Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Is Spot-On About the Double Standard That Exists for Her and Other Young Women of Color
With the congressional exit of House Speaker Paul Ryan at the end of this year, there have been several retrospectives about the upstart Republican, who was first elected to office at 28 years of age. While they haven’t been all glowing, newly-elected representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pointed out that even when pundits have called out Ryan, they have given him the benefit of the doubt as a young politician — a benefit she has not been given.
“Double standards are Paul Ryan being elected at 28 and immediately being given the benefit of his ill-considered policies considered genius,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted in response to writer Ezra Klein’s admission that he was wrong to have given Paul Ryan the benefit of the doubt as a politician. “And me winning a primary at 28 to immediately be treated with suspicion & scrutinized, down to my clothing, of being a fraud.”
Indeed, from the moment she was declared the winner in her primary earlier this year, opponents of the now 29-year-old have called out Ocasio-Cortez on everything from what she wears to the house she grew up in.
While derisions of Ocasio-Cortez seem to suggest that her opponents are legitimately threatened by the socialist values she’s bringing to DC, much of the criticism lobbed in her direction echoes the types of microaggressions many young women — and especially women of color — encounter in professional environments.
While she was on the campaign trail, critics repeatedly opined that the young politico was too inexperienced and under-educated for a role in Congress. One male, conservative political scientist went so far as to tweet, in July, that Ocasio-Cortez should “stop campaigning & do a crash course on basics, including economics and foreign policy,” paternalistically asserting that she would otherwise “stumble badly out of the blocks and do major damage” to her political reputation. (It’s worth mentioning that Ocasio-Cortez has a degree in economics and international relations from Boston University — credentials almost identical to Ryan’s economics and political science degree from Miami University in Ohio.)
This is not to say that Ocasio-Cortez is totally faultless. She has misspoken and stumbled on several occasions; she’s also hardly the first politician in history to do so.
Incidentally, Politifact spent the last eight years fact-checking Ryan, and found at least 41 percent of the congressman’s assertions to be either mostly false, entirely false, or “pants on fire” (their words!) lies. Another 27 percent of his presented facts were only “half true.” Yet, Ryan’s demonstrably fast and loose relationship with facts is rarely, if ever, positioned as evidence of unfitness for office.
In efforts to undermine Ocasio-Cortez, even her family background has been up for debate. Several GOP-supporting pundits attacked her over the summer for growing up in Yorktown Heights, a decidedly middle-class neighborhood outside of her now-home of the Bronx, essentially accusing her of lying about her background to drum up blue-collar support. While she clarified that her family did start out in a modest Bronx co-op building (the same one she currently lives in), her parents struggled to move the family to a modest home in Yorktown Heights to improve their children’s educational outcomes.
On the other hand, Paul Ryan has always touted himself as a working man’s politician, yet his family is extremely wealthy. While Ryan certainly has been questioned about his privileged upbringing, it’s never been used as a point of contention or in order to discredit the working-man persona he’s created to his profit and political gain.
While it would be easier for her to simply ignore or deflect criticism, Ocasio-Cortez’s choice to call out the double standards in her treatment and reputation is commendable. The political breakout is standing up not only for herself, but also for other women — particularly women of color. Because, just as men like Ryan have been applauded throughout their careers while maintaining a demographic status quo, women like Ocasio-Cortez will continue to face outsized scrutiny simply for existing in spaces designed to keep them out.
“When I first won, folks said we were too naive, inexperienced, and uninformed to be effective,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted Tuesday. “Yet in our first weeks, we elevated
#GreenNewDeal to national urgency, secured 30 cosponsors on a Select Committee, and helped stop a bad tax rule.” Ryan definitely couldn’t say the same 20 years ago.
(Photos by Mario Tama + Rick Loomis/Getty Images)