Woonsocket Call

Ocasio-Cortez is not your manic pixie dream girl

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

- By HELAINE OLEN Special To The Washington Post

less-seasoned Ocasio-Cortez. For Shapiro, Ocasio-Cortez is a nasty version of cinema’s “manic pixie dream girl,” the quirky female character who exists solely to push the male protagonis­t to take on life’s challenges – in this case, by engaging in a cheap stunt to enhance a brand.

Shapiro claims he’s just looking for “discussion and debate” with the woman that Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez called “the future of the Democratic Party.” Two things: First, again, Shapiro’s not a politician. Moreover, funnily enough, Shapiro hasn’t spent weeks challengin­g someone like Bernie Sanders to a debate. Nor did his team go to the trouble to cut together a fake interview with Sanders. It’s almost as though this isn’t about ideas, but identity.

This unequal attention is something women are all too familiar with. Women are judged harshly for ambition, while men are judged for not possessing it. Men are called promising, while women are deemed inexperien­ced. Men are presumed to be experts, whereas women need to prove their expertise repeatedly. Mistakes by women are amplified, while those of men are brushed over. Women are supposed to be cooperativ­e, while men can showboat all they want and not fear judgment. And we value women’s time less than that of men: Of course Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez should debate a conservati­ve journalist! Surely she doesn’t have anything better to do!

Catcallers are never trying to compliment their targets. They are rather attempting to remind them that the targets’ ability to go about their business in public is forever subject to the catcallers’ challenge. What Shapiro did to Ocasio-Cortez is something women who attempt to engage in the public space deal with all too often – just ask Nancy Pelosi.

True, Ocasio-Cortez took advantage of her sudden fame after her surprise victory over Rep. Joseph Crowley in a New York Democratic primary, going on television news shows, giving interviews, and endorsing other candidates, even taking a widely covered tour with Bernie Sanders. And true, Ocasio Cortez, a 28-year-old political rookie, has stumbled more than once. But as Nate Silver pointed out, these sorts of mistakes don’t make Ocasio-Cortez any less informed than more than the average member of Congress. Many have said much worse. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, for example, has compared giving hormones to transgende­r members of the military to castration and claimed Muslims should not work at meatpackin­g plants because they want others eating to be “sent to hell.”

So, a bit of advice. It’s August; things are slowing down. Ocasio-Cortez should buckle down and do her policy homework, so she can come back strong in September.

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