The next day, Eddie Scarry, formerly a blogger for the gossip site Fishbowl DC and currently a writer for the conservative Washington Examiner, posted a picture of Ocasio-Cortez, taken from behind, seemingly without her knowledge, as she walked through a hallway wearing a tailored black jacket and carrying a coat. He accompanied it with a note that doubled as a caption: “Hill staffer sent me this pic of Ocasio-Cortez they took just now. I’ll tell you something: that jacket and coat don’t look like a girl who struggles.” This tweet went viral, too—for the most part as the subject of condemnation and of mockery and of angry replies, many of them indignant at the creepshot and many others referencing the fact that it is possible to advocate for the working class and wear clothing at the same time.
Scarry’s tweet, on its own, isn’t worth much more discussion; it was a bad thought, posted in bad faith. What’s notable, though, is the way his tweet tangled with Ocasio-Cortez’s observation about the way she has been treated during her Congressional orientation. Both tweets were asking questions about power and representation and belonging. Ocasio-Cortez was making a wry observation about how she has been seen, as a newcomer to the halls of Congress; Scarry was casually questioning the bona fides of a politician who has campaigned on working-class issues based on her particular choice of clothes. He was suggesting that Ocasio-Cortez, in choosing to don a well-cut jacket rather than a dirt-streaked potato sack, must somehow be deceiving the public. He was insinuating that, the system being what it is, the success she has found within it must be its own evidence of manipulation. Don’t look like a girl who struggles: The comment was about the clothes, but at the same time it wasn’t about the clothes. It is never, really, about the clothes. It’s about belonging. It is about power. It is about disruption. It is about who is assumed to look like a congressperson, and who is not.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is well aware of the absurdities of that tautology. In the short time that has found her as a fixture on the national stage, she has been a target for precisely those questions, joining the ranks of Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi and Maxine Waters as a bogey(wo)man for the right. She is not what she seems, many pundits have suggested. She is a fraud, they have insisted. That is the best way—the most convenient way, the least disruptive way—to make sense of her political success.
In addition to the sexism, “nobody with any decent material things can be sincere about having progressive views” his a longstanding trope of Republicans and — I add redundantly — no-content hacks like Maureen Dowd.