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Pegging the Patriarchy: Analyzing Cara Delevigne’s 2021 Met Gala Look

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

It’s been a little over a month since the 2021 Met Gala, when America’s favorite celebrities paraded on the red carpet wearing outfits of various artistic visions that pushed the boundaries of fashion—and, arguably, good taste.

While Frank Ocean’s green baby was delightfully baffling and Kim Kardashian’s dementor costume provided much-needed comic relief, the ensemble that caught my eye most was Cara Delevigne’s: a white bulletproof vest from Dior, reading “Peg the Patriarchy.”

Delevigne reportedly “burst into tears” when she saw what she would be wearing, and when asked to describe the outfit, said it was about “women empowerment [and] gender equality…  a bit like, ‘Stick it to the man’.”

The internet has since been divided, with praise and disapproval coming from all corners of the web, and even some controversy about potential theft of intellectual property. Fans have stated their admiration for the model’s outspokenness, while critics have deemed the language crass and derogatory. 

While I may not care much about the Met Gala, language, rhetoric, and the implications of the two are something of a passion of mine. So, let’s address and answer the question: Is Cara Delevigne’s outfit truly the feminist, activist fashion many think it is? Or is it something else entirely? 

For those of you who don’t know, pegging is defined as “a sexual practice in which a woman penetrates a man with a strap-on”.

No matter who you are—whether you’re a worldly citizen of the sheets or on the more unknowing side of the spectrum—it’s important to remember and understand that sexual acts are simply those: acts. They have no morality, sexuality, or politics attached to them. As long as all parties consent and no one gets hurt unwillingly, whatever preferences or fantasies a person has are not indicative of who they are or what they believe in

This is where the issues with Delevigne’s slogan begin to emerge.

To start, framing pegging as a way of “sticking it to the man” implies that sex—specifically, domineering sex—can be used to “fix” someone’s attitude. If we were to reverse the gender roles, the language would clearly be sexually violent and reflect an abusive ideology. Regardless of the gender of whoever is being targeted, sexual violence is never okay, and certainly should not be shown off like a fun, catchy jingle; it’s gross and reprehensible. 

Furthermore, this sentiment suggests that men who bottom give up power, masculinity, and dignity, an idea that is commonly associated with traditional homophobia.

See—the context in which “Peg the Patriarchy” is said wouldn’t make any sense unless those who use it view pegging as degrading or shameful. It maintains the idea that those who get penetrated during sex are lesser than those who do the penetrating, an ancient and enduring work of the patriarchy that has reinforced toxic masculinity and old-school misogyny for decades. 

To put it simply, all this does is perpetuate the very same oppressive systems that those who use it claim they are trying to dismantle. 

It’s important to consider the impact of our actions and words and the ideas that we promote with them. Language, while sounding attractive, can often be misleading and even downright detrimental to the causes we support. Therefore, it is essential to always speak with intention and clarity, instead of with what you believe will get the most ears turned your way, and to listen to others with twice the amount of thought. 

When it comes to social justice, there’s always work to be done, which makes it all the more crucial that we prevent any backsliding from the changes that we are trying to create.

Jenny Nguyen

CU Boulder '25

Jenny is a freshman at the CU College of Arts and Sciences, majoring in MCDB with a computational biology minor. Her interests include astronomy, debate, Pokemon, and a variety of TV shows and movies ranging from the average slice-of-life to a good, bone-chilling horror flick.
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