After Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Vanity Fair cover reveal, the attacks from her critics were almost instantaneous. It’s no surprise, of course, because there is no one conservatives (and perhaps a few centrists) loves to hate more than AOC. And it seems that even a profile story on the freshman congresswoman was enough to needlessly cause speculation.
The criticism this time is centered around the ethics of Ocasio-Cortez wearing expensive, designer clothing on a magazine cover — and whether it is at-odds with her values as a Democratic Socialist. “AOC on the cover of Vanity Fair. The clothes are estimated to cost $14,000 [£10,800],” tweeted writer Sunanda Vashisht. “So happy that AOC is upholding the long established hypocritical tradition of Socialists who believe Socialism is for [the] poor while they enjoy the fruits of Capitalism.”
Hoards of critics — conservative or otherwise — began to attack Ocasio-Cortez for her borrowed white Aliétte suit. And as quickly as the antagonists arrived, other advocates came to her defence to simply explain that none of this disputes the values of Democratic Socialism. Unlike Vashisht’s claim that Ocasio-Cortez wearing an expensive suit is hypocritical to the socialist movement, others countered to say that socialism is not asking people to take a vow of poverty — it’s believing that maybe everyone deserves to have nice things (like health care and basic human rights) instead of just the population’s one percent.
While it’s common knowledge that clothing worn for magazine photoshoots is usually loaned, this was simply just an excuse: It’s easier for people to criticise AOC because she is a threat — both to Republicans, for whom she challenges the tenuous grasp on power they currently hold, and to establishment Democrats, for whom she risks making obsolete and irrelevant.
This is also not the first time AOC’s clothing has caused a backlash. In 2018, after Interview magazine ran photos of the Congresswoman in a suit and Manolo Blahnik heels, an outfit totalling about $3,500, she was dragged for being “someone who pretends to be a champion of the people” while wearing a suit that costs the equivalent of several months’ rent. Earlier this year, she was criticised for daring to wear (gasp!) a designer dress on television, causing her to explain that she borrows, rents, and thrifts her clothing (an explanation she never should have had to give in the first place).
Even Ocasio-Cortez’s $300 (£230) haircut and highlights — a pretty standard styling cost in a city like Washington, D.C. — came under fire last year. Meanwhile, President Trump wrote off $70,000 (£54,100) worth of “hair styling” costs during his time hosting The Apprentice.
But Ocasio-Cortez’s identity as a young, Latina woman has only intensified that criticism waged against her; it’s easy to lean into sexist stereotypes to suggest that an established politician might not fully grasp the ideals with is fighting for — like Democratic Socialism — and try to discredit her on something as surface-level as her appearance.
Despite the utter lack of legs this argument against Ocasio-Cortez has, it’s only given her many supporters the opportunity to further explain what the congresswoman is fighting for: providing Americans with living wages, and “basic levels of dignity so that no person in America is too poor to live,” Ocasio-Cortez told Business Insider in 2018. “That’s what Democratic Socialism means.”
And in case there was a question of whether she was rattled by this completely empty criticism, she has already responded to it:
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