It’s always amusing to watch and listen to TV and radio newscasters feign shock and squeamishness when reporting words such as those spoken by Representative Ted Yoho about Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on the steps of das kapital. We assume that like most of us, they hear such words many, if not most, days and have uttered such themselves. AOC smartly admitted the frequency, but certainly not the propriety, of such language in her navigation of New York City.
But we are less amused, indeed distressed, by the grossly excessive coverage devoted to Yoho’s words. Especially when considering that in the moment it not only vastly overwhelmed media coverage of Yoho’s record in Congress but was accorded far more media attention than the many horrible votes and positions Yoho has taken in the entirety of nearly eight years in the House.
Yoho’s record in Congress includes his sponsorship of the “Defund Planned Parenthood Act” his vote against restructuring of Puerto Rico’s debt post MARIA, sponsorship and/or votes to allow members of Congress to carry guns in the Capitol, gun permits for veterans deemed mentally incompetent, defaulting on the national debt, a vote against making lynching a federal hate crime and HL’s own favorite: Yoho’s vote to cut $ billions from the Food Stamp program.
Our favorite, in part, because we used to litigate Food Stamp cases (entitlement/outreach/expansion) but mostly because of Yoho’s stump speech and the non-apology he made to AOC on the floor last week. Both include Yoho recounting how he and wife received Food Stamps during the early part of their marriage. In almost eight years, that Yoho record received far less coverage, far fewer media impressions, than one utterance of “fucking bitch”. It is not the case that Yoho has been an inconspicuous member. He led and lost the attempted coup against Speaker John Boehner in 2015.
Puzzled by the miserable prioritization in this coverage history, we asked a bunch of young attorneys of our acquaintance to weigh in. All agreed that they’d heard Yoho’s words spoken by others and themselves many times and also agreed that Yoho’s record was a much bigger problem and far more worthy of note. But they also uniformly declared that “fucking bitch” was a “highly gendered” insult. To which we asked “any more gendered than motherfucker?” And also asked whether AOC objected to Yoho’s insult with forked tongue. Because when her sister, Representative Rashida Tlaib was sworn in, Tlaib’s first conspicuous public statement (not overheard utterance) was “we’re going to impeach this motherfucker” AOC applauded and promptly brought Tlaib into The Squad.
Once again the bench of young lawyers ruled – AOC was not hypocritical because motherfucker, if ever, is not now highly or even moderately gendered. Thinking on that we have come to agree with the verdict of youth. Contemporaries of Oedipus, like HL, considered motherfucker a highly gendered insult. However, times change, as pointed out by Bernie Mac who said: “Don’t be ashamed of the word motherfucker . . . it is a noun describing a person, place or thing [listening to a conversation] you might hear the word motherfucker 32 times and you might hear just 2 regular English words”.
And though AOC was dead right about most of this. That the insult didn’t shock her, that it was a highly gendered insult to all women, including Yoho’s wife and two daughters, there was just one other highly gendered point about which we disagree. AOC said “my father thankfully is not alive to see how Mr. Yoho treated his daughter.” To my two wonderful daughters, I am not so fragile to be better dead than hear you be insulted. I’d rather be alive to fight for you.