Amid record-breaking government shutdowns, devastating congressional testimonies and the first signs of the 2020 election cycle bearing fruit, there is only one story from across the Atlantic that has caught my eye in the last month or so. That is the story of Alexandria Oscaio-Cortez: a 29-year-old, Hispanic-American bar tender from the Bronx. Oh, and she also happens to be the Democratic Party’s Socialist Firebrand Congresswoman for New Nork’s 14th district as of January 3rd, 2019, and the youngest woman ever to serve in the House.
Her seemingly unstoppable rise to international prominence could be put down to a number of varying factors. Her age, her ethnicity, her socio-economic background, or maybe it’s just that she appears to be (god-forbid!), a normal human being, compared to the endless supply of political droids that get wheeled out as candidates come election time.
Let’s put it in no uncertain terms; she’s a freaking political hero. Seeing a young, hispanic, working-class member of the Democratic Socialists of America beat a 10-time incumbent during the Primaries was astonishing, and more than welcome. She stood on a platform of unabashed and unapologetic progressivism, with key policies such as Medicare for all, free college and trade school, massive industrial and infrastructural investment in renewable energy, abolishing I.C.E, a federal jobs guarantee and a cornucopia of other Socialist goodies.
However, her short time thus far in the limelight has not been without controversy or sniping from the attack dogs of the media and her political rivals. Whether it be attempts by Conservative journalists to attack what she wears and use it to undermine her.
Or maybe reactionary forces on twitter using a university clip of her dancing on a rooftop in Boston to label her a ‘commie know-it-all’ and ‘clueless nitwit’ (two labels that, clearly, couldn’t be further from the truth).
Or maybe Fox News trying to weaponize comments she made about the fact she couldn’t afford to buy an apartment in her home city of New York, by inflating the amount of money she had in her savings – $15,000, whereas the actual figure is $7000. Even so, it shows how out of touch the likes of Fox News are when they think $15,000 is enough in the second most expensive American city to live in.
But the most bizarre story in the news was about (drumroll please…!) her feet. Some plucky Reddit user posted a picture of a woman’s legs and feet in a bath, claiming that it was from Oscaio-Cortez’s Instagram from 2016. However, an even pluckier ‘wikiFeet’ user (yes- that’s a site dedicated to posting pictures of celebrities’ feet with ratings out of five and all!), knew what her feet looked like and were quick to point out the fake Reddit picture.
So, what do we have here? Is this simply the life of a modern congresswoman, battling shots fired from all corners? Are these but examples of trivial pursuits by online trolls and people who have nothing better to do? No. What these are, are examples of wholesale, systemic misogyny and racism that plagues politics in the U.S, and elsewhere around the world.
Some of the examples I’ve given above may seem silly or small-fry, but the accumulation leads to a wider pattern of an attempt by rich, predominantly white, Conservative men who look to break Osacio-Cortez down. Why? Because they are scared, and rightly so. People like her strike fear into the hearts of an established class of robot politicians because she has popularity and following beyond any of their wildest dreams.
All of the attempts to denigrate, criticise, demonise and break her spirit backfired. The comments on her clothes were jumped on by some of the nicer quarters of the internet and turned into some quite hilarious memes. The comments on her dancing were denounced by hundreds of thousands of people, who rushed to support and praise her for her fun-loving spirit and Osciao-Cortez herself tweeted that “I hear the GOP think that women dancing is scandalous. Wait til they find out congresswomen can dance too!”, with a video of her dancing outside Congress.
She’s an utter genius, and despite whatever they throw at her, she has that youthful zest in her to throw something right back.
For me, all of this points to a wider issue though. Luckily for her, Oscaio-Cortez is very good at not letting the slog of abuse stop her in her stride to change the political landscape in Washington. But this is not a friendly environment for young women like her to be going into. It is a system full to the brim with hostility towards women in general, because at its heart is a toxic and inherent misogyny.
Let’s just remind ourselves of the fact that Hilary Clinton was actually democratically elected the first female president of the United States back in 2016 by nearly 3 million votes nationwide. It was the American political system that elected Donald Trump. That’s not democracy, that’s an ‘elected dictatorship’.
Clearly, that’s a big problem when you have a psycho-sexist, white supremacist, blood-orange maniac in the White House riding roughshod over America’s political, economic and social institutions.
Some might say his misogyny merely reflects that of the American populous but I don’t buy it. It is arguably the opposite; that misogyny, racism, classism, transphobia and much else is projected onto the American people by elites that hold those unsavoury views.
But don’t fret. I have faith. The stand that Alexandria Oscaio-Cortez is taking against the politically and culturally ingrained misogyny at the heart of the American system is powerful, emotive and inspiring.
Attempts by senior, established democrats to ‘rein her in’ are simply borne out of the fear that she strikes in their eyes. She is the future of American Socialism. And we’ll be all the better for it.
Written by Dylan Brewerton-Harper
Author of Left Turn Ahead. To check out his blog click Here