Dismissing AOC’s Trauma is Inherently Misogynistic
The backlash to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s livestream is caked in misogyny.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) spoke out about her experience during the attack on the Capitol in an Instagram livestream Monday night. During the livestream, she described the sheer terror and panic she felt as she scrambled to find a place to hide from the violent insurrectionists who had stormed the building.
After taking shelter behind her bathroom door, a group of Trump supporters broke into her office, yelling, “Where is she?” It was at that point, she recalled, that she thought she was going to die.
While living through a violent insurrection is a trauma in and of itself, Ocasio-Cortez noted that this was not the first trauma she has endured. In an attempt to better contextualize both her trauma and her emotional response to recounting the events of January 6, she revealed that she is a survivor of sexual assault.
“The reason I say this and the reason I’m getting emotional in this moment is because these folks who tell us to move on, that it’s not a big deal, that we should forget what’s happened, or even telling us to apologize. These are the same tactics of abusers. And, um, I’m a survivor of sexual assault,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
“And I haven’t told many people that in my life. But when we go through trauma, trauma compounds on each other. And so, whether you had a negligent or a neglectful parent, and — or whether you had someone who was verbally abusive to you, whether you are a survivor of abuse, whether you experience any sort of trauma in your life, small to large — these episodes can compound on one another.”
While this disclosure garnered an outpouring of support, it was also not devoid of criticism. As if on cue, grifter and journalist Michael Tracey inserted himself into the conversation to mock the congresswoman and try to invalidate her experiences and trauma. In a series of tweets, Tracey called Ocasio-Cortez “histrionic” and accused her of being manipulative.
“This is a masterclass in emotional manipulation — a genuine political/rhetorical skill. Gotta hand it to her,” he said in one tweet. In another, he claimed that she had “invoked her alleged sexual assault in order to shame as abusive those who don’t uncritically affirm her histrionic account of what occurred at the Capitol. If you don’t see the manipulativeness inherent in that rhetorical tactic, you are delusional.”
On the one hand, it might be said that Tracey simply doesn’t understand that not everything a politician does is purely political, that while they shouldn’t be put on a pedestal, politicians are just people, and like everybody else, they have also experienced traumas and hardships.
However, on the other and much more correct hand, it’s really just misogyny. Ocasio-Cortez came forward about a past sexual assault and Tracey’s knee jerk reaction was disbelief. This is by no means a new theme. All too often, men, specifically straight cis men, dismiss the traumatic experiences of cis women and trans and nonbinary people.
And it’s not enough for them to try to discredit survivors, they must also paint them as hysterical and histrionic, which is frankly a little on the nose. As feminist writer Jessica Valenti points out, “To sexists, women are the real perpetrators because we’ve victimized men by holding them accountable.”
Of course the disbelief of Tracey and others is not just limited to Ocasio-Cortez’s status as a survivor. It’s also about her account of the insurrection and her subsequent calls for accountability, which was the main purpose of the livestream in the first place. There is no “moving on” without holding people accountable for their actions, and it is not Tracey’s place to insert himself into the conversation as some sort of arbiter of truth about what happened at the Capitol considering he wasn’t even there.
While bad faith reactionaries will say and do anything as long as it elicits a response, it’s hard not to view Tracey’s “take” on the livestream for what it truly is: pure, unadulterated misogyny.