AOC and ‘let them eat cake’: Who paid for her Met Gala ticket?

Bruno Cooke September 15, 2021

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Twitter is abuzz with commentators claiming Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ white dress, emblazoned with the phrase “tax the rich”, represents the congresswoman’s “let them eat cake” moment – a reference to Marie-Antoinette’s infamous repartee. What’s the meaning behind the “let them eat cake” comments, and what does this have to do with AOC’s Met Gala ticket?

AOC and ‘let them eat cake’

Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or AOC, stirred the proverbial (Twitter) pot today with her 2021 Met Gala dress, emblazoned with the words “tax the rich”.

She wasn’t the only one to make a statement: Cara Delevingne ruffled feathers with her “peg the patriarchy” vest, while Megan Rapinoe flaunted a “In Gay We Trust” message.

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Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

Among those calling out AOC with the claim her outfit represents a “let them eat cake” moment are Sky News host James Morrow, who described those in attendance as a “bunch of celebrity show ponies”.

He also wrongly described Kim Kardashian’s dress as a “burka” and threw a handful of expletives at AOC and her fellow celebs. 

Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro also dedicated an entire episode of his show to Ocasio-Cortez’s Met Gala dress. He called it AOC: Let Them Eat Cake.

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What is the meaning of ‘let them eat cake’?

“Let them eat cake” is undoubtedly one of the most famous quotes in history. 

The story goes that in 1789, during the French Revolution, on being told her subjects had no bread to eat, Marie-Antoinette – then bride to France’s king, Louis XVI – supposedly said: “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche”, meaning “let them eat cake” or “they should eat cake”.

However, there are a number of holes in that story. 

Brioche is, more closely, a cross between bread and cake, so the phrase’s translation is off from the start. More importantly, however, historians dispute she ever said it in the first place.

Marie-Antoinette donated generously to charitable causes. Moreover, according to History.com, she regularly displayed sensitivity towards the poor population of France. 

Additionally, publics have blamed numerous other royals for similar remarks – in the centuries and decades before Marie-Antoinette supposedly said it. It is therefore unlikely the attribution is correct. Nevertheless, the phrase has its symbolic weight.

The allegation is, according to the message’s proponents, that AOC is being hypocritical by bringing her “tax the rich” message to a gala that charges upwards of $30,000 per ticket

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Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Who paid for AOC’s Met Gala ticket?

Tables for the Met Gala typically charge $35,000 per guest. However, the Metropolitan Museum Of Art invited AOC, along with her boyfriend, plus New York City mayor Bill de Blasio and his wife, to attend the event for free.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez therefore attended the event on a complimentary ticket. Read an account of AOC’s net worth and salary as a NYC congresswoman here.

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Photo by James Devaney/GC Images

She has since defended the dress, and her attendance at the gala, stating: “NYC elected officials are regularly invited to and attend the Met due to our responsibilities in overseeing our city’s cultural institutions that serve the public. I was one of several in attendance. Dress is borrowed.”

AOC’s defenders emphasised she “knows how to go viral, and has done so on a core message”.

Incidentally, Ocasio-Cortez has previously said she has a “soft spot” for “humour activism”. She made the comments about an activist who, dressed as Marie Antoinette, attended a House committee hearing with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to protest the Trump administration.

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Bruno is a postgraduate student studying global journalism, with research interests in the intersection of the media, storytelling, culture and politics. His articles have appeared in Groundviews, Packs Light and Forge Press, and most are readable on Medium or onurbicycle.com. He is a Student Ambassador for Tortoise Media, a big fan of Freddie Mercury and a novelist – his debut novel, Reveries, is available on Amazon.