National Opinions

OPINION: Greene vs. Crockett: Congresswomen join men of the House in bad behavior

It is time for yet another edition of “C-SPAN or Bravo?” - this time brought to you by Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Jasmine Crockett (D-Tex.).

In the middle of a House Oversight Committee hearing related to Merrick Garland on Thursday night, Crockett appeared exasperated by Greene’s attempt to introduce an unrelated topic. “Please tell me what that has to do with Merrick Garland,” Crockett demanded. “Do you know what we’re here for?”

“I don’t think you know what we’re here for,” Greene responded. “I think your fake eyelashes are messing up what you’re reading.”

The gallery erupted. Committee Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) - I assume it was him; this happened off camera - called for order, and members were warned to refrain from personally attacking their colleagues. Shortly thereafter, Crockett interrupted Comer to raise, in a polite tone of voice, what she described as a “point of order.”

“I’m just trying to better understand your ruling,” she said. “If someone on this committee then starts talking about somebody’s bleach-blond, bad-built butch body, then that would not be engaging in personalities, correct?”

“A what now?” Comer responded, appearing genuinely confused, as Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) next to him stifled giggles.

Wait, I forgot to tell you that in between those two events, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) also became involved, castigating Greene for insulting Crockett’s appearance.


“Are your feelings hurt?” Greene asked AOC.

“Oh girl, oh baby girl, don’t even play,” AOC shot back, to which Greene responded: “Oh really, baby girl?”

Really! Yes! This is our timeline, and this is what is happening in the halls of our government.

I additionally forgot to inform you that Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-Fla.) also became involved, telling Crockett to “calm down” and remarking, “I don’t know [why] you’re acting like that. It’s not cute.”

For what it’s worth, it seems clear that Greene was the primary instigator here. Her eyelashes jab was out-of-the-blue and grotesque; her “feelings” comment to AOC was baiting. And yes, Crockett could have taken a higher road and heeded the committee’s warning to refrain from personal attacks. But that would have meant Greene’s insult got to hang in the air unchallenged while Crockett sat, undefended, in silence.

At some point everyone started demanding that everyone else’s comments be stricken from the record, but it’s not like the American public can unsee any of this.

By this point you might have noticed that all of the key players in this exchange - Greene, Crockett, Ocasio-Cortez and Luna - are women. I am not here to tell you that four U.S. representatives brawling verbally on the floors of Congress is a breathtaking victory for feminism. But I am going to point out how fascinating it was to see an entire contentious exchange play out in feminized fighting language rather than masculine.

Congress has not, as of late, been well-behaved. Back in November I wrote a whole column about what the men were up to, prompted by Sen. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) challenging Teamsters president Sean O’Brien to a fistfight in the middle of a hearing: “Stand your butt up!” Mullin ordered.

But on Thursday there was no threat of physical altercation. There were, instead, attacks that required intimate knowledge of feminine beautification routines (false eyelashes, boxed dyes). If the menfolk’s arguing sounded like it belonged in a manky high school locker room, the women’s arguing sounded like it could have been overheard in a Claire’s boutique.

“Baby girl” and “It’s not cute” were particularly interesting - the former because it weaponized a term of endearment into a condescending pejorative, and the latter because it inadvertently laid out the gender-based subtext of this entire exchange. By commenting on Crockett’s eyelashes, Greene was implying that female representatives ought to be cute, and that the way to undercut them wasn’t to question their abilities but rather their grooming. “It’s not cute” was not the kind of barb flung by one elected official to another; it was the kind of barb specifically flung by one woman to another. Which, heinous as the whole thing was, would not have been a thing you witnessed until recently, when women began to make up a quarter of Congress. Progress!

There’s really no larger lesson to take from any of this, except this: If you are a person who has ever remarked that Congress will improve once all the old men retire, I have some unfortunate news for you.

And there’s also this: America is at such a precarious, terrifying place this election cycle that I have heard and participated in more than one discussion about whether the country is going to erupt in civil war. In recent months, our elected officials have been showing us a preview of what that might look like. And it might look like election denialism, violent protest and the extinction of the Constitution.

Or it might just be people throwing chairs at each other, like guests on Jerry Springer.

Monica Hesse

Monica Hesse is a columnist for The Washington Post's Style section and author of "American Fire."