Confession: Until recently, I didn’t know a ton about America’s non-presidential elections. Senators, governors, congress…people? I wasn’t *entirely* sure what any of those elected officials actually did, nor did I really care. (In my defence, I don’t live there. And I do have a much better understanding of Canada’s various elected officials, I swear.) But then, back in June, stories about an exciting young congressional candidate from the Bronx started appearing on my various news feeds, and I began to care—deeply.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was everything politicians often aren’t: young, female, working class, internet-savvy, sassy and, most importantly, unapologetically progressive. I think I had internalized a (very Canadian, I think) idea that for left-wing politicians to succeed, they needed to compromise. After all, that’s often what we’ve seen with everyone from Barack Obama to Justin Trudeau. But Ocasio-Cortez was uncompromising in the very best way.
She not only said she was a feminist, her platform was also an intersectional feminist’s dream: She pledged to fight for universal health care, inclusive housing policies, gun control, free post-secondary tuition, criminal justice reform and legislation (like the Equality Act) that safeguards the LGBTQ community. She wants to abolish ICE. And when she talked about women’s right, she was talking about all women’s rights—”Black women, Native women, poor women, immigrant women, disabled women, Muslim women, lesbian queer and trans women,” as it specified on her campaign website.
Honestly, her policies sounded like they belonged in a goddamned utopia. And you guys? She won.
Ocasio-Cortez not only beat longtime Democratic rep Joe Crowley in New York’s congressional primaries in June, making her the Democratic candidate for New York’s 14th congressional district in November’s midterm election. She also won the midterm election with 78% (!!!) of the vote.
When I saw the news, I legit had a moment. I’ve never, in my entire life, ever harboured even the tiniest desire to be a politician—and yet, Ocasio-Cortez’s win made me think it was something I could do if I wanted to. We may not share an ethnicity or cultural background, but I saw myself in her, and it reminded me yet again just how much #RepresentationMatters.
Representation will continue to be part of her story—when she takes office on January 3, she’ll be the youngest woman elected to Congress, and one of the few women of colour. (After this year’s election, there are more women and POC than ever before, but still: of the 325 women who have served in the U.S. Congress to date, only 65 have been non-white.)
But that’s not the only reason Ocasio-Cortez is my fave feminist of the year. I love that she doesn’t allow anyone to undermine her. Remember when she called out conservative writer Eddie Scarry for his tweet about how she doesn’t “look like a girl who struggles”?
Oh, does @eScarry think he can delete his misogyny without an apology?
I don’t think so. You’re a journalist – readers should know your bias. pic.twitter.com/2KJuiPsUR2
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) November 16, 2018
He was trying to imply that she was a hypocrite or a liar, albeit in the dumbest way possible. (Even us poors wear cute clothes, bro.) She wasn’t standing for it. She never stands for people trying to tear her down—about her clothes, her childhood home, her finances, even her recent decision to take a self-care break. I stan for Michelle Obama, but sometimes I don’t want to go high—I want to clap back. And AOC’s clapbacks against misogyny and condescension are legendary.
My new favourite pastime is watching @Ocasio2018 shut-down old, conservative, white men with – WAIT FOR IT – smarts and truthiness. https://t.co/RSspX4aeMg
— Natasha Madison (@natmadis) November 19, 2018
I love that she made friends with other progressive members of Congress, including Boston’s Ayanna Pressley, Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar and Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib, because I am forever here for a girl gang, especially one that gets shit done.
I love that she doesn’t hide who she is, despite all the criticism. And that’s not just because having the confidence to be yourself—to reference Hogwarts and use internet-approved turns of phrase in IG captions and also, oh yeah, speak your language unapologetically—is badass. It’s also because Ocasio-Cortez being herself has the power to change Congress. As Alexa Kissinger wrote in Vox, she and her progressive peers are “showing that we don’t have to change ourselves for these institutions. It’s time the institutions changed.”
I love that she has literally no time for Donald Trump.
But the thing I love most is the way she unapologetically owns her successes, something that so many women (myself included) feel uncomfortable doing. In July, after her primary win, she told The New Yorker‘s David Remnick, “I didn’t edge anybody out. I dominated. And I am going to own that.” That attitude is making a lot of people incredibly uncomfortable. “Ocasio-Cortez’s eagerness to flex her muscles, without demurring or waiting for her turn—without even waiting to be sworn in—is undergirding nightmarish fears about her as an agent of chaos and destruction,” Rebecca Traister recently wrote in The Cut. “What’s scary to so many about Ocasio-Cortez is that she’s acting like a politician with power.”
But I’m not uncomfortable. And I’d hazard a guess that other millennials, especially women of colour, aren’t either. Instead, we’re in awe and, more importantly, inspired.
Also, she’s equally adept at rocking a red lip and the #nomakeup lewk, and I appreciate the flex.
More from FLARE’s ‘12 Days of Feminists’ series:
Day 1: Chrystia Freeland
Day 2: Constance Wu
Day 3: Tracee Ellis Ross
Day 4: Vivek Shraya
Day 5: Amber Tamblyn
Day 6: Lizzo
Day 7: Dr. Christine Blasey Ford
Day 8: Meghan Markle
Day 9: Serena Williams
Day 10: Ariana Grande