The video, which was apparently recorded in 2019, shows Greene accusing Ocasio-Cortez of wearing a “diaper” and saying she should come out of the office like a “big girl,” but the weirdest part — and trust me, this is saying something — is when Greene announces to the mail slot, “I’m a woman! I’m a female business owner! I’m proud to be an American woman!”
What is the meaning of these sentences?
It could be the creepiest possible way of making connection (I, like you, am a female politician), or it could be a racist dog whistle implying that Ocasio-Cortez was not an American woman, or Greene could have temporarily fallen under the control of a space laser.
But here's something I hear in there, too: I am a woman. So I can get away with this.
The last time Ocasio-Cortez was publicly harassed by a fellow member of Congress — last summer, Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) called her “disgusting” and “out of her freaking mind” on the steps of the U.S. Capitol — it prompted discussions about sexism and bullying on the Hill: how men have talked to women, and how women have been conditioned to accept it.
Greene’s antagonism of Ocasio-Cortez is playing differently. Since that 2019 video, she has become a member of Congress herself, cruising to victory in President Donald Trump’s chemtrail-addled slipstream, but her M.O. now is still very much the same as it was then. On Wednesday afternoon, after failing to get Ocasio-Cortez’s attention by calling her name as they exited the House chamber, Greene started shouting at her colleague, asking why Ocasio-Cortez supported “terrorists” and “antifa” and demanding that AOC publicly debate her.
The tirade was unhinged and unprofessional — and her supporters loved it. Greene has raised a gargantuan $3 million for her reelection campaign in the first quarter of 2021, exciting conservatives with her antic performances of right-wing grievance politics. The fact that she is a proud American woman seems key to how her supporters make sense of how upsetting this has been to those of us who think conspiracy-mongers who lecture through mail slots shouldn’t be rewarded with political clout. “It seems to me,” one supporter concluded on Twitter, “that some people on these social media platforms the left leaning liberals can’t stand a strong conservative woman like Taylor Greene.”
In Greene, Trump conservatives have something precious: a “nasty woman” of their very own, who can behave execrably to other women without being tagged as sexist. Someone without the male baggage of Trump (“grab ’em by the p---y”) or Mitch McConnell (“nevertheless, she persisted”) or James M. Inhofe (warning an EPA nominee that if she didn’t “behave” he would “talk to her daddy”) or Matt Gaetz (under federal investigation for alleged sex trafficking) or Brett M. Kavanaugh (obvious reasons).
Yoho’s outburst at AOC ended with the congressman weakly explaining that he can’t be sexist because he has a wife and mother. Greene is a wife and mother.
She’s a woman! She’s proud to be an American woman!
She’s also willing to say what many conservative men are beginning to learn they definitely should not, which makes her the embodiment of weaponized conservative femininity: She hates liberal women and makes it okay for you to hate them, too. She preaches retrograde beliefs and uses her status as a woman to abracadabra these beliefs into something parroting feminism. She allows the Ted Yohos of the world to outsource their fury at the likes of Ocasio-Cortez — to nod at Greene deferentially, as if to say: I’m with her.
Greene isn’t the only master of this dark art: This spring, Rep. Marie Newman (D-Ill.) gave an impassioned speech on the House floor about her transgender daughter, asking her colleagues to support the Equality Act. Then GOP Cool Girl Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) stepped to the mic to declare, falsely, that the bill would force “young girls . . . to share locker rooms with confused men.”
Republican men: I’m with her.
Rep. Elise Stefanik (N.Y.), Rep. Liz Cheney’s (Wyo.) freshly minted replacement in Republican leadership, is by no means a Greene — her voting record is actually more moderate than Cheney’s — but has reliably thrown the flames the Republican Party wants thrown and now understands they are better thrown by women. “I am proudly the opposite of AOC,” she said in 2019.
Republican men: definitely with her, much more so than they had been with Liz Cheney. Here’s how Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) described the experience of watching Cheney repeatedly and publicly reject Trump’s wackadoo stolen-election claims, according to New York Times Magazine: “You look up into the stands and see your girlfriend on the opposition’s side — that’s one hell of a tough thing to swallow.”
You can see how this party might benefit by having a woman doing most of the talking.
But when you’re asserting your proud American femininity by yelling at another proud American woman about how much you think she sucks, that should be a warning sign of what your own pride is worth. A woman kneeling outside of another woman’s office, calling her a baby and demanding she come out and fight is not a strong woman — she’s a desperate woman. She is not demonstrating that her party isn’t sexist. She’s only showing that everything that comes out of her mouth is junk mail.
Monica Hesse is a columnist writing about gender and its impact on society. For more visit wapo.st/hesse.