by Jess Howard
Disclaimer: article discusses sensitive topics — features forced abortion.
The annual Met ball returned to New York this week. Held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the event charges ticket prices from upwards of £900, all in aid of The Met Costume Institute that opened in the 1940’s. The event is best known, however, for the guests that frequent it. Beyonce, Kim Kardasian and singer Lady Gaga all graced the red carpet. Draped in designs that supposedly followed the designated theme — ‘China: Through the looking glass’.
Celebrity interpretation was ‘interesting’ and, in some cases, borderline racist. For instance Fifty Shades of Grey star Dakota Johnson chose to accompany her Chanel Haute couture mini dress with a bag by the same designer. However, far from being a fun and exciting piece of couture, the bag featured a Chinese woman with stereotypically fine slits in place of eyes. As if Chanel, and indeed Johnson, were unaware of the thousands of Asian woman undergoing plastic surgery for the sake of achieving the western eyelid shape.
The cost that ticket holders had to pay to attend the event also brings into question the ethics of the ball. Admission prices varied from between nine and sixteen thousand pounds. But arguably, The Met Costume Institute may not be in need of the total amount raised.
Preservation of the arts is an incredibly important issue. Art history breeds new opportunities for admiration and research, but with this also comes age and decay. Fabrics are often found to be particularly in need of repair, due to the delicacy of the material. But would it be too bold a statement to suggest that the funds raised from an event supposedly celebrating Chinese culture, actually tries to support the country it’s celebrating?
A well-known issue within China is the law called the one child policy. A system introduced in 1979, families are permitted have only one child. The system was introduced to control the increase of the countries swelling population. Families that broke this rule were faced with fines and reduction of family benefits. However, news reports show that the policy has produced devastating consequences that far outweigh the benefits to the countries resources.
Forced to have only one child, with the knowledge that producing males ensures the family name continues into new generations, many families would hope for a boy. This mentality led to many young girls being abandoned or left in orphanages, to disappear as if they never existed. Allowing the family to go on to have another ‘only child’. The number of selective abortions also increased dramatically.
To prevent this China made foetal sex determination illegal during the 1980’s. But this did not prevent many families from aborting perfectly healthy babies purely as a result their gender. Females are still very much seen as inferior within certain areas of Chinese culture.
Far from just affecting unborn children, many women have suffered greatly at the hands of this policy. International news reported on the story of Gong Qifeng, who was allegedly abducted and forced to have an abortion when she was 7 months pregnant. By comparison, doctors in the UK will not perform an abortion if a patient is more than five and a half months into her pregnancy. Qifeng has since been reported to have developed multiple mental health issues, as a result of the attack, and has told reporters that she felt like ‘a walking corpse’.
If attendees of the Met Gala can easily spend such large amounts of money on a ticket to an event, with the additional cost of wardrobe and preparation thrown in, then surely they have money to spare. Instead of merely implementing a theme based on the exploration of Chinese culture, funds raised from the event could arguably have gone towards helping the people of the country in need of support.