AOC’s Attractiveness Drives Us All Mad

Tressie McMillan Cottom
5 min readOct 29, 2020

I am in the middle of a storm, literally and figuratively. Somehow I missed that a hurricane is blowing through my town. That means I am going to make this a very quick diatribe on beauty, power, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the lies we tell about social mobility. No spell-check or editing. Sorry.

This is a continuation of my rantings on Twitter in response to a typically stupid attack on AOC:

I mean, that’s just so trite that its not worth the bother. I made the mistake of responding that AOC’s physical attractiveness (“pretty”) drives the right to these delusional, stupid critiques.

I say it is a mistake because I should have anticipated what would happen next. It happens every time I include even a cursory physical description of a person.

This is what happens: people point out that AOC isn’t “just” pretty. They argue that she is also “smart”. Even when they agree with me, they want to “humbly edit” me to point out that right critiques of AOC are about how smart she is. The implication is that AOC’s physical attractiveness is, at best, an amplifier of the right’s true reason for hating her.

Most of those people mean well. They are just wrong. But, I know why they are wrong.

Good people with good politics do not talk about how someone looks. It’s one of the primary popular takeaways from second and third wave [white] feminism: do not comment on bodies EVER.

When you cannot or will not comment on something, your language atrophies. In the case of what I will call the physical comportment of power, we do not have enough words to talk about how and why being “pretty” matters for how power operates.

People are also wrong in assuming that when I say the right’s attacks on AOC are about how pretty she is, that *I* think that her being pretty is all that matters. They assume that I am reducing her to her body. It is a common logical fallacy, especially in how people consume race and gender analysis. People confuse the…

Tressie McMillan Cottom

Sociologist. Writer. Professor. MacArthur Fellow. Books, speaking, podcast: