Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is stepping into her power — but she doesn't want to do it alone.
In a profile for GQ's October issue, the political powerhouse implores men to speak out against what she views is a war against bodily autonomy following the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.
After all, she explains, abortions affect men, too.
"For almost every woman that has gotten an abortion, there's a man who has either been affected or liberated by that abortion too," she explained. "In this moment it's really only going to be the vulnerability of men, and men talking to other men, that gives us the greatest hope of shifting things the fastest, soonest."
AOC, as she's better known to the public, both shocked and inspired the nation when she won her race and assumed office in 2019, taking over a seat that was previously held by N.Y. Rep. Joe Crowley for nearly 20 years. From her first day in office, the congresswoman says she experienced firsthand how toxic masculinity can disrupt progress.
"Since I got here, literally day one, even before day one, I've experienced a lot of targeting diminishment from my party," she said. "Others may see a person who is admired, but my everyday lived experience here is as a person who is despised. Imagine working a job and your bosses don't like you and folks on your team are suspicious of you. And then the competing company is trying to kill you."
It's only recently, she explains, that her colleagues have treated her like one of their own.
"I feel like everybody treated me like a one-term member of Congress, and they worked to make me a one-term member of Congress." she said of the early days. “There was a very concerted effort from the Democratic side to unseat me. And I felt a shift after my primary election, and it felt like after that election was the first time that more broadly the party started treating me like a member of Congress and not an accident."
One of the biggest things she's learned since taking office, especially when it comes to advocating for women's rights, is that if her party wants to lead the charge in protecting such rights, more men need to speak up.
"I think there's plenty of well-meaning reasons why men may feel like it's not appropriate for them to talk about it," she said of addressing abortion in a post-Roe world. "I think sometimes the way white folks don't like to talk about race and they say, 'We just want to center the person who's most impacted, so it's not my role to do anything or take a space and speak up.' But we know that when white folks take up space and say the right thing in rooms of other white people, that is the most shifting activity that can happen, more sometimes than any protest or any person writing a letter to the editor or anything like that. We need men to be speaking up in that way as well. But I think men, sometimes they think, I'm not a woman. This doesn't affect me the most."
Ocasio-Cortez also pointed out that it's not just women who suffer from a patriarchal society. Men do as well, and it's in that understanding where we can have productive discussions and debates on how to course-correct.
"Men suffer from being under patriarchy," the congresswoman said. "They don't go to the doctor. They suffer from much higher rates of completed suicides. Even though they report lower levels of depression, that doesn't mean that they suffer from it less. Just a couple years ago the American Psychological Association released a very deep paper and a campaign about how these traditional cultural markers of masculinity — stoicism, competition, domination, dominance — are leading to mental health issues for men. There's a stigma around men being vulnerable."
One of the ways she says men can do to help everyone rise is to be unafraid to share their stories with each other.
"The most powerful and persuasive things a person can say on any given issue is sharing their personal experience and personal story," she said. "I think something that’s really powerful for men is to share their stories of growth. There are amazing men in this world, and not men as a final product. There are men on incredible journeys, internal journeys, journeys of transcending beyond just anger as the acceptable masculine emotion."
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