Earlier this month, 7.5 million people tuned in to watch the Met Gala on Vogue live. With the theme of "American Independence," Keke Palmer and Ilana Glazer interviewed multiple guests about their outfits. Politics through fashion seemed to be on trend this year with many folks using their outfits to send a message, from Alexandria Ocasio Cortez's "Tax the Rich" gown, to Carolyn Maloney's "Equality for Women" cape and Megan Rapinoe's "In Gay We Trust" clutch.
One look, in particular, that caused quite a stir was Cara Delevingne's "Peg the Patriarchy" Dior bulletproof vest. When asked to describe her outfit, Delevingne said, "It's about women empowerment, gender equality — it's a bit like, 'Stick it to the man.'" In a video with Vogue, she explained working with Maria Grazia at Dior, where she presented her idea and they reportedly came up with the concept for "Peg the Patriarchy" together.
A simple Google search, however, would have revealed that the phrase was originally coined by Luna Matatas, a queer sex educator and coach from Canada, who trademarked the term back in 2015.
Shortly after Delevingne appeared on the red carpet, Matatas took to social media to call the model out for not properly crediting her and clarified the real meaning behind the movement. "It's about subversion, not about an anal sex act and not about men," she wrote, explaining how the patriarchy is a system, not just one person, that affects us all. "It's a metaphor for subverting the system that requires subservience within a gender binary."
In 2015, Matatas came up with the term, "Peg the Patriarchy," while making T-shirts for Toronto Pride. After seeing the phrase gain significant traction, she decided to start a small business — and as a marginalized sex educator with no legal team, she took the initiative of trademarking the term. "I did it to protect my business as a fat queer woman of color," Matatas told PAPER of her decision.
So to see Matatas' work claimed and appropriated by a major celebrity and designer on a global stage came as a shock to her. She argued that the phrase was copied down to the font and, above all, expressed frustration that it was a missed opportunity for collaboration between her, Delevingne and Dior.
In 2015, Delevingne was accused of creating and selling "The Future is Female" t-shirts identical to one sold by a queer-owned small business, Otherwild. On Instagram, they noted that the design was protected under copyright law and that they would have been happy to sell their designs wholesale to Delevingne. The founder said in a caption, "Delevingne's choice to lift and manufacture Otherwild's design, claiming it as her own to sell with an undisclosed charitable offering, is indefensible."
"[Cara's] explanation of 'Peg the Patriarchy' is a little vapid and is not rooted in systemic change. It almost puts out a girl power type of vibe,' Matatas said, arguing that Delevingne's Met Gala contribution lacked a serious contribution to the greater movement. Several sex educators also took to the internet to speak out against Delevingne's look, calling the message sex-negative. The authors of the post went on to say that "pegging without consent is not pegging, it's assault and no one, not even 'the man' deserves to be assaulted."
We've often seen this behavior from white feminists, where they use their feminist agenda as a marketing tactic without doing any of the real work and end up doing more harm than good. One could argue that this fits in perfectly with the theme of "American Independence," considering how America has a long history of co-opting and cultural appropriating movements for white consumption all while pushing marginalized voices to the sidelines.
White women, in particular, are also notorious for their role in uplifting systems of white supremacy. California State University researcher Dreama G. Moon calls white feminism, "White supremacy in heels." Through their research, they note that "by erasing women of color, positioning women as victims of white male hegemony, and failing to hold white women accountable for the production and reproduction of white supremacy, (white) feminism manifests its allegiance to whiteness and in doing so commits 'discursive violence.'"
That is exactly what Delevingne managed to do at this year's Met Gala. She not only failed to educate herself or credit Matatas for the phrase, but managed to trivialize an entire sex-positive movement in the process. So what does accountability in this case look like? Matatas said it's time to move away from canceling people and towards professionally creating space for them to do better by taking public accountability.
"I would like an apology and accountability from Cara as well as Dior," Matatas concluded, adding that she can only hope people like Delevingne who are in positions of power use their influence for the better. "In an ideal world, I would receive more than that — probably compensation."
You can buy Luna Matatas' "Peg the Patriarchy" merch, here.
Photo via Getty