Over the weekend, self-made billionaire Kylie Jenner threw her BFF a Handmaid’s Tale-themed birthday party, leaving the internet to question if Kylie Jenner understands the plot of The Handmaid’s Tale. Meanwhile, I’m still over here wondering if Kendall Jenner knows that her favorite book, Animal Farm, is an allegory.
Kylie Jenner, who was homeschooled in Calabasas, finally got to experience the pure embarrassment of showing up to class unprepared, having failed to read the book or even skim SparkNotes/binge the TV adaptation. At no point in the party planning (ordering the Gilead flags and acres of red curtains, walking the wait staff through their “Martha” costumes and characterization, taste-testing the “Under His Eye” tequila cocktails) did it occur to Jenner that cosplaying as handmaids could potentially be problematic.
Photos from the event show attendees like Kylie Jenner, Victoria Villarroel, Ariel Tejada, and Sofia Richie, as well as birthday girl Anastasia “Stassie” Karanikolaou, sporting red cloaks and white bonnets. In a recovered Snapchat story, Jenner welcomes guests into the elaborate setup with a “praise be.” The group seems entirely unaware that they’re recreating a hellish world in which women are reduced to walking uteruses; and the same week that Courtney Love described the Kardashians as “this Venusian fertility cult in the Valley,” no less!
As BuzzFeed News pointed out, “The theme seemed a strange choice given that the show—which is based on Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel of the same name—depicts a dystopian society in which women are stripped of all rights, selected for their fertility and routinely raped, before being forced into childbirth.”
While countless attacks on reproductive rights threaten to make The Handmaid’s Tale our actual reality, wealthy celebrities are having themed parties in red robes and white bonnets and play-acting at punitive patriarchy. It’s almost mind-bogglingly tone-deaf, especially considering the fact that protesters have repeatedly taken to donning the same outfits to demonstrate on behalf of reproductive rights and bodily autonomy. Activists are out here harnessing Handmaid’s Tale imagery to try and stave off dystopia. Jenner is so clueless, possessing the immense privilege of being able to remain clueless, that she and her friends can play dress-up and have no awareness of the political connotations of their costumes. Celebs with massive platforms throwing money at Handmaid’s Tale-themed bashes while the rest of us frantically retweet fundraising pleas from abortion funds is so goddamn dystopian you could pitch it as a Hulu series.
In many ways, Kylie Jenner’s Handmaid’s Tale costume party is a classic Kardashian misstep, from the women who brought you Pepsi soda as an antidote to police brutality and T-shirts desecrating iconic images of Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G.—not to mention a long history of profiting off black culture and creativity.
As The Daily Beast previously reported, “The Kardashian klan is tapping into a long history of American entrepreneurs who spot trends and then repackage them for new markets. Instead of stealing from the rich and giving to the poor, they’re taking from predominantly black designers and influencers, and making their aesthetics accessible and desirable to new demographics…Kylie and Khloé’s ripped-off designs hit a nerve because they play into one of the more problematic aspects of the Kardashian brand: the fact that they are so consistently lauded for creating trends or looks that women of color have been rocking—with far less fanfare—for decades.”
That being said, reality-TV’s first family is arguably more problematic today than ever before. It was recently revealed that Jenner Communications has revived the Instagram account @robkardashianofficial as a “fan account,” sharing family photos and teasing merch. This is quite the workaround, seeing as Rob was banned from the social media platform for sharing revenge porn of his ex, Blac Chyna. In an official statement, an Instagram spokesperson claimed that Kardashian “has not returned to Instagram, and he is still not permitted on Instagram. @robkardashianofficial is a fan account and is run by a management agency, not by Rob himself.”
Meanwhile Kanye West, the A-list Kardashian son-in-law who ought to be Kris Jenner’s crowning achievement, has come out as a Trump supporter—and stayed out. In response to her MAGA hat-wearing husband, Kim Kardashian has struggled to do damage control, like insisting that Kanye “doesn’t represent either side” of the aisle. However, she’s admitted that West’s controversial Trump stanning has caused problems in their relationship, and “gave me so much anxiety.” That’s probably due to Kardashian’s latest incarnation as a criminal justice reformer who’s currently undertaking a four-year law apprenticeship. Kardashian has been praised for her role in the release of Alice Marie Johnson, who received a life sentence for a first-time nonviolent drug offense, and for bankrolling legal teams and broader criminal justice reform. It seems that Kim’s less woke and certainly less PR-savvy family members are once again undermining her efforts to convince the world that the Kardashians aren’t entirely out of touch. At this point, Kim’s going to have to start a Calabasas DSA chapter.
In the meantime, might we suggest a “Praise Be” vodka cocktail?