Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Didn’t Prewrite Viral Speech After Being Accosted

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After her colleague Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) reportedly accosted her on the steps of the Capitol and called her a “fucking bitch,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) responded last week on the House floor. Her powerful 10-minute remarks about the abuse she and other women endure in the workplace went viral.

During one of the speech’s most impactful moments, AOC denounced men using female family members or their partners as shields to excuse their bad behavior. “I do not need Rep. Yoho to apologize to me,” she said. “Clearly, he does not want to. Clearly, when given the opportunity, he will not, and I will not stay up late at night waiting for an apology from a man who has no remorse.”

She continued: “What I do have issue with is using women, our wives and daughters, as shields and excuses for poor behavior. Mr. Yoho mentioned that he has a wife and two daughters. I am two years younger than Mr. Yoho’s youngest daughter. I am someone’s daughter too. My father, thankfully, is not alive to see how Mr. Yoho treated his daughter. My mother got to see Mr. Yoho’s disrespect on the floor of this House towards me on television. And I am here because I have to show my parents that I am their daughter and that they did not raise me to accept abuse from men.” You can watch the full remarks below:

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That speech, AOC wrote today on her Instagram, was not prewritten. She improvised it on the floor with just some notes to help guide her. “Many have asked me if my speech was pre-written. The answer is no,” she wrote. “But in some ways, yes. Yes because this speech was a recounting of thoughts that so many women and femme people have carried since the time we were children. It flowed because every single one of us has lived this silent script: stay silent (why?), keep your head down (for whom?), suck it up (to whose benefit?). But my chosen words were largely extemporaneous.”

Ocasio-Corzen also shared her notes and gave more details about why she ultimately delivered the speech. She wrote on Instagram:

I want to thank everyone for your immense outpouring of personal stories and support for one another after last week’s speech on the violence of misogyny and abuse of power in the workplace. I figured I’d share some behind-the-scenes details of what went into that moment.

Many have asked me if my speech was pre-written. The answer is no. But in some ways, yes. Yes because this speech was a recounting of thoughts that so many women and femme people have carried since the time we were children. It flowed because every single one of us has lived this silent script: stay silent (why?), keep your head down (for whom?), suck it up (to whose benefit?). But my chosen words were largely extemporaneous. I got to the House floor about ten minutes before my speech and scribbled down some quick notes after reflecting on what had transpired over the last few days. Pictured here are all the notes I had, and from there I improvised my composition and spoke live.

The evening before my speech, I did not know what I was going to say. I wrestled with the question: what is there to say to a man who isn’t listening? I couldn’t come up with much, because frankly I didn’t want to diminish myself or waste my breath. It was then that I decided if I couldn’t get through to this him, perhaps I could speak directly to the culture, people, and institutions responsible for creating and protecting this violence and violent language.

I also reflected on MY role in all of this—to me, this speech was about holding myself accountable as much as anyone else. Because my first instinct was to let it go. It was my second instinct, too. It was only when sisters like @ayannapressley, @rashidatlaib, @repilhan and friends like @repraskin reminded me how unacceptable this all was that I started to think about what I would have done if this abuse happened to any other person BUT me. That is when I found my voice. Why is it okay to swallow our own abuse, yet stand up for others? I needed to learn that by standing up for ourselves, we break the chain of abuse and stand up for every person *after* us who would have been subject to more of the same abuse and lack of accountability.

So rise.

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