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July 23, 2020

VIDEO: Rep. Pressley Joins Rep. Ocasio Cortez: Condemns Rep. Yoho, Speaks Out Against Sexism and Misogyny on the House Floor

Video (YouTube)

WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) delivered a floor speech in which she condemned the vulgar language and disrespect directed at Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14) this week by a House colleague.

Her remarks, as prepared for delivery, are available below.

Transcript: Rep. Pressley Condemns Vulgar & Disrespectful Attack on Rep. Ocasio-Cortez

July 23, 2020

*As Prepared for Delivery*

Madam Speaker, I rise today to condemn in the strongest form the vulgar language and blatant disrespect a colleague directed at Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez.

As the Congresswoman stated, we are not on the House floor today because of just one callous incident. Unfortunately, what brings us to this moment are the structural and cultural conditions — and yes, the very men — that have normalized the marginalization of women and specifically women of color since this nation’s very inception.

Madam Speaker, patriarchy, it is a tool of oppression that’s very much at home in the halls of this powerful institution. Not unlike the hostile working environments and harassment experienced by countless women across the nation who dare to speak truth to power. Today, we rise for every woman that has dealt with these dynamics as a conflated part of their walk in life. Every woman that has repressed the painful rhetoric inflicted on our bodies and our lives.

So suffice it to say that these tired tactics to debase and marginalize are familiar. And yet, still we rise.

Our foremothers–the trailblazing women elected to Congress before us–equipped us to take on a world that was built on contradictions and injustice. Because of them, we have learned how to walk with our heads held high, our legacy defined by the laws we write and the good we do on behalf of those we serve.

I first set foot in this institution at the age of 19. My mother poured into me a sense of reverence for this institution, of the awesome power that it held. I walked through hallways — and still do — flanked by the statues of men that enslaved my ancestors, in a building built by my enslaved ancestors. 

Madame Speaker, while there may still be some specters in this hallway set on upholding oppression and misogyny, I know that when my 12 year old daughter walks through these hallways today, she sees my name embossed on a plaque outside the door and lit up on the voting board above this House floor. And she sees Tlaib, and Omar, and Chu, and Jayapal, and Escobar, and Trahan, and Underwood.

Our very existence is proof that progress has been made. And yet although in some instances, we are better than we used to be, we are still not who we can be. And so with my eyes fixed, clear on the challenges of the moment but clearer still on the promise of the future, I speak to our daughters, for they are watching and carefully taking note of how we respond in this moment. 

So in this moment, I say to my Cora and all our daughters: 

You are powerful. You are limitless. Your contributions to this world are brilliant, needed, and uniquely yours. Your ideas are substantive. Your lived experiences, your kind heart, and your critical eye belong at every single table where decisions are being made. You deserve a life free from fear and filled with dignity and love. You are not defined by your productivity or your chosen work.

We affirm these truths to be self-evident, that women are the backbone of every family, of our communities and we are nation builders. We believe in you fully, without reservation. You have a right to show up in the world exactly as you are. And who you are, is always enough. Cora, you belong everywhere.

And I will close with the words of Reverend William Barber, who aptly points out that we find ourselves as a nation in a moment of reckoning. A reckoning which calls for reconstruction. Old fights, but this is a new day. Let’s build the world that Cora and all girls and women deserve and let us begin with this very institution. 

Thank you.

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