“That’s an unsubstantial, unsubstantive, fluff, bulls**t, misogynistic word to use. Unlikable? What is that?”
The venn diagram of people who call female politicians unlikeable and those who demand that they smile more isn’t a venn diagram. It’s a circle.
Calling a woman unlikeable is something that happens all too often to female politicians. Take Hillary Clinton, for example. Appearing in public without a rictus grin plastered to her face was one of the jibes hurled more frequently at the politician during her 2016 presidential campaign.
And, most recently, unlikeability was leveled at congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 29-year-old Democrat from the Bronx currently smashing through the glass ceiling at the House of the Representatives alongside a record-number of elected female politicians. At the recent State of the Union address, Ocasio-Cortez refused to smile or applaud during Trump’s speech, and for that she was branded “sullen, teenaged and at a loss” by Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan.
In a new interview with Rolling Stone, Ocasio-Cortez has explained exactly why a woman being called ‘unlikeable’ is such a dangerous criticism.
“People like to make these disparaging statements, like ‘Oh, she’s good at Twitter. Is she gonna be an actual legislator?’ I think it’s fine at the outset to be underestimated in that capacity,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
“Where I do tell people to come correct is when they try to paint me as unintelligent, as unsubstantive… When you call Elizabeth Warren or Kamala Harris ‘unlikeable’, that’s an unsubstantial, unsubstantive, fluff, bulls**t, misogynistic word to use. Unlikeable? What is that? It’s not a policy critique.”
Being called unlikeable comes loaded with misogyny and no real criticism. As Ocasio-Cortez explained, how does being unlikeable impact a woman’s ability to do her job, especially as a politician? How come men can be unlikeable in politics but women can’t?
It’s something that makes Ocasio-Cortez angry, an emotion she’s trying to harness and channel into making real change in the world.
“Especially women,” Ocasio-Cortez added. She believes that in the current social climate, in which centuries of internalised misogyny is finally being dismantled, women have every right to be angry, in part because it is an emotion that has so often been denied them. “Because we’re not allowed to be angry,” Ocasio-Cortez explained.
“[As a woman] you’re just allowed to be pretty and quiet. And then as a woman of colour, too, it’s even more of a stereotype. Where even if you’re not being angry, they’ll attribute anger to you.”
This idea that women should be “pretty and quiet” in order not to appear unlikeable and angry is, quite frankly, abhorrent and it needs to stop. It’s this same line of thinking that leads to people asking John Legend how he ‘deals’ with Chrissy Teigen’s outspoken social media presence, as if her opinion are something that he has to manage or censor.
It’s 2019. We’re not in the Victorian era anymore, or in an alternative Gilead-ian universe straight out of The Handmaid’s Tale. Thank goodness for that.
Women like Clinton and Ocasio-Cortez are loud, and they’re angry, and they don’t care whether that makes them unlikeable or not. And that’s why we love them.