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Media outlets are still afraid to say the names of powerful women

Media outlets are still afraid to say the names of powerful women
[Photo: Scott Heins/Getty Images]

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 28-year-old progressive Bronx native, pulled off one of most stunning political victories on the left in recent history. She defeated Joseph Crowley, the incumbent representative for New York’s 14th congressional district and the fourth most powerful Democrat in the House, by energizing her constituents and running on a platform of issues–universal healthcare, affordable housing, the abolition of ICE–that are increasingly becoming priorities among voters on the left.

Her victory was both inspiring and part of a larger trend in Democratic elections–in a handful of races throughout this year’s primaries, establishment candidates have fallen to younger progressives, some of them women and people of color. There have been eyes on Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign from the time she announced her candidacy last year, and along the way, she secured major endorsements from the likes of MoveOn and Cynthia Nixon, who’s running for governor in New York.

So why did so many news organizations refuse to say her name?

  • The Associated Press, once the election was called, tweeted: “BREAKING: U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley defeated by young challenger in Democratic primary in New York.”
  • Variety pulled straight from the AP’s book: “U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley defeated by young challenger in Democratic primary in New York.”
  • The Los Angeles Times: “Democratic heavyweight Rep. Joe Crowley loses in New York.”

When publications did acknowledge her name, they often did so in a way that implied they had not previously given her much thought; CNN, among others, went with the headline: “Who is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez?”The New York Times, in its coverage, added a bizarre (and false) line implying that her campaign had little reach beyond women’s spheres:

“Before Tuesday’s victory catapulted her to the front of the political conversation, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez seemed to find readier audiences with outlets such as Elite Daily, Mic or Refinery29– websites most often associated with millennial and female audiences–than with traditional publications.”

The refusal of news outlets to acknowledge women’s names is unfortunately not limited to Ocasio-Cortez: Just recently, the NYT ran a piece on the lawsuit New York Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood brought against the Trump Foundation and didn’t mention Underwood’s name until the 13th paragraph; The Washington Post recently referred to Emily Gordon, one of the writers of the film The Big Sick, as the wife of actor Kumail Nanjiani, and updated it to reflect her name and role in the film’s creation only after he tweeted at them to do so.

This issue has been in the spotlight for long enough that media outlets should not need a reminder to use women’s names, but because they clearly still do, here’s a gentle lesson in how the Ocasio-Cortez headlines should read:

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