Why Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Met Gala Dress Was So Controversial

New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has never been afraid to speak her mind, despite the controversy it may cause. Since being elected to Congress in November 2018, Ocasio-Cortez has become somewhat of a lightning rod for criticism of the American left, given her outspoken progressivism and leading role in the youth socialist movement in the United States. In March 2019, in fact, shortly after she was inaugurated as the youngest Congresswoman in American history, Ocasio-Cortez had already become "one of the most targeted politicians for hoax claims" that year, mainly through fake quotes, photoshopped photos, and false rumors, according to Politifact.

Ocasio-Cortez's fearlessness at being controversial became no clearer than in September 2021, when she attended the Met Gala in New York City wearing a white dress emblazoned with the phrase "TAX THE RICH" in red on her back. Despite Ocasio-Cortez having advocated for a number of progressive fiscal policies — including higher taxation on the wealthy – since the beginning of her time in Congress, this move still caused a bit of controversy, both from the left and the right. 

Naturally, however, Ocasio-Cortez has learned how to deflect attacks after spending so many years in the spotlight, and was not afraid to double down on her message. 

AOC was accused of hypocrisy

After wearing her famous "Tax the Rich" Met Gala dress, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez faced quite a bit of criticism, including what many perceived as hypocrisy. A notable example was from Texas Senator Ted Cruz, a vocal critic of the young Congresswoman, who tweeted the night of the Gala, "Cost per Ticket: $30,000. Virtue signaling to your base while partying — without a mask — with the people you claim to hate: Priceless." Similarly, Donald Trump Jr. called the Congresswoman a fraud the same night, for "hanging out with a bunch of wealthy leftwing elites," as well as not wearing a mask after being "one of the biggest authoritarian mask Karens in the country." 

In addition, the American Accountability Foundation, a conservative research group that staunchly opposes the policies of President Joe Biden, filed an ethics complaint against Ocasio-Cortez two days after the Gala for allegedly accepting a gift worth upwards of $30,000 (the ticket) from for-profit company Condé Nast, per NBC News. The event itself, however, was a charitable fundraiser, and there has been little follow-up since the complaint was filed.

Of course, as Ocasio-Cortez pointed out in an Instagram post the following day, she did not have to pay for either the dress nor the Gala, as she was invited to the Gala as an elected official of New York City, and the dress was borrowed. In addition, the indoor mask mandate in New York City had been lifted for vaxxed citizens in August. 

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez faced left-wing backlash

Despite much of the criticism of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Met Gala dress coming from the right, she also faced some criticism from her own party. Left-wing writer John Ganz of Gawker, for instance, called Ocasio-Cortez's choice of attire "atrocious," "lame," "juvenile," and "sad," adding that wearing the dress was "the wrong kind of corniness." "It's the sort of terrible youth-outreach type stuff that Lena Dunham tried to do for Hilary Clinton," he wrote. "This is like something Sacha Baron Cohen could've come up with to parody the faux-social consciousness of high society."

Ocasio-Cortez responded that she believed much of the criticism aimed toward her was a sexist double standard, and that she was proud of the message she helped to spread, per the NY Daily News. "I am so used to doing the same exact thing that men do — including popular male progressive elected officials," she said at the time, "and getting a completely different response." She added in an Instagram post that she was "proud to work with [designer Aurora James] as a sustainably focused, Black woman immigrant designer."

She closed out her post by writing, "The time is now for childcare, healthcare, and climate action for all. Tax the Rich." No matter one's feelings about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and despite the controversy she has endured, it cannot be denied that her appearance at the Met Gala proved she does not back down from fighting for the causes she believes in.