Kylie Jenner is facing backlash after hosting a Handmaid’s Tale-themed birthday party this weekend.
Jenner posted a stream of videos and photos to her Instagram story of the bash this weekend, which featured her house transformed to resemble totalitarian society Gilead in honor of friend Stassie Karanikolaou’s 22nd birthday.
Décor included flags emblazoned with the Gilead logo and employees dressed as Marthas. Guests were supplied with red dresses and white bonnets, the standard handmaid attire, and were served specialty cocktails like “praise be vodka.”
People on Twitter swiftly condemned the “tone deaf” choice in theme, with many users citing the current political climate and battle over women’s autonomy as a particularly troubling backdrop for such an out-of-touch choice.
After all, The Handmaid’s Tale, a television series based on Margaret Atwood’s book of the same name, is set in a dystopian society where women are stripped of their rights, routinely raped, and forced to give birth before surrendering their children to more affluent couples. The novel heavily features themes of oppression that parallel current events happening in today’s world and, despite its 1985 publication, feels eerily relevant in the Trump era.
Many will say that The Handmaid’s Tale is a cultural phenomenon, that it’s nothing more than a television show to be taken at face value and is therefore fair game for to be imitated, just like any other pop culture moment would be.
The problem is, though, when you’re a role model to a generation, your platform matters whether you want it to or not. And with that platform, there comes a responsibility to put at least a baseline amount of research and forethought into a theme that you’ll broadcast across social media to millions of followers.
There’s something that doesn’t sit right with me when a woman with the insane privilege that Kylie Jenner has, who will never have to worry about accessing affordable healthcare or wonder where her next paycheck will come from, thinks there’s no problem with using oppression as a cutesy excuse to dress up.
Kylie doesn’t think about the correlation between The Handmaid’s Tale and the strict abortion laws that just went into effect across several states. Instead, she giggles as she instructs her friends to go pick out their outfits, the red ensembles that symbolize classism, slavery, and forced childbirth, the ones that she and her attendees will later pose in for pouty-lipped bathroom selfies.
I certainly don’t think Kylie had ill intent when she executed her Gilead-as-fashion birthday bash. I don’t know that she meant it as anything other than a fun costume party with a red backdrop ripe for Instagram likes. But if she’s not thinking of how that comes across to the women in Alabama, or Georgia, or Missouri, the ones who are seeing their rights whittled down little by little, perhaps we might want to consider throwing our support behind someone else who does.
Maybe instead of spending $40 on your next lip kit by Kylie, donate that money to the ACLU or Planned Parenthood or someone much more worthy of your money. Or, you can even head to Lipslut for your new gloss, which donates 50% of their proceeds to charity.
Either way, please don’t serve “Under His Eye” tequila at your next event.
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Michelle Vincent is a project manager and freelance writer. She enjoys traveling, is worried she won’t love her future children as much as she loves her dogs, and is actively recruiting podcast recommendations.