Andrew Yang Has a Serious Woman Problem
Why won’t the mayoral candidate condemn his supporters who viciously attack women online?
Last week, a supporter of Andrew Yang’s campaign for mayor tweeted out a truly cringeworthy video of the candidate. In it, Yang is asked multiple questions that refer to women as “b*tches”—including whether or not he “choke[s] b*tches” in bed. Yang responded by laughing.
As the head of one of the country’s largest advocacy organizations for women, I felt it was important to condemn his behavior.
After all, American women have just lived through four years of a political leader who engaged in sexist, misogynistic “locker room talk.” New York women can’t afford four more. Because the truth is, violent rhetoric about us can’t be divorced from violence toward us. By laughing at a question about “chok[ing] b*tches”—and by allowing us to be called b*tches in the first place—Yang failed women. At best, he proved unable to stand up to misogyny in real-time. At worst, he willingly and actively perpetuated it. Either way, we deserve better—especially because he still hasn’t apologized.
Immediately after hitting tweet, I was bombarded with replies and comments from self-professed members of the “Yang Gang,” who often identify themselves with a blue hat emoji next to their names or their pseudonyms. Not one apologized for their candidate’s actions. (Notably, Yang and his campaign still haven’t either... though they allegedly did ask the Yang supporter who originally posted the video clip to delete it.) Instead, they came from every corner of the internet, based in largely non-New York City locales, to swarm my post, defend Yang, and attack me.
They called me “piggy,” “a filthy liar,” and even a “b*tch” for calling Yang out. They called my organization, Women’s March, a “shitshow.” They relished in “ratio-ing” me—internet-speak for piling onto a tweet so it has more negative interaction than positive. One particularly dramatic member of the Yang Gang even said I’d be partly responsible for an impending “civil war.” And, of course, more than one endorsed the very violence I was condemning in the first place.
For the past week, this barrage has been non-stop. And it’s been made all the worse because Yang continues to defend himself rather than apologize, saying things like, “I did what felt comfortable to me at the time, which was just to end the interaction as quickly as I could.”
Now, I have thick skin. It’s practically a job requirement for me. And given the unfortunate but undeniable harassment and abuse that most women in the public eye experience online, I’m used to rolling with even the most sexist punches, ignoring my mentions, and drowning out the noise. I’ve gotten to a point where it doesn’t really bother me.
But it should bother Yang—especially because this isn’t a one-time thing. Any woman who’s been paying attention knows it’s a pattern by now: criticize Yang, or even just report the facts of what he’s done, and prepare for a deluge of derision and defamation from his supporters in response. That’s what happened to Sally Goldenberg, the City Hall bureau chief for POLITICO New York who first reported on the video of Yang laughing. And all she did was state what happened in it—so, her job. In response, she too was attacked.
While her own comments on the incident have been sparing, she shared a post by Alexis Grenell of The Nation that might very well sum up her experience: “If you want to see what happens to women reporters who call out sexism just visit @SallyGold 's twitter right now. YES it matters that a leading candidate for Mayor laughed off violent misogyny instead of shutting it down. Billy Bush did the same thing.”
Of course, Yang isn’t responsible for what every single supporter of his says to women online. The same was true for Bernie Sanders, whose supporters in the 2016 and 2020 presidential primaries engaged with critics of their candidate—especially women—in a similar way.
But Sanders, who eventually condemned the “Bernie Bro” behavior, understood something that Yang, who’s stayed silent while his supporters harass women online, refuses to: While you can’t control your supporters, as the candidate, you set the boundaries of what’s acceptable and what isn’t. When Yang allows a group of men to refer to women as “b*tches,” he leads by example. When he laughs at the thought of choking us, he sets a tone that his supporters can’t help but follow. And trust me, they do follow. Just look at my mentions on Twitter.
Let me be clear: I’m not saying Andrew Yang is sexist. I’m not saying he hates women. I’m not saying he wishes us harm. But what he feels personally is less relevant than what he does publicly. So long as he doesn’t vocally oppose the misogyny around him—whether it’s happening online in his name or in front of him during an interview on the street—he’s tacitly approving it.
The consequences of his approach hurt women. The problem predates this week, and it predates this campaign. At his nonprofit, Venture for America, several former female employees alleged that he treated them unfairly when it came to compensation and employment. Just as he did last week, Yang made excuses instead of amends when asked about it, saying, “I think that most people felt that my heart was in the right place, even if I misstepped at various times.”
He’s done a bit better when addressing the number of women on his presidential campaign who described a “toxic” experience in which they were “sidelined, ignored or belittled by male managers on several occasions, causing some of them to seek mental therapy.” In what seems like a first for Yang, he even said sorry. Years later, but still.
But it’s damning that Yang will make half-hearted overtures about how he should’ve done better back then while refusing to do better now. As recently as this year, his mayoral campaign was forcing volunteers to sign nondisclosure agreements—even after he’d pledged to end the practice notorious for silencing women and people of color from raising issues of harassment and discrimination. (His campaign only stopped using them after the news of his hypocrisy broke in the press.)
Laughing at the thought of “chok[ing] b*tches,” staying silent as your supporters harass women online, running companies and campaigns where women aren’t treated right—it’s all connected. And it’s all disqualifying. If Andrew Yang won’t even try to rein in his own actions or the behavior of his Yang Gang online, then he doesn’t deserve to take the reins of the largest city in America.