Ocasio-Cortez on Being Hunted

For 88 minutes on Instagram I watched Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez talk about what she experienced at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

As she spoke, emotionally and sometimes scattered, I felt myself tear up a few times. The idea of hiding from danger in one’s own workplace hit me strongly. The questions about who to trust felt unthinkable, yet clearly it was her reality in the moment. A Capitol officer never identified himself as such — whose side was he on? With pounding on her office door, screams of “Where is she?” and her body crouched, she wondered if this was how it would all end.

Later, sheltering with Rep. Katie Porter in her office, Ocasio-Cortez’ dread of having worn high heels that day landed on me with familiarity. I had been afraid to wear heels into Manhattan for months after September 11th because I needed to be able to run.

This Congresswoman was one of the hunted on Jan. 6. Please take a moment to ask yourself why.

Because she backs Medicare for All? Because she helped create the Green New Deal? Because she holds progressive beliefs?

Because Tucker Carlson’s unhealthy obsession with her caused her popularity to skyrocket — even among Democrats who had never heard of her — the moment she was elected to Congress? Because Carlson’s laser focus spawned an unhealthy scrutiny of her that extended to other right-wing media until Trump supporters were worked into a frenzy? Because they decided that she was now the official representative of Democrats and thus labeled her and the party “the radical left” as if it was a monolith and as if wanting equality for all is a radical concept? Because they needed another “enemy” for their audience aside from illegal immigrants and Black Lives Matter?

Because she’s young, attractive, accessible? Because she doesn’t hesitate to express herself? Because her proposals are based in strong beliefs and values and she knows how to defend her positions? Because her constituents like her?

Because she’s female?

What ever happened to respectful disagreement and letting the process play out?

As I watched that Instagram video, part of me reverted to that person who grew up in the patriarchal mindset. I wondered why she would let herself be that publicly vulnerable because wouldn’t it hurt “the cause” of women?

But then I slammed on the brakes. Dammit, isn’t it time we normalized the female experience? When do we get to set the tone of the national conversation?

Now. Now is the time.

And you know what? We can hold a lot of thoughts at once.

We can love all the colors of the coats at the presidential inauguration and still care about legislation. I am one of those women who opted out of parenthood, but all around me I see women working and speaking up and being activist and still managing to get the toddler’s breakfast and make sure the fridge is stocked and get another kid to the dentist.

And so why in hell can’t Rep. Ocasio-Cortez share her traumatic experience and still be a vital spokesperson and generator of important ideas? Isn’t it furthering “the cause” if we bring the very essence of womanhood to the forefront and do things our way instead of adapting to a long-standing male model? Does their way seem strong 100 percent of the time? Don’t we owe it to the women carrying the torch to let them be who they are and not apologize for it?

I’m embarrassed to admit that for a few minutes in my head I was asking this respected member of Congress to act like a man.

This is at the heart of why some of us get all goofy happy over representation in government. It’s not about patting ourselves on the back for having “token” genders, races, ethnicities, etc. We don’t want just any candidate with a vagina to be elevated; we want a qualified one who has potentially lived some of our experience when the day-to-day debates on issues get going.

And guess what? On the whole, women like to share emotional experiences. It’s how we bond. It’s how we process. Instead of decrying the emotional and making it a weakness, let’s let women like Rep. Ocasio-Cortez make it a strength. It’s not limited to women, by the way. How about we open a door to all the humans who want to bring that kind of authenticity to their jobs?

It was refreshing to see candidate Joe Biden show us his vulnerability on the campaign. It was part of his appeal. He has survived a lot and many of us needed to hear that right now.

His ability to talk about his speech impediment made it more interesting when inaugural poet Amanda Gorman spoke of hers. As a Baby Boomer, I am consistently striving to adjust my lens on the world and push past things that would have tripped me up when I was younger. For us to grow, we must drop the notion of perfection.

Maybe you watched Rep. Ocasio-Cortez sharing her experience in that video and simply heard a woman relating her story. I am proud to have gotten there after an initial hiccup. A survivor of sexual assault was in a position of great danger on what should have been an average workday. Her understanding that it was imperative for others to get the gravity of the day is what makes her stand out.

On better days she is teaching other members of Congress how to use social media more efficiently. Her generation knows how to live out loud, for better or worse. She in particular is not about fronting or being a vacuous influencer. What she’s advancing — agree or disagree — are real ideas and she’s sharing genuine struggles and meaningful victories.

She does it so well and to such effect that she is now among the hunted in our government. All because she’s doing what she was elected to do, deliver for her constituents.

How horrid. Off with her head.

Originally published at http://unfetteredexpression.com on February 3, 2021.

Columnist, Blogger, Author, Coach in the Greater NYC area. Six-word bio: Zen chick with a Jersey edge. Favorite topics: gender, politics, race, meaning of life.

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