On Monday, Sept. 13, the annual New York Met Gala saw attendees don varying garb in response to this year’s theme, “American Independence.” From Hollywood entertainers to political pundits and social media users, viewers praised and/or criticized certain attendees for wearing outspoken fashion in support of varying social justice causes. Some rallied behind the use of fashion as a medium for these expressions. Others questioned if it was rather a display of hypocrisy above all else. 

What kind of responsibility do members of Congress, activists and artists have in spaces of such juxtaposition of wealth and expression like the Met Gala? Where do celebrities and politicians stand and what roles do they play when they call for accountability and equality, yet also play into trends or attend spaces where these values are challenged?

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Jason Frank ’22

The Met Gala took place Monday, and, per tradition, much opining on the Met Gala also took place. This year’s discourse focused on Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s white dress with red lettering reading “TAX THE RICH.” Some called AOC’s dress hypocritical, as it was worn at one of the most luxurious events of the year. Some defended it, saying it was a bold political statement. It was neither.

Tables at the Met Gala are purchased for $275,000 and the purchaser then invites guests (if Anna Wintour has approved them), with tickets costing $35,000. Many who criticized AOC for her attendance and politics perhaps forgot the Met Gala is not just a party but a fundraiser for the MET’s Costume Institute. This, combined with the celebration of the opening of an exhibit on American fashion, renders political messaging appropriate.

Despite this, wearing that political statement isn’t inherently bold, nor was the message coherent to the event. Focusing on AOC’s individual choice to be political took away from complex conversations that could have been had about the politics of the event itself: despite the theme of the night being American fashion, there were few Black American designers featured.

AOC’s dress shifted focus onto issues that get talked about year round. Perhaps her statement would have been more well-received (and more effective) if she’d focused her politics on the event at hand, especially as one of the few attendees to wear a dress designed by a Black woman. The question we should be asking is not whether politics should be addressed at the Met Gala, but what politics should be addressed.