At the 2016 Democratic National Convention, then-First Lady Michelle Obama had some inspiring advice in the face of increasingly nasty political attacks against nominee Hillary Clinton. “When they go low,” Obama said, “we go high.” This made sense to me as a Black Gen X woman. I was taught respectability politics that cautioned us to always be the bigger person; we didn’t have the luxury of showing our emotions without risking being called angry or ghetto, even if we were defending ourselves.

Rep. Jasmine Crockett, D-Texas, however, is not Gen X. She’s a millennial. And last week, when real-life internet troll Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., made a nasty and unwarranted crack about Crockett’s appearance, Crockett didn’t go high. She matched Greene’s energy.

I don’t think I would have clapped back like she did, but I’m proud of her and her generation’s insistence that they can.

The verbal melee started during a House oversight committee meeting when Greene sneeringly told Crockett that her “fake eyelashes are messing up what you’re reading.” This would seem a violation of a rule against “engaging in personalities” — or personal insults — so when a vote to have Greene’s words stricken from the record failed, Crockett inquired whether “talking about somebody’s bleach blonde bad built butch body” would be engaging in personalities. (I believe it would!)

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It was obviously a slap back at Greene, a famously blonde CrossFit devotee, that was not nice, but Crockett was giving as good as she got. In a statement to the Baltimore Banner on Thursday, Crockett reiterated that committee chair James Comer, R-Ky., “was unable or unwilling to rein in his out-of-control caucus or bring any degree of coherence to the meeting he himself called” and that Greene “clearly lacks the ability to engage in the meaningful governance that we were elected to conduct. She should be stripped of her committee assignments as she was last Congress.”

Well then! Since the events of last week, Crockett, who is planning merchandise featuring her barbed retort, has apologized for using the word “butch,” which may be considered a derogatory term for the LGBTQ community. But she did not apologize for the tenor of her comments, nor to Greene, whose insults she termed — I think correctly — as racist. Black women know that pointed comments about our hair, nails, eyelashes are just down the road from cracks about the way we move our necks and calling us Sheniqua.

Crockett pointed out to CNN’s Abby Phillip that even Republican women wear lashes and hair extensions but Greene “never felt like that was a dig that she needed to take at anyone except for me, a Black woman who sits on the committee.” And the Texas representative had no concerns about “going high,” like Obama once suggested. “I don’t know that we can even call this a low,” Crockett said of her response to Greene. “I mean, she goes to hell, and then I do my best to remind her as to why she should not cross me.”

Crockett’s candor is refreshing in part because she feels empowered to express it. “No way can you just sit there in a hostile environment taking abuse,” said Tiffany Carlock, 43, a political advocate from Odenton who recently campaigned prominently for Democratic Senate nominee Angela Alsobrooks (who, full disclosure, is my cousin).

“We as millennial women in leadership have observed what happened to Gen X women. We’ve learned that respectability politics don’t get you as far as you would hope. The moral high ground has left people with symptomatic conditions, collapsing under the insults,” said Brittany Hale, 35, of BND Consulting Group, a business strategy firm in New Jersey. “We are saying, ‘Enough.’ The curtain has been pulled back. And we’re saying, ‘I don’t need to prove anything to you. You are not the compass. I get to define my own compass.”

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Carlock said Crockett’s moment last week was par for the course, considering the slights and double-standards she and others have endured in Congress. Bell contrasted the response to Crockett’s appearance with that of Pennsylvania’s Sen. John Fetterman, “who shows up in a sweatshirt and shorts, and was given permission to come to chambers looking like that? Now come on. You’re gonna talk about false eyelashes?”

I want to talk about those eyelashes, but in a good way. I’m intrigued that this generation of women shows up, professionally, in what’s considered typically Black fashion — long nails, wigs, extensions or braids — in a way we Gen Xers were not encouraged to. Like Hale said, her generation and the ones that follow are looking at what we went through and realize we were fighting a battle we never should have had to wage.

“I’m never going to be less feminine, less Black or less me enough to please someone committed to seeing that as a negative anyway,” she said. In other words, they were going to criticize us anyway. Might as well do you.

Joyce Bell, who has a unique perspective on the next generation as a professor in the social sciences department at University of Maryland Eastern Shore, finds that, for better or worse, Gen Z has a “‘this is me, take me or leave me’” attitude, a reaction to the breakdown of rules and standards in current society. She sees Crockett’s actions from the same perspective, “fueled by the frustration of the whole political scene as it is now [that] is make-it-up-as-you-go, almost.” And that left the congresswoman no choice but to stand her ground.

“I remember my mother saying this vividly: ‘You know, Joyce, make sure you know what battles to fight. You don’t fight them all. Fight the important ones, rather than just be fighting,’” Bell said. “For Crockett at that moment, that was the one she chose to fight. I’m really glad she did.”

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Journalist, community advocate and former Baltimore mayoral candidate Catalina Byrd said Crockett’s generation’s ability to speak their mind was brought by things like the Crown Act, which prohibits discrimination based on traditional African American hairstyles or textures. “I don’t think Jasmine would be as successful six years ago as she is now,” Byrd said. “The climate is changing. … There is a level of safety you have to have to be that audacious, and the most inspiring thing about Jasmine is that she’s saying, ‘I feel safe enough in my seat.’”

Going even deeper, Byrd believes that words like “ratchet” and “ghetto” were normalized as insults within the Black community and shouldn’t have been. “If you stand on it, it takes the fire out of it. It’s not a slur if you already owned it. Now what you see in this younger generation, that there is no longer just a certain type of Black person who is worthy. It’s all of them. We are more inclusive of our own. Some of us have to code switch. Not this younger generation. I love that. If you’re ratchet, just be ratchet. Just be good as what you’re good at.”

That’s amazing, hard-won knowledge. At 53, it’s sometimes hard to see my generation as rugged pioneers forging a path for future generations, particularly when we didn’t always set the best example. But I have to remember that societal changes are gradual. I was born. Michelle Obama and I doing what we had to do to keep our feet wedged in the door so that subsequent generations could kick it open.

Hale says she appreciates the effort, and also how things have changed.

“You were never going to be polite enough, on your P’s and Q’s enough,” Hale told me. “I see Michelle [Obama] out there, and I have so much respect for the women above us who made it possible for us to get into those spaces. But it’s like technology: Each generation gets better. My hope is that in the future this doesn’t need to be a conversation.”

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That’s a truth that’s easy to see, no matter what your eyelashes look like.

This column has been updated.