The Ugly Effect of Physical Insults

Debates can get, well, ugly in Congress, but rarely do they descend to the level of physical taunts. Yet that is exactly what happened on Thursday during a meeting of the House Oversight Committee.

During a discussion about whether Attorney General Merrick B. Garland should be held in contempt of Congress, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican from Georgia, told Representative Jasmine Crockett, a Democrat from Texas, “I think your fake eyelashes are messing up what you’re reading.”

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat from New York whose own signature red lipstick has become something of an online lightning rod, then leaped to Ms. Crockett’s defense.

“How dare you attack the physical appearance of another person,” she said.

Further name-calling ensued, culminating in Ms. Crockett’s covertly returning the insult by asking the chair, James R. Comer, “If someone on this committee then starts talking about somebody’s bleach blond, bad-built butch body, that would not be engaging in personalities, correct?” (That description being a not-entirely-implicit reference to Ms. Greene.)

All in all, not a pretty moment.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez defended Ms. Crockett against the comments: “That is absolutely unacceptable. How dare you attack the physical appearance of another person?” Credit…Valerie Plesch for The New York Times

As much as anything, however, the makeup vs. body image brouhaha reflects not just the way Capitol norms have changed over the last six years, but the way physical appearances have become weaponized against all genders since Donald J. Trump first took office, bringing with him his penchant for costumery, casting and playground insults.

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