AOC’s Dress ‘Started a Conversation’ — What’s That Worth?

Our “awareness” is about as “raised” as it’s going to get. Now what?

Justin Ward
2 min readSep 14, 2021
(Nrkbeta / CC-BY-SA 2.0)

The designer “Tax the Rich” dress that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wore to the Met Gala sure pumped a lot of fuel into the ol’ discourse machine. Everybody had a take. Conservatives were calling it hypocritical. Critics to her left dismissed it as performative. Others leaped to her defense, arguing that it was a clever provocation intended to start a conversation.

If that was the goal, then mission accomplished. The dress got everybody talking.

But talk is cheap, as they say.

The issue was never a lack of conversations or “awareness” about problems like wealth inequality.

We talk about these things all the time.

Not only that but poverty and precariousness are realities that the majority of Americans live every single day. You don’t get much more “aware” than that.

What it really comes down to is a question of power — what power really is and what it means to wield it.

It’s one thing to have the ability to impact the national conversation. It’s another to have real power to shape policy.



Justin Ward

Journalist and activist. Founder and co-chair of DivestSPD. Bylines at SPLC, The Baffler, GEN, USA Today. Follow on Twitter: @justwardoctrine, @DivestSPD