How Women Survive and What We Remember

AOC and Katie Porter share the hard-earned ‘gift’ for noticing what others can’t yet see

Sara Benincasa
GEN
Published in
10 min readFeb 4, 2021

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Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

This week, I opened my phone and watched Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tell a story that managed to be both shocking and familiar. The congresswoman is an unusual individual, and her hour-long Instagram Live broadcast regarding the attempted coup at the Capitol was extraordinary. It was also horribly, painfully, and sadly ordinary.

Given her celebrity status and the seemingly endless cheers and jeers sent her way from all corners of the internet, it’s easy to forget that Ocasio-Cortez is also an actual human. She is not simply an amalgamation of some strangers’ hopes, dreams, and nightmares. She occupies an unprecedented place in American history as one of the youngest people ever to have served in Congress — and she is the youngest woman to have ever done so. She is one of the relatively few women of any age to have been elected to the House of Representatives. As a woman of color, she’s even more of a rarity in her particular line of work.

Ocasio-Cortez is also a compelling storyteller. Along with nearly 150,000 viewers at any given moment during the broadcast, I watched her describe the growing sense of unease she had experienced in the days leading up to January 6, with the specific, well-honed anxiety characteristic of someone who takes the temperature of a room and displays excellent situational awareness.

This sixth sense is not the exclusive provenance of girls raised in cities, although it emerges frequently among those who have what is favorably described as “street smarts.” I hear it to some degree in the stories of many women who’ve been disempowered or had to live in fear for an extended period of time. I know country girls who hear a car coming down the road or footsteps approaching the house when everything sounds absolutely quiet to me.

There is always a girl in the group who knows where all the doors and windows are as soon as she enters a room.

Maybe they call it “women’s intuition” because we have to appear to make survival look like magic. If they think it’s supernatural, maybe they’ll be at…

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Sara Benincasa
GEN
Writer for

Author, REAL ARTISTS HAVE DAY JOBS & other books. Writer of scripts. Host of WELL, THIS ISN’T NORMAL podcast. Patreon.com/SaraBenincasa