It was July of last year and I was looking through my Instagram feed before coming across a video from The Cut titled: “How to Thirst Trap on Instagram with Cardi B.” By the time this video had been published, Cardi B’s “Bodak Yellow” had already become one of the biggest – if not the biggest – musical hit of the summer. Everyone was hyped when her song came on and everyone praised her hustle. But as much as I enjoyed her music, I still found myself struggling to fully embrace the Bronx-native and Dominican- Trinidadian artist.
“Don’t be a complete hoe, be a classy hoe,” Cardi says in The Cut’s video, where she’s seen making sexy poses and giving advice to women on how to properly thirst trap on IG. “It’s giving hints that I’m sexy and I want to fuck, but I don’t really want to fuck.” I definitely rolled my eyes once or twice after watching this first video but it wasn’t the worst. It was NBD.
I found myself getting real judgmental though, after someone sent me the Exclusive World Premiere video, where Cardi talks about her sex life and all the men she’s slept with.
Everything about the language in this video bothered me. I started to dissect all the things I found problematic about the rapper then I shared the video to my Facebook page with the caption: “Sorry but this is one of the many reasons why I can’t get on the Cardi B bandwagon.” I was later surprised by the number of mixed responses I received on my feed.
One friend referred to Cardi as “trash,” which I’ll admit was incredibly harsh. I didn’t agree with that. But the rest were quick to get to Cardi’s defense. I was immediately asked if my issue with Cardi had anything to do with how she openly expresses her sexuality, which I quickly confirmed was not the case. It was her language and the way she verbally expressed herself that irritated me. But when a friend brought up the discrimination the rapper had received because of her socioeconomic upbringing, I found myself having to dig deeper.
Aside from being talented and hardworking, part of the reason why everyone can’t stop talking about Cardi these days, is because her rise to fame happened on her terms and her terms only, and that’s not an easy thing to navigate when you’re a Black Latina from a hood in the Bronx. She had more cards stacked against her than for her and yet she still rose to the top. She still reached the No.1 spot on the Billboard music charts, making her the first Dominican solo rapper to even get to that level. She still performed at the 2018 Grammy Awards.
The rapper grew up in a part of the Bronx where 53.5 percent of residents are Latino – mostly Dominican. Most of them live in poverty and Cardi was one of them. Cardi also attended disadvantaged and underserved public schools which tend to lack serious resources required to provide students with a descent education. She was also a victim of domestic abuse, like many women in that neighborhood.
After doing all this research, it finally occurred to me that consciously or not, I was judging Cardi for her socioeconomic upbringing and her lack of education. How could I call myself a proud Latina feminist if here I was judging another proud Latina feminist because I didn’t find her speech or lifestyle polished enough?
I later learned that Cardi had become a stripper when she was 18-years-old in order to make enough money to leave her abusive relationship. Rapping was her tool of expression. It’s what gave her strength, power, agency, and eventually fame.
Cardi is the perfect example of a feminist and it’s so important we all understand this. When we talk about intersectional feminism, we’re not just talking about a feminism that actually speaks to and resonates with women of color, we’re also talking about a feminism that speaks to women of all walks of life regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion, physical abilities, sexual orientation, or class. In fact, all of those things impact the way a woman experiences oppression and discrimination and it also impacts the way she reacts and responds to it.
Sure, a white woman might suffer discrimination because of her gender but she also has the privilege of being white. A Latina or Black woman experiences discrimination both due to her gender and her race. And a Latina or a Black woman who comes from poverty will experience all that and more. In other words, shaking my head at Cardi’s word choices and how she uses sex to empower herself, isn’t doing any of us women favors here. It just further separates us while also highlighting the privilege some of us have, of being middle class and educated.
Part of being an intersectional feminist is recognizing that our oppressions may differ and the way in which we deal with our oppressions may differ and that’s okay. Sure, Cardi might be a lot more explicit in the way that she talks about sex publicly but that doesn’t make her any less powerful. After all, it’s her candid speech and humor that speaks to how genuine and authentic Cardi is and remains to be, despite her newfound fame. One could argue that being true to who she is and embracing where she came from, is part of what contributed to her fairy-tale rapper story.
Plus, let’s be real here – we don’t give men half the shit we give women for using vulgar or sexually explicit language. If there’s one lesson to be learned here, it’s that as women we really need to stay on the same team. We have a mission here on this earth to gain the same rights, freedoms and respect that’s so easily granted to men. As a result, we really need to continue to support, embrace, and empower one another and differences in class, education, and lifestyle should never come in the way of that.