Don’t be fooled by the ethnic specificity that the title of this piece implies — it’s beyond clear that many men think it’s okay to harass women in general, across all walks of life. White, Black, Latina — being a woman is reason enough to incite a lude comment or unwelcomed compliment on the street. 

However, following an incident in which right-wing extremist and all-around troll, Alex Stein, sexually harassed Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on the Capitol steps, I’m left to wonder: is there something about Latina women that gives men like Stein permission to violate us?

What is it about us that says, “I’m an easy target”?

During the incident, which was filmed selfie-style by Stein, he calls her his “favorite big-booty Latina” and adds that “she wants to kill babies but she’s still beautiful.” He proceeds to say how “sexy” she looks in the dress she’s wearing and continues making comments about her body. 

Briefly, AOC walks over and gives the camera a peace sign, a gesture she later explains on Twitter: “I was actually walking over to deck him because if no one will protect us then I’ll do it myself but I needed to catch a vote more than a case today.” 

For me, there are multiple layers of aggression evident here. Would Stein have made those same wildly inappropriate comments about a young white woman in politics, say, Drew Zachary, founder of The Opportunity Project?

Considering all of Stein’s previous documented antics, the answer might still be “yes.” But all we have learned about the exoticism and fetishization of Latinas seems to point at a seedier underbelly. The truth is that men, and white men in particular, exploit the inequality between them and BIPOC. 

Latinas, and other women of color, unlike Caucasian women, are reduced to the stereotypes attributed to their race and culture, which are attached to all sorts of colorful and demeaning language — we are not condiments, therefore we cannot be “spicy” — allowing men to perceive them as lesser than. 

There is also an alarming performative aspect to filming the transgressive interaction between Stein and AOC and parading it for likes on social media.

The sliminess behind Stein’s actions that suggest he is trying to get a rise out of her, perhaps attempting to capture the presumed wrath of a Latina woman on camera.

Not only do men like Stein want to reserve the right to sexually objectify our bodies, but they also want a say in what we do with them. It’s not enough to be attractive. We must also want to serve as eager and willing vessels of life for their offspring. And we must agree with everything they say.

Maybe Rep. Ocasio-Cortez should have gone over to him and decked him, as she said she wanted to do. None of us would have blamed her. But how would that have looked? We live under duress, trying to defend ourselves without perpetuating negative stereotypes. 

And for that reason, we are trapped.