On Tuesday, the annual Met Gala was held in New York City. There were so many beautiful pieces of clothing from brands like Louis Vuitton, Dior, and Versace. However, there was one person who really struck my eye, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (AOC). AOC is a congresswoman born and raised in the Bronx. AOC wore a white dress that flared at the bottom. On the back in big red font, the words “TAX THE RICH,” were written. AOC received so much backlash. As I scrolled through Twitter, I noticed a pattern of comments about AOC’s Met Gala Outfit — it all goes back to deep-rooted misogyny targeted at women in power.
AOC posted a photo of her on Instagram with her designer with the caption, “The time is now for childcare, healthcare, and climate action for all. Tax the Rich.” Her goal was to spread awareness of what increased taxes can do in helping undervalued people in the United States, who AOC attempts to represent.
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Soon after this post, Donald Trump Jr. proceeded to tweet, “The ‘tax the rich’ dress while she’s hanging out with a bunch of wealthy left wing elites or the lack of masks after spending the past 18 months as one of the biggest authoritarian mask Karens in the country?”
In addition, Representative Jim Banks from Indiana tweeted, “Last night was symbolic of how the Democrat party governs. The lowly help are forced to mask while the elites party and laugh at you.”
These men constantly ignore facts and only aim at putting down female Democratic politicians because they are egoistical and never agree with anything besides their own opinions. This, again, can be traced to deep-rooted misogyny in America, where women are challenged for every risky choice they make. Everyone’s targeting AOC for attending an event geared to rich people and claiming that her going was a waste of tax money, but how come nobody is talking about Lil Nas X and his three outfit changes, including an outfit made of gold-plated armor.
Representative Carolyn B. Maloney from New York also wore a gown publicizing the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. The ERA is an amendment that has not been fully ratified and was proposed a century ago (the Equal Rights Amendment guarantees equal rights to women and people of all genders).
Maloney and AOC were both criticized for making these fashion and political statements. And while these politicians knew that wearing these outfits would not immediately solve the problem, they could at least bring awareness to the topic. Their goal is to spread awareness and educate the common people about policies and reforms they stand by. Among many others, Cara Delevingne, an English model, actor, and singer, wore a shirt that states “Peg The Patriarchy.” All these women drew attention to politics and American issues, which directly related to the “American Independence” Met Gala theme of 2021.
AOC wore the dress to symbolize the many millionaires and billionaires who attended the Met Gala who paid over $35,000 for a single ticket.
Before AOC was a congresswoman, she worked two jobs making less than $30,000. Now, it is estimated she makes $174,000 per year. Compared to other A-list celebs, this is not a considerable amount of money.
Some people spend hundreds of thousands of dollars just for one table, such as the Kardashians. AOC, as an elected New York Official, was invited, meaning that she did not have to pay for a ticket. On top of that, the dress was borrowed and created by designer Aurora James, the founder of the Brother Vellies fashion label. James, the child of immigrant parents (her father is from Ghana) also made the dress from sustainable materials.
During one of the red carpet interviews, AOC said, “When Aurora and I were first kind of partnered, we really started having a conversation about what it means to be working-class women of color at the Met, and we said, ‘We can’t just play along, but we need to break the fourth wall and challenge some of the institutions.”
This also brings up a very important point — people should stop idolizing politicians. Of course, most people identify with politicians because of their policies and view on the issues, but we must remember that politicians are never perfect and by idolizing them we are expecting an ideal person to create a mirror image of our views, which is practically impossible.
Some people on social media are claiming that AOC’s choice to wear this dress is performative activism. Many people like to label activism as performative even when it is clearly not. Performative activism is a derogatory phrase meant to accuse folks of being an activist for the sake of increasing one’s social capital rather than for the sake of a cause. It’s frequently linked to surface-level activism.
Some examples include people posting black squares on social media for the Black Lives Matter movement or just posting memes on social media platforms instead of offering educational resources and direct action outlets for people passionate about those topics. AOC is quite the opposite of a performative activist.
As a congresswoman, AOC spends her days representing the underprivileged people of America and making sure their voices are heard in Congress. She has created many policies and hosted events in her hometown to offer first-hand resources to give back to her community when her home state is in need. In the past, AOC has been known for working with Senator Bernie Sanders in getting former Senator and current President Biden to triple the amount of money that went to improvising the housing system and general infrastructure. AOC never hesitates to voice her opinions in the House of Representatives as a woman of color.
Even though AOC’s dress caused a lot of backlash, Maya Wiley was quick to defend her. Wiley was a New York City 2021 mayoral candidate who AOC endorsed. Wiley stated, “Politics shouldn’t be about purity. She did the right thing by not avoiding it, by saying this is part of who we are, and let’s have a conversation that includes the Met Gala.” Wiley explains that the dress was not supposed to be a magical solution to the issue, but a measure of people’s views on the ideology of taxing the rich. AOC decided to be on the right side of history by broadcasting this issue at a significant event like the Met Gala.
There are so many other problems going on in our country and a politician’s outfit is the least of our country’s problems. AOC also has a merch line that sells clothing that states, “tax the rich,” written in bold white font. A couple of months back, people were quick to attack AOC for overpricing her merch knowing that most people would not be able to afford it. She quickly fired back, saying the clothing was ethically sourced/union-made and made in the U.S and all profits went to relief efforts.
We can all agree that AOC’s activism at the Met Gala resulted in huge buzz. Now, The American Accountability Foundation, a conservative watchdog group has filed an ethics complaint against AOC due to her Met Gala attendance. Her office defended her saying, “We are confident we complied with all ethics rules.”
It appears the so-called “scandal” will have implications to come for AOC and her team.