Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a name that now pops up more and more in news stories about US politics. As the youngest woman to ever be elected to Congress, Ocasio-Cortez is clearly revolutionising not only the state of American politics, but also the way in which politicians interact with the public through social media. Gone are the days where the intricacies of a politician’s daily life were discovered only through invasive paparazzi or an elusive interview; leaders like Ocasio-Cortez are actively showing and talking about parts of their private lives publicly – in this case, her skincare routine.
leaders like Ocasio-Cortez are actively showing and talking about parts of their private lives publicly
In a few consecutive posts on Instagram’s ‘stories’ feature, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez gave her followers some details about her skincare and makeup preferences, which she says she regards as a hobby. Naturally, the internet responded violently – many criticised her, saying that her interests in cosmetics made it hard to take her stances on immigration and the environment seriously. Others said that she should be using social media to focus on political issues, and that her posting about such topics was merely a performative push for more young fans.
There is probably some truth in the notion that Ocasio-Cortez posting her skincare routine is to seem likeable and relatable – but what’s wrong with that? The fact is that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a young woman, 29 years old, with an extremely successful career in politics already under her belt; she’s popular amongst young people in particular, many of whom use Instagram. The post in question was a response to a follower who wanted to know how, in her stressful job, Ocasio-Cortez was keeping her skin breakout-free – it’s not like she was advertising a particular brand (she herself said that she wanted to avoid being “too product-placementy”). She had some pretty solid advice, telling her followers to let their skin breathe, and to remember to remove makeup properly and use sunscreen every day.
Entering into a male-dominated field of work should not force a woman to sacrifice her interests
The controversy around Ocasio-Cortez’s post tells us a lot about how we think female politicians should present themselves. Entering into a male-dominated field of work should not force a woman to sacrifice her interests (or aspects of her femininity) – we’d hardly expect a male politician to stop talking about his golfing or reading hobby. Similarly, talking about skincare does not make Ocasio-Cortez less intelligent or shallow: her post was considered and well thought-out, acknowledging the negative effects of stress, that everyone’s skin is different, and that sometimes she doesn’t want to wear makeup and “everyone just has to deal with it”.
As the age-old (or very millennial) adage goes, “get you a girl that can do both”. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is that woman – with her support for abolishing ICE, her recognition of healthcare as an inherent human right that should be available for all, and her support for the implementation of gun-control, Ocasio-Cortez is pushing the bounds of the contemporary American political landscape. It seems likely that anyone that disapproves of her social media presence actually has more of a problem with her democratic socialist views, rather than her fondness of double cleansing and red lipstick. The recent reveal of a video from Ocasio-Cortez’s university days that depicted her dancing on a rooftop had her haters similarly up in arms. Apparently, the concept of an attractive woman of colour having fun and being an intelligent and influential political figure is just too much for some to bear. At the end of the day, I think these people are just jealous – her skin does look pretty damn amazing considering the stressful position she holds in US politics.