AOCs boyfriend is a reminder of the importance of a supportive partner

Various studies show that many men are threatened by smart women, but web developer Riley Roberts is not one of them

Behind every successful congresswoman is a strong, bin raccoon boyfriend, apparently.

Over the past few days the internet seems to have become obsessed with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortezs boyfriend, a web developer called Riley Roberts. Ocasio-Cortez is pretty quiet about her private life but Roberts makes an appearance in Knock Down the House, the new Netflix documentary about four women who ran in the 2018 midterm elections. And, though brief, his appearance generated rather heated discussion.

THIS is what AOCs boyfriend looks like? one writer tweeted. [I]ncredible scenes, truly representing all the ambitious and stunning millennial women shackled to boyfriends who look like bin raccoons out there. The internet immediately rushed to the (actually very handsome) guys defense, and the tweet was later deleted. It didnt escape Ocasio-Cortezs attention, however, and the couple seem to have taken the raccoon comparisons with good humour. On Sunday AOC posted an Instagram clip of Roberts showing off a new haircut, with the caption: The Internet roasted Riley into getting a haircut/glowup after #KnockDownTheHouse.

I am not entirely sure how many millennial women are shackled to boyfriends who look like bin raccoons, but I can tell you that far too many ambitious women are shackled to men who undermine their ambitions. AOC doesnt seem to be one of them. By all accounts Roberts appears to be a super supportive partner who has encouraged her success, and isnt threatened by her intelligence. Sadly this still isnt the norm. Various studies show that a lot of men find smart women a threat to their masculinity. And a 2013 study from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business even found that once a woman started to earn more than her husband, divorce rates increased.

Gender equality begins at home. However, far too many women are held back from their ambitions by male partners who dont do their fair share of housework and childcare. A 2004 study that looked at 43 women who quit their careers to become stay-at-home mothers, for example, found that the fact their husband didnt do enough at home played a key part in two-thirds of the womens decisions to leave work. As one analysis of the research notes, while the women almost unanimously described their husbands as supportive they also told how those husbands refused to alter their own work schedule or increase their participation in caregiving. Im sure we all have friends with partners like that. Guys who are largely lovely and progressive but still seem incapable of doing their fair share.

The single most important career decision that a woman makes is whether she will have a life partner and who that partner is, Sheryl Sandberg observed in Lean In. I dont know of a single woman in a leadership position whose life partner is not fully and I mean fully supportive of her career. You hear this message again and again from high-powered women. In 2013, Ursula Burns, the former CEO of Xerox joked that the secret to success is procuring an older husband who can stay home and look after the kids. Burns, who was the first African American female CEO of a Fortune 500, husband was 20 years older than her and retired when they had young children.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg has also talked about how her late husband actively encouraged her career. Indeed Martin Ginsburg was so supportive that it caused some problems with the financing of the RBG biopic, On the Basis of Sex. According to a New York Times interview with Daniel Stiepleman, who wrote the movie, development executives thought Martins character was completely unrealistic. Backers offered to fund the film if he was rewritten as angrier, or less understanding. Ginsburgs character came up a lot, according to Stiepleman. I remember at some point saying in a meeting, Theres a 5,000-year history of narrative, of men coming home from battle, and their wives patch them up and boost their egos and send them back out to fight again. You write one supportive husband, and everyones like, such a creature could never exist! Either that or they call him a bin raccoon.

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