ALexandria Ocasio-Cortez uses social media with a fluency that is still rare in politicians. She is comfortable online; neither thoughtless nor conspicuously self-conscious. She regularly answers voter questions on Instagram Live as she cooks dinner; she peppers her language with ancient jargon. AOC is a savvy media figure, but the effects of live broadcasts are to make him seem less like a polished public person and more like a plausible person, someone you can imagine talking to in real life. He’s close to power, but he doesn’t seem to have decided that his power comes at the cost of his personality. That part of her – her humanity and frankness, her familiarity and sympathy – makes it seem that she achieves, in broadcasting, something impossible for politicians, and above all impossible for women: she is in power, but she also reminds you of people. that you know.
On Monday night, after making several public allusions to the severity of his experience, AOC took to Instagram Live to describe his experience of the attack on the Capitol on January 6. He spoke of hiding in his office while the mob entered the Capitol; he hid behind the door in a bathroom while listening to people ransacking the rooms outside. Someone entered the bathroom where she was hiding, her face on the other side of the door behind which she was hiding. At one point, a voice called out, “Where is she? Where is she? “She turned out to be a Capitol police officer, but did not identify himself; Ocasio-Cortez describes feeling ambivalent and unsure about who she was and why she was really there.
Eventually, she escaped and ended up barricaded in the office of Representative Katie Porter, from California, and later moved into the office of Representative Ayanna Pressley, from Massachusetts. He spoke several times of how he feared the marauders might attack, and the intelligence he was receiving from security personnel was mixed with his own eager imagination. If he turned the corner of the corridor, would an insurrectionary mob with weapons appear? If bombs were found a block away, did that mean the building she was sitting in could explode? It is clear from his account that at various times during the day he thought he was going to die.
The depiction of these events in the broadcast – the terror and trauma AOC recounted, the frankness with which he detailed his growing fears of bombs and guns – would have been remarkable by now. But early in the broadcast, when she described her frustration with Republicans calls to come out of the insurrection, she revealed something else: “I am a survivor of sexual assault,” she said, the first time she made that disclosure publicly. “The reason I say this and the reason I get emotional right now is because these people telling us to move on, that it’s no big deal, that we should forget what happened, or even tell us to apologize.” . she said. “These are the tactics abusers use.”
Acknowledging common rhetorical strategies used by both Republicans eager to downplay attack and perpetrators of GBV eager to avoid accountability for their treatment of women, AOC echoed feminists who compared behavior each increasingly hostile and reckless of Donald Trump in the last two months of his career. It ends a pattern common to domestic abusers, who are known to increase their violence in the weeks immediately following the breakdown of their victim’s relationship.
The comparisons have been criticized for creating what is seen as a false equivalence, or for allegedly trivializing political instability and constitutional crises in the language of domestic struggles. But recognizing a pattern is not the same as drawing an equivalence, and AOC is correct in his observation that the rhetorical strategies used by Republicans: denying their own crime, attacking victims for accountability, and pretending that the true crime has been committed against them – they are the same strategies deployed by other tyrants, whether political or domestic, who seek to defend other unjust and dangerous systems of power. She went on to explain that she knew she would be ridiculed and disbelieved for her revelations, and that this was also part of the harm the Republicans were doing to her: denying and minimizing her experience. The disbelief and rejection of those who have experienced trauma, he says, is an additional injustice of its own.
The revelation that she had been sexually assaulted and feared for her life on Capitol Hill was the most powerful and personally dangerous way in which AOC has brought a female perspective to her position as one of the most visible and controversial members of Congress. . And this is also remarkable: AOC’s willingness to describe times when she felt vulnerable and scared, such as when she was mugged or when she hid from the insurrectionary mob, even from her place of power as a politician. Perhaps the most surprising thing about the AOC broadcast was her willingness to admit that she had been scared, that she had been hurt, without allowing the idea that this somehow undermined her claim to power.
Vulnerability and power rarely go hand in hand, and certainly not with women politicians. Of course, “Vulnerability is strength” has become the kind of kitschy post-feminist catchphrase, the kind that is likely to be embroidered on a cushion or printed on the label of an herbal tea bag. But it is not something that many people act as they think. Traditionally, the image of power, and in particular of female power, has consisted of the forced and strictly disciplined erasure of any evidence of vulnerability; the steely gaze, the emotionless determination, the stiff chin. By admitting fear, admitting her vulnerability, admitting that she went into hiding to save her life and having been a survivor of an assault, AOC showed that she was unwilling to admit that female vulnerability is incompatible with the dignity of power. Refusing to separate those two was a demonstration of her feminist vision, a gesture of what a kind of authentic power could be.
While his sexual assault disclosure undoubtedly attracted much of the media attention, the true purpose of the AOC broadcast was to hold the Republican members of Congress who incited and may have aided the attack on Capitol Hill to account. “Accountability is about creating security,” he said. It was her actions that caused the trauma inflicted on her and others; their actions that had incited violence and ultimately indirectly led to several deaths. “The violence needed someone to tell the lie,” AOC said, referring to the false claims, made by Trump and fanned by Republicans. “They knew that these violent people needed the lie. Because it would be to their advantage, they chose to lie. “
That lie, the malicious, opportunistic and spiteful lie that hurt her and so many others directly, and that hurt the nation irreparably, could not go unpunished, she argued. Because the impunity of the people who lied would amount to complicity in their conduct, to granting them permission to do the same, or worse, again.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism