Saturday, January 04, 2020

Karlie Kloss is not her Brother-in-Law

*Project Runway spoilers*

For the past few years, my nickel description of Karlie Kloss -- Heidi Klum's replacement on Project Runway -- has been "she's a supermodel who married one of the good Kushners". Karlie's husband is Joshua Kushner, brother of Jared Kushner, son-in-law to you-know-who. But unlike her brother, Joshua is a public-and-proud Democrat, and Karlie too has not been shy about her progressive values. And Jared and his father were apparently real assholes to Karlie when she started dated Josh (I know, who would have guessed?).

This all shifted from "interesting trivia" to "very relevant" last night thanks to a comment by one designer on the most recent episode of Project Runway.

The challenge was to design a look for Karlie Kloss to wear to a fashion gala in Paris. Designer Tyler created a look that was ... not that. It looked old -- not "classic", just out-of-date. When it walked the runway, Jill and I remarked that it was not for Paris ... but maybe for the Kushners ("it looks like something Ivanka would wear", Jill said, not intending it as a compliment).

We thought we were being very snarky. But when Tyler ended up on the bottom and listened to the judges berating him that Karlie wouldn't wear this to Paris or Martha's Vineyard or anywhere else, he couldn't help himself. "Not even to dinner with the Kushners?", he said with a smirk.

Now, Jill and I did basically say exactly that too -- but we meant it to underscore how badly Tyler missed the mark in the challenge (which was not "dress Karlie Kloss to look like her obnoxious in-laws"). But Tyler clearly meant it, not quite as a defense, but as a jab -- a defensive clapback at Karlie for having the temerity to (fairly) criticize his look. It was a jaw-dropping moment, and after getting over the initial shock Kloss handled it with professionalism (which is to say, she proceeded to explain in exquisite and cutting detail why Tyler's look was garbage). Tyler ended up being eliminated, and for the record it was entirely deserved based solely on the merits. His look was terrible, he had struggled all season-long, and this wasn't the first time his mouth seemed to outpace his skills.

Tyler did apologize at the end of the episode. But there is a very popular take around the internet that he said nothing wrong. This reaction is typical:
The idea is that Tyler was actually a bold truth-sayer, holding Karlie to account for ... what exactly? Her brother-in-law's politics? Why? She doesn't share them. She's never defended them. She's never given the slightest hint she's sympathetic to them. She's her own woman, with her own views (as, for that matter, is Joshua Kushner, who is of course not his brother either). Yet of course, that doesn't matter in the slightest, because misogyny. And it sickens me to see how many people seem to think they're boldly speaking truth-to-power when they reduce a woman to her male relatives.

Karlie Kloss is not her in-laws. She is her own person. If she herself has done wrong, call her out for that. But who her relatives are is not her wrong, and if you think smugly reminding Karlie Kloss that she's related to the Trump family as some sort of gotcha is anything other than a dick move you're telling on yourself far more than you are on her.

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