AOC plus 3: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez calls out casual contempt for women in last night’s presidential debate

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Anna Brech
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With President Donald Trump making an offhand reference to “AOC plus 3” in last night’s election debate, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez asks why it is that he feels the need to marginalise women in power

Whether it’s Nobel prize-winners reduced to the title of “wife” or female professors routinely called “Miss”, women’s names are a constant battle line in the ongoing fight for gender recognition. 

The frustrating inability to address a woman as she is (be that doctor, judge or detective) – or worse, trying to box her in to what she is not – is all the more infuriating in its subtlety. 

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Why, in the 21st century, are women still constantly pushed to quantify themselves in terms of marital status as “Miss” or “Mrs” when no such equivalent exists for men?

Even in something as mundane as form-filling, this outdated custom adds an unpleasant tinge of bygone discrimination (think of all those millions of women who never made the history books or were only ever known by the title of their husbands). 

Congresswomen Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib: referred to by Donald Trump as "AOC plus 3" last night

It’s with exactly that teeth-gritting nod to history and the patriarchy that Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pointed out an ongoing slight to women on Twitter today.

Picking up on the latest presidential clash between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, Ocasio-Cortez questioned why it is that Republicans – notably Trump himself – are unable to call female politicians by their proper titles; despite routinely affording the same respect to their male colleagues.

In a message to her vocal following on Twitter, the high-profile Democrat called out this ongoing “disrespect to women”, adding, “women notice. It matters a lot.”

Ocasio-Cortez’s tweet is a nod to the fact that Trump made a passing reference to “AOC plus 3” last night: using the New York Representative’s popular moniker while also referencing three of her fellow Democrat congresswomen: Representatives Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.

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As Ocasio-Cortez pointed out in a follow-up note, “AOC” is a nickname that the community can use for her: but “basic respect 101” demands that those in government commenting in a public sphere should use formal titles (crazy concept, we know).

And that’s even before we get to the everyday outrage of Representatives Omar, Tlaib and Pressley, each known in their districts for their trailblazing work in social, racial and economic justice, being written off as “plus 3”. 

Of course, this isn’t the first time this particular group of politicians have been on the receiving end of Trump’s misogynist and racist world views. 

In fact the very reason the four Democrats became known by the honorific title “the Squad” on Capitol Hill is because they confronted the President following a “blatantly racist attack” last year, in which he said they should go back to the “totally broken and crime infested places from which they came”. 

As many people pointed out in response to Ocasio-Cortez’s tweet, last night’s charming little put-down is clearly a sign that Trump still feels threatened by women, like them, in positions of power (especially congresswomen of colour). 

In true Twitter style, other commentators were also quick to reclaim the “AOC plus 3” brush-off, converting it into an emblem of strength ahead of one of the most ferociously contested elections in US history. 

Women voters are set to be one of the major influencers in deciding the US election on November 3, not least because opinion polls indicate that Trump’s support in this demographic is flagging; even amid groups where he previously performed well, e.g. women in suburban areas

Given his particular brand of toxicity with regards to misogyny and racism (often both together), this is perhaps not surprising and also long overdue.

Maybe now the moment has arrived for women to be known by the names that they’ve earned: and moreover use those names to ensure that the marginalisation stops here.

Images: Getty

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