Sorry, not sorry
Ted Yoho’s infelicitous apology as reification of toxic masculinity
Keywords:right-wing populism, citationality, image repair, toxic masculinity
Right-wing populism emboldens its members to publicly challenge those they find threatening to white conservative frameworks, e.g. progressive female politicians of colour. I critically analyse how Republican Ted Yoho uses discursive agency to deliver infelicitous statements in response to the diatribe he directed at Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in July 2020. Guided by the principles of citationality (Derrida 1988), I utilise image repair theory (Benoit 1997) to reveal how Yoho minimises the alleged offences he committed by redirecting his rant at policy, not person. This allows Yoho to issue non-apologies and – in line with right-wing populism – villainize Ocasio-Cortez and elevate himself and his party. Both Democrats and Republicans deemed Yoho’s apology ‘appropriate’, resulting in unfavourable perlocutionary effects for female politicians of colour. The dismissal of Yoho’s offences highlights the normalisation of violent language directed at women of colour, revealing how white supremacy and toxic masculinity are normalised aspects of US media ecology.
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