Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Dancing Video Reveals Yet Again The Punishing Double Standards for Women in Politics

A young man can be an accused rapist and still be appointed to the nation’s highest honours. A young woman dancing can be used as proof that she is unfit for office

If you’re a politician, be wary of the one thing that you will never get away with in public life: dancing. From Theresa May to Barack Obama, any footage of you moving in any vaguely rhythmic fashion will inevitably be used against you. When an eight-year-old video of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez dancing on a rooftop took Twitter by storm the day before she was sworn in as the youngest woman in Congress, she joined a grand tradition. However, the context around this particular viral dance clip reveals some ugly truths about how women like Ocasio-Cortez are treated in politics.

The clip, filmed while Ocasio-Cortez was in college, was posted on Wednesday by Twitter user AnonymousQ, who took the opportunity to label her as ‘America’s favorite commie know-it-all acting like the clueless nitwit she is’. This is the latest in a number of attempted smear campaigns on Ocasio-Cortez, many of which centre around personal attacks on her appearance or personal background. In November, Washington Examiner reporter Eddie Scarry posted a picture of Ocasio-Cortez walking down a hallway commenting that her ‘jacket and coat don’t look like a girl who struggles’.

As a high-profile working-class woman of colour whose very presence in the Capitol upsets the status quo, Ocasio-Cortez is constantly scrutinised. Damned if she does, damned if she doesn’t. ‘Women like me aren’t supposed to run for office - or win,’ Ocasio-Cortez tweeted in response to Scarry’s criticism of her fashion choices. The right feels threatened by what this new wave of diverse and progressive voices in Congress represent. They resort to jackets and college videos to show that people like Ocasio-Cortez should not have a place in Washington.

Luckily, none of these smear campaigns are effective. Twitter received the dancing video with delight, most people praising it an example of her joyful character. What right-wing Twitter trolls do not get about Ocasio-Cortez is that her supporters want her to be human. She is one of the most adept political users of social media today, having turned her Instagram story into a transparent forum for public discussion on the goings-on in Congress. In Washington, I see people from across the political spectrum glued to their phones to watch Ocasio-Cortez make mac and cheese, talk openly about burnout, or livestream her swearing-in ceremony. Personal attacks on Ocasio-Cortez do not work because she has always presented herself as a person first and politician second.

At this particular time in history, a college video of a woman politician dancing gleefully on a rooftop being used as damning proof of character flaws is especially hair-raising. We live in a world where the Supreme Court of the United States hosts two male Justices who have been accused of sexual assault. In October, Brett Kavanaugh was approved to the Supreme Court despite three allegations of sexual assault during his high school and college days. The harrowing testimony of Dr Christine Blasey Ford showed the whole world the effect of decades-old trauma, relived by millions of women who raised their voices in outrage. None of this mattered to the Republicans (and the odd Democrat) who voted yes for Kavanaugh.

A young man can be a rapist and still be appointed to the nation’s highest honours. A young woman dancing can be used as proof that she is unfit for office when she is later elected to represent her people. The dancing video was ineffective as an attack on Ocasio-Cortez, but was the latest manifestation of the punishing expectations placed on women in politics. With one of the most egregious examples of how much a white, privileged man can get away with in America fresh in our minds, the contrast is nothing less than revolting.

Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, however, handled the video with grace and humour, as did her supporters. I don’t know about you, but watching it put a much-needed smile on my face, only made wider by watching her formally take office the next day. Representatives like Ocasio-Cortez bring hope of change to Washington — if you ask me, it’s a good reason for a bit of celebratory dancing.


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