palace coup and did one good thing in her tenure, and that was the Royal Commission into Child Abuse.
    But a staunch defender of women she was not.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I don’t mean to sound harsh, but your comment gives the very strong impression you didn’t read the post, or even the headline. It’s a violation of our site Policies to comment on a post without reading it in full. It comes off as if you saw Gillard’s name in the same post as AOC’s and reacted solely to that.

      This post is not even remotely about the virtues of AOC or Gillard as politicians. It is about what their manner of addressing bullies says about their respective societies as far as women displaying power, and anger in particular, is concerned. You even effectively say that AOC was on more solid ground in taking on Yoho than Gillard was in going after Abbott (true, given the awfulness of the Slipper texts), yet AOC made a careful, emotionally cautious presentation while Gillard did the rhetorical version of going after Abbott’s throat, albeit in a cold and controlled manner.

      The sincerity or lack thereof of their female solidarity is not what this post is about. It’s about how much tonal/emotional self-censorship they have to practice in when engaging in confrontation. Imagine how the press would have reacted if AOC had matched Yoho’s level of aggression by ripping him a new orifice on the Capitol Hill steps, which he frankly deserved. You would have likely seen not just gender-based slurs from many quarters but ethnic/class ones too. I personally think this would have engendered a very productive and revealing debate, but AOC would have had to deal with quite a lot of noise.

      And if you read Gillard’s speech, she did not make a general defense of feminist causes. She simply decried men verbally demeaning and bullying women. As John Dolan pointed out in the post we featured yesterday, the Victorians demonstrated that nice speech and upstanding conduct can be in separate universes.

      1. Mike Gualario

        Curious how come it is okay for AOC to call our President a Nazi, sounds like bullying to me, but she gets called a name and it all about women. Not sticking up for Yoho, but what makes what she does any different? Name calling is bullying right?

        1. Joe Well

          I did a quick web search and could find no instance of AOC calling anyone a Nazi. Link please.

          Fascistic tendencies, yes, she has said that, and I agree with AOC that some of Trump’s worst rhetoric has been in a fascist vein. Suggestions that police use violence against masses of protesters could have easily come from Mussolini or Franco or Salazar or Pinochet. The fact that Trump is a pathological liar who so far rarely backs up this kind of rhetoric with action does not change the fact that his statements risk normalizing actions that could end our democracy such as it is.

          1. Aumua

            Wait, Trump? Fascistic tendencies? Noooo surely you jest.

            Not to say that those aren’t going around in general these days.

      2. GettingTheBannedBack

        Ok I take your point. “Saint Julia” is a bit of a hot button issue for me it appears. I missed the gist of the article.
        Yes it is quite true, men are “forthright”, women are “ball breakers”. Men “take no prisoners”, women are “bitches” etc. But on the other hand, women who are “people people” are seen as weak, so says research I read. Lose/lose every which way, especially in high testosterone professions.
        AOC had to do something otherwise she would have appeared weak, and calling him out using her impressive social skills was exactly the right thing to do. But of course if a guy called out another guy for bullying, it might not have gotten effusive praise, it would have yeah, well he asked for it.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Thanks for taking the trouble to respond. One of the advantages of living in New York is that directness, which in the rest of the country is seen as aggressiveness, is a form of politeness since it keeps people from wasting their very scarce time. So women have more latitude to be ballsy than in the rest of the US. The same is true of Texas but Texas women soften their big personalities with big doses of humor. AOC is constrained by being on a national stage.

  9. Joe Well

    >>the strong conditioning for women not to meet a male bully with anger, or even to get confrontational, limits their ability to respond effectively to dominance threats,

    I am a man, but I’ve faced a lot of “dominance threats” as an American who’s lived in other countries interacting with the local professional classes (the global working class is consistently amazing, and the truly wealthy can be fun).

    I just wanted to add my own perspective.

    I certainly haven’t been conditioned to respond without aggression, but the asymmetrical warfare of these situations means I try to de-escalate, as AOC did, or if I can, just get out of them. What would have happened if the reporter had reported that both AOC and Yoho had said nasty things and gotten in each others’ faces? As a woman, AOC would have been judged more harshly.

    When you are living in another society, if someone insults/demeans/excludes, etc., you can’t respond in kind because unlike the bully you have no hope of a supportive audience. In almost every country (God bless the only exception I know of, Australia) people have all been indoctrinated from birth by their elites that they are victims of foreigners (never mind how they treat the immigrants to their country from even poorer nations), just like Americans have been indoctrinated that women should behave less aggressively than men.

    In a case like this, the Yoho’s insult is not trash talk, that is, it’s not an insult between equals. It is, instead, a gate-keeping action on the part of a member of an in-group (Congressmen in the case of AOC). And who knows if it wasn’t effective? Michael Tracey tweeted that he thought AOC was being a baby with her speech in Congress, and I wonder how many people believe the same, especially Republicans.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I just made a similar point in response to GettingTheBannedBack above. I also agree that men are regularly bulled by other men. Jeff Bezos is widely reported to regularly reduce adult men at Amazon to tears. Zuckerberg and Gates are major abusive jerks. LBJ was famous for lifting men up by their lapels when they weren’t on board with what he wanted.

      The fact that per very long standing studies at Harvard Business School, that pay is most highly correlated with height, is an indirect proof of the power of physical intimidation. Merely being tall enough to loom over other men (and women) confers career advantage.

      I don’t mean to go on overmuch about my experience, but I genuinely cannot relate to AOC’s assertion that every woman has had to deal with the sort of denigration by swearing/name calling to which she was subjected. I’ve only once seen the thought to punch me flash across a man’s face and I stared him down. I’ve never had a man swear at me (well, save when interceding in a domestic violence situation, and his swearing was an admission I had the better of him, so I was pleased to hear him rant) or behind my back.

      Mind you, I have been bullied mercilessly, in the nastiest imaginable terms, when growing up….by women. Repeatedly, as in every time I moved from age 8 to my teens. I even had a pack of girls daily walk all the way home with me, taunting me all the way over my bulk, my walk, and my hick clothes. This went on for months. My normally hands-off parents even attempted to get the school to stop it but they refused to intervene, claiming they could do nothing about student conduct off school premises.

      By contrast, I had gotten on well with boys even in my toddlerhood. I was also freakishly large when young, both in height and weight. I was the biggest until sixth grade, and the boy in that class who was taller than me really didn’t count since he’d been held back a year. Even though I was terrible at sports, the boys would sometimes let me play with them and not make fun of me, while girls’ phys ed was another torture.

      By virtue of being so large when I was young, I was never physically intimidated by boys. Being afraid of men isn’t part of my wiring. When I’ve had men engage in dominance displays that I am sure they were confident they’d win because they thought they could escalate and cow me, I somehow put on a face that stops them in their tracks. I have no idea what or how I do it (my guess is it conveys something like “Are you kidding?” which is so unexpected that puts them on pause). My father was of ordinary stature but sent a “Don’t fuck with me” vibe. I may have learned how to emulate that.

    2. a different chris

      >And who knows if it wasn’t effective?

      Effective how?

      Yes there are certain “gate-keeping” actions that people that make class divisions use. Swear words in public is the go-to at a construction site, but the f-bomb from a Congressman is precisely the opposite of the particular tools the upper classes use. As pointed out elsewhere on this blog just this week, the more powerful you are the quieter you are at putting the shiv in.

      I think this was the verbal equivalent of judo master taking on a street brawler. The Trumpkins are already fired up, so who cares if they are provoked more … in fact that’s probably a good tactic at this point per the judo analogy.

      We give way too much credit to the bullying Republican Party for its success, rather than realize it’s the cowardly Dems that allow it.

      1. Joe Well

        >>Effective how?

        In diminishing AOC in the eyes of certain people, like Michael Tracey, who regard any objection to bullying as a sign of weakness rather than strength (which it is). Also, in raising his profile right before he possibly moves on to a media or think tank or academia gig.

        >>the verbal equivalent of judo master taking on a street brawler

        The problem with the judo analogy is that the referees who decide who won the fight are all really, really biased, i.e., the hyper-partisan electorate.

        >>The Trumpkins are already fired up, so who cares if they are provoked more

        Yes, but in US politics, the goal is not necessarily to win, but to get a lot of campaign donations and shore up your position within one of the two parties. I don’t know enough about Republicans to know whether Yoho has hurt himself intraparty more than he’s helped himself.

        >>We give way too much credit to the bullying Republican Party for its success, rather than realize it’s the cowardly Dems that allow it.

        Yes, cowardly and often just complicit.

  10. a different chris

    Interesting metaphor here, BTW. The times they are a’changing:

    AOC was trundling up the Capitol steps for a vote when Yoho and his colleague, Texas Representative Roger Williams, were descending.

    And I wouldn’t worry about the “idpol” stuff too much yet, things ebb and flow and she needs to get Trump out and hopefully a lot of other Rethugs too so maybe she is tactically muzzling the other stuff until election day. (of course I wouldn’t worry because I can’t do family blog about it anyway!).

    PS: the unexpected discovery that our that our esteemed, professional classy blog host misbehaved so badly in childhood she got spanked(!) is the highlight of my week! :D .. as getting spanked is not what normally happens to girls since the bad things they do tend to be elusive Heatherish things, probably because society already has sent the frowny messages about “how girls behave” to them before their first day of school.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Oh, I was even expelled the first day of kindergarten (but that wasn’t what I was spanked for, my parents thought the expulsion was funny). I was deemed “the baddest girl I ever met” by one of the boys in class.

  11. David in Santa Cruz

    It is men who have failed to progress.

    I think that there has not been enough discussion around the origins of Dem IdPol as a reaction to GOP IdPol. AOC came on the scene with an articulate analysis of economic disparity and class. She must now operate in a country club full of class-privileged bullies who use verbal and physical intimidation — and casual lying — as markers of their elite status.

    I was brought to tears by AOC’s speech, but not because of the gender issue. I was angry because she had been placed in the position of having to call-out a grown man for standing up on the floor of the House and lying about his public behavior.

    Own your sh**, people.

  12. a different chris

    And here sadly is the exact opposite:

    Instead of telling him “shut up and yes we do expect you to do your (family blogging) job if necessary, your feelings are immaterial” she went all 1950’s female about it, trying to “soothe the savage beast” I guess.

    Not criticizing at all, it’s really hard for anybody to face down somebody with “authoritah”, let alone your average American female given the culture.

  13. flora

    I’m not sure whether Yoho’s boorish comments reflect how little progress women have made… or how much. Seriously. I still remember the Anita Hill hearings when a group of (4?) women testified as a group their objections to the Thomas nomination, and gave brief, on point reasons for objecting. Sen. Strom Thurmond, then on the Judiciary Committee holding the hearings, during his question time said basically,” I want to thank the ladies for their interest in this matter. And may I say they all look lovely. No questions.”

    That was as courtly and polite a dismissal of women in a ‘mans place’ as I’ve ever seen. Strom believed women had a ‘place’ in the US and believed they would never move out of that ‘place’; to him, women’s views were irrelevant in matters of politics. Things have immensely improved for women compared to 30 years ago, although that’s sometimes hard to see in the daily grind. Yoho obviously doesn’t think Ocasio-Cortez is politically irrelevant. That’s progress.

  14. Dick Swenson

    Rep Yoho spoke as if he brought himself up by sheer hardwork in a land of opportunity. Frankly, that sounds like a deep pile of bs. I wonder just what part of his history of “realizing the American dream” is true.

    First, it would be interesting to know his current net worth. Second, it would be interesting to know just how he earns his high salary as a poltician. How much time does he spend actually “legislating?” I haven’t a clue what that word means, but I wonder how many hours he spends in his office that are not devoted to fund raising. If we had a pay for performance principle in place for the Congress, how much is he and others truly worth?

    I would like to suggest that everyone in Congress, the Executive, and the Judiciary take a pay cut to (at most) $150,000 (gross) while the Republicans and Democrats take a breather and devise a way to cooperate on easing the burden we (citizens) put on all those who are actually working in the medical, educational, and general service areas to provide us with their labor while we try to do what is right to mitigate the Covid-19 spread.

    I am an old white guy who has had an immense amount of luck in my career. I am not wealthy but by simply being in the right place at the right time am capable of not having to worry about financial survival. This is not true of the majority of the rest of working Americans. We should be embarrassed when we cannot express a bit of humility and thanks for our good luck.

    Our Federal politicians and their minions should be taught the value of humility.

    1. flora

      It would be interesting to compare a pol’s net worth upon entering Congress to his/her net worth while in Congress, say, ten years later. ;)

  15. Susan the other

    “…like gouging out someone’s eyes and then going for the vulnerable places.” My husband always gave me that advice. He’s an old brawler himself. I was however never threatened. Might have something to do with my size. I’m as big an the average man give or take an inch or two. Not that I haven’t been summarily ignored by men in positions of power – it’s a mutual admiration society all focused on payback and ego protection. Women don’t play by those rules. I watched AOC give her speech and I looked at the misery of Yoho, wishing he could crawl under his desk. Yoho should be censured by Congress. He has made an example of himself and the Republican Party as clearly unacceptable. That doofus even broke all the male rules.

  16. juno mas

    I’ll just say that when AOC was elected to the House and the conservative pundits dismissed her as merely a bartender, they made a very big mistake. She is an educated, talented communicator with courage and conviction. Supreme characteristics for an elected Representative.

  17. Roquentin

    I’d like to make a case that what seems off about the AOC incident is less her actions (good for her, as far as that goes) and how it is cynically being capitalized upon and broadcast by the resistance liberal crowd. I think of the infamous and almost certainly fictional Warren/Sanders exchange where she claimed he told her a woman couldn’t be president. I’ve read a great deal of your writing over the years, and you are no fool and have a keen sense for cynical manipulation and pandering. I think it goes a long way towards explaining why you’ve been immune from so many absurdities that have possessed the liberal hive mind.

    I like AOC, as far as that goes, but I feel as though she geys praise from the establishment for all the wrong reasons. I think you’re sensing that too.

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