This past Monday the annual Met Gala was held in New York City bringing together the most regarded celebrities, fashion icons, and frankly, the social elite. Though usually held the first Monday of May, the event was postponed due to the ongoing pandemic. This year’s gala theme is “America: A Lexicon Of Fashion” kicking off the opening of the Costume Institute’s annual fashion exhibit within the Met. The 2021 gala raised a record-breaking $16.75 million and is the primary source of the institute’s annual budget.
Knowing the facts, figures, and overall status of the event, many were surprised to see Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Many more were surprised, and openly outraged, at her outfit choice for the evening. AOC wore a suffrage white gown, dawned with the phrase “Tax the Rich” in blood red on the back.
To many, this AOC “stunt” has the same narrative as Marie Antoinette “let them eat cake.” Sean Hannity was quick to lash out, writing “BACKLASH: AOC Under Fire for Wearing ‘Tax the Rich’ Gown to NYC’s Ultra-Elite Met Gala,” on his blog. And of course, every college and high school student who is blindly loyal to the Barstool brand, and is quick to hop on an AOC-hating-bandwagon, was quick to repost Dave Portnoy’s tweet read: “Tax the Rich… but first I’m gonna go have the time of my life partying with them all at the most extravagant over the top party of the year that is essentially a celebration of richness.”
You’re all missing the point.
The importance of the situation is exactly that she wore a dress that says “Tax the Rich” to the most elitist, upper-class event that the public has visibility of. The dress is supposed to be performative, in no world was she going to show up and solve poverty or class inequality.
AOC’s platform as a congresswoman is fighting for this exact platform. On the Congresswoman’s website, it reads,
“Ocasio-Cortez grew up experiencing the reality of New York’s rising income inequality, inspiring her to organize her community and run for office on a progressive platform with a campaign that rejects corporate PAC funds.”
The entire statement is that of visibility. If the Congresswoman didn’t want to be seen at the event she wouldn’t have accepted her invite.
Another common critique is that her dress is thousands of dollars for an event that is thousands of more dollars. Invites are offered to most New York City public officials for free as a common courtesy, the Congresswoman did not pay $30k for her ticket.
And okay, let’s talk about the dress. AOC is wearing a custom-made Aurora James gown. Ms.James is the designer behind Brother Vellies and has spent her career advocating for economic equality. In an interview with CNN on Tuesday, James explained that she and AOC had followed each others’ work for years, and related to each other on a personal level as women of color who were hustling in their respective fields in New York City. James is a Black designer from Canada, who spent time in Africa in her twenties and grew her brand off of the skilled work of artisans, and items inspired by their intricate work.
Furthermore, the “Tax the Rich” dress is in line with Ocasio-Cortez’s past proposals to help fund progressive legislation. The congresswoman has previously proposed increasing taxes on the nation’s wealthiest members in order to pay for the Green New Deal, which would help improve national infrastructure and fight climate change. Throughout her political career, Ocasio-Cortez has also criticized wealthy business owners who don’t pay their employees enough for them to afford basic needs like food, shelter, transportation, and healthcare.
So, Ashley, the “Tax the Rich” dress isn’t about your dad that’s a dentist. It’s awesome that your family can afford to pay off your house in the suburbs, take a beach vacation twice a year, and buy your groceries at Whole Foods, but frankly nobody cares. In regards to the upper 1%, you’re poor.
The phrase “Tax the Rich” is directed at the mega-billionaires that could end world hunger tomorrow if they wanted to. It’s for the billionaires that pay their workers minimum wage and vote to defund public education, public health, and continue to profit off of their marginalized employees.
The irony is obvious and intentional, AOC didn’t wear a “Tax the Rich” bloodstained dress to hide at an elitist party and get Super-PAC donors. The Met Gala is one of the most visible and high coverage events worldwide, the congresswoman is spreading a message about the importance of income inequality directly to those at the top of the spectrum.