People Very Mad About Thing AOC Didn't Actually Say, As Usual
There is nothing that strikes terror into people's hearts like an overly ambitious woman. Or a woman who is perceived to be overly ambitious. Or a woman who talks too much. Actually, when I really think about it, there's really not a great way to be a woman in this world without scaring the pants off of anyone. If there is, I sure haven't figured it out yet.
Perhaps that is why CNN decided that the headline for an upcoming interview with Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, wherein she says she's focused on what she's doing now, and not on planning the next steps of her political career, ought to be "Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez does not rule out 2022 challenge to Chuck Schumer."
In some ways it was probably a clever decision, because it sent a whole lot of people who failed to read the entire article right off the goddamned rails on Twitter, feeding into their ideas of AOC as a nefarious political Elizabeth Taylor femme fatale coming for what rightfully belongs to Debbie Reynolds.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez does not rule out 2022 challenge to Chuck Schumer. For more Watch Being…AOC 9p tomorrow (M… https://t.co/1TyXjxYK46— Dana Bash (@Dana Bash) 1628433928.0
Responses included cries that she was looking for attention and purposely causing drama, calling her "Always On Camera," and expressing anger over the fact that the mere threat that she might run was probably why Schumer has been "tweeting crazy cancel student debt stuff."
Reading that headline alone, it probably is fair to assume that AOC, possibly while wearing the Sharon Stone Basic Instinct dress, brought this up herself as a direct shot to Schumer, slyly hinting that he was next on her hit list of sweet, innocent pragmatic Democrats to take out and destroy. In reality, that is not even sort of what happened. While it's true that she did not "rule out" running against Schumer, she also did not "rule out" becoming Queen of England, going to the moon or quitting politics entirely in order to represent the United States on the 2022 Olympic curling team.
Bash asked her if she was planning on challenging Schumer in 2022, and this is what she said:
"I know it drives everybody nuts. But the way that I really feel about this, and the way that I really approach my politics and my political career is that I do not look at things and I do not set my course positionally," Ocasio-Cortez told Bash in "Being...AOC," the first episode of the new CNN series "Being..." that airs Monday night at 9 p.m. ET.
"And I know there's a lot of people who do not believe that. But I really -- I can't operate the way that I operate and do the things that I do in politics while trying to be aspiring to other things or calculating to other things," she said in an interview in her district in late June.
She then followed that up with
For what it's worth, Senator Schumer and I have been working very closely on a lot of legislation and that, to me, is important.
When asked later about her future presidential ambitions, she said pretty much the same thing.
As to whether she might have ambitions that go beyond the Senate, and all the way to the White House, Ocasio-Cortez told CNN that looking that far into the future, for now at least, would compromise her ability to do her current job. "I struggle with this because I don't want little girls watching or anything like that to lower their sights or anything in that direction. But for me, I feel that if that was in the scope of my ambition, it would chip away at my courage today," Ocasio-Cortez said. "I think what happens a lot in politics is that people are so motivated to run for certain higher office that they compromise in fighting for people today. And the idea is that if you can be as clean of a slate or as blank of a slate, that it makes it easier for you to run for higher office later on."
There is absolutely nothing wrong with any of that. She was clear, across the board, that she just had no interest in talking about her political ambitions, and CNN still purposely pushed a narrative that she was some kind of calculating Lady Macbeth, out to get power at any cost.
Now, I happen to agree with AOC on most things. I like her a lot. I'm not big on politician worship, but she supports things I like and seems pretty nice. I am also generally not a #TeamAnything person, except for when I am on #TeamAnyWomanCriticizedForSupposedlyWantingAttention. I despise that criticism with every bone in my body, because it's used as a cudgel to get women to shut up and stop taking up so much space and I don't think women should shut up and stop taking up so much space.
It's sometimes used against men, but never with the same kind of vitriol. I don't like it when it's lobbed at women I dislike, either. It's not something I want young girls to hear and absorb, I don't want them to get the message that they should be seen and not heard.
It's actually unfortunate that CNN chose to use the interview just to troll Democrats who hate Ocasio-Cortez, because there was another portion of it that was a lot more interesting, in which she discussed Fox News's obsession with hating her.
"So much of what they're doing is so visceral, right. And their job is to get at this very visceral, reactive place in people, particularly men," Ocasio-Cortez said. "But also tap these visceral lines along race and tap along this visceral line along gender and youth."
Ocasio-Cortez is no regular Fox viewer, but did say she will occasionally tune in to get a glimpse at how the network is trying to shape the political debates and storylines.
"I actually find it to be really, really fascinating because it reveals a lot about the subconscious of folks that are crafting these narratives," she said. "And they very often are speaking to these very subconscious narratives about women or about people of color or about Latinos or Latinas -- or about working-class people."
And that, she added, speaks to something bigger than the outrage du jour." These caricatures that are developed are not really personal," Ocasio-Cortez said. "They are societal."
This is all true, but I would also argue that Fox and conservative media have made her a target because they see her as a threat. I hate to put it this way, but look around you -- conservative media is well aware of the power of an attractive woman saying radical things (I wouldn't consider AOC radical, but clearly others do). I also think a case could be made that bashing her — particularly having men bash her — is actually more about appealing to conservative women than it is to men. Internalized misogyny is a hell of a drug.
The spin CNN put on this article isn't, unfortunately, much different than the Fox News framing, when you consider that we all know most people just read headlines. They both serve up false narratives as red meat for people looking to nurse their hatred of Ocasio-Cortez, using misogynistic tropes of slightly different kinds. Neither is good but one should know better.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse