Cardi B’s single “Bodak Yellow” hit No.1 on the billboard Hot 100 list, making her the first Dominicana to achieve this feat. This week it continues to hold this spot for the second week in a row. This has folks talking about her more than usual, sparking up the same conversation as always, with those who hate talking about her, and those who love her celebrating. Hating on Cardi B, particularly within Dominican culture, is easy for both the sexists and the feminists.
Sexists will say that she’s a slut, that she sleeps around and climbed in her career by oversexualizing herself, that she is ugly, and disgusting, that her music is trash.
Feminists will say that she’s oversexualizing herself, that she’s using her body and not her mind to get ahead, that her music is trash and she uses the word “bitch” too often.
When feminicidios in the Dominican Republic made it to the forefront of the conversation again, I honestly felt like the feminists. I was angry at a culture where killing women was okay, and angry at the women promoting centering men in our lives, promoting the male gaze, promoting oversexualization. I was angry at how economic oppression and sexism in the DR means that women of all classes in fact, get ahead with chapeo because it is the only way, and I was angry at how Cardi B’s song in Spanish, which I believe is the chapeo anthem, further promoted that. I was angry at all of sexism.
And then I realized that my love for Cardi B, which is unlike any admiration I have felt for any other artists ever―except for those who I’ve met or known personally―is precisely because she represents so much of what we’re supposed to hate about women. It was my own internalized misogyny that made me angry at her―though it literally only lasted a day―because we’ve been taught to blame ourselves and never point to men. To love her is to love everything about women, to love high femininity in a way in which we’ve been taught to hide from.
To love Cardi B. is to understand that womanhood in all its shapes and forms is amazing.
To love her and admire her is to understand that the burden of oversexualization is a burden black women carry as a result of colonization, and that it isn’t solely on us to undo it. To love her is to understand that this burden of being oversexualized means feminismo to us has looked like hiding from our sexuality at the fear of promoting our own bodies and further objectifying ourselves, as opposed to having the freedom to be free in our own skin. Her love for herself, her openness with her plastic surgery, her ownership of her way of speaking, is love of femininity in itself. And for us to love her is the most feminist thing we can do, and within our culture, because in the end, she’s just being her goddamn self and choosing not to be responsible for undoing this burden.
She has often said when folks attempt to call her out because “imagine the little girls watching” that that’s not on her, because these aren’t her kids. That the responsibility is that of the kids’ parents. This is her defending her right to be carefree. Her openness with using men for money is unapologetically leaning in[to] the one thing women can use to get ahead―without blaming women for doing it, making it something open. In a culture where men begin to feel ownership over women’s bodies particularly when they financially support that woman, her message is imperative: paying my bills because we’re fucking, because I give you love, because I give you emotional support, doesn’t mean you own my body. (An ownership tied to feminicidios). It’s personally made me more demanding of the men in my life.
Her openness with plastic surgery is necessary in Dominican culture where everyone has gotten something in their body modified or knows someone who has, where people go under the knife constantly but don’t say it out-loud. And yes, her openness about this particular topic as well is also necessary in a culture where so many tías get their tummies tucked on the low or breasts implant but shame other women (including trans women) who’s surgeries may be more pronounced (“It looks so exaggerated”). Her openness is necessary in a culture where so many doctors do botched up surgeries and take advantage of women’s desires but women can’t speak openly about it or recommend what’s best to one another because of the shame tied to plastic surgery.
I grew up in an aspiring middle class home in the Dominican Republic (which in the US didn’t mean anything, FYI) meant that we didn’t want to be seen as poor anymore so at home everything had to be perfect and respectable, like we had to hide a part of us. So to me, she also represents the freedom I never had growing up in a home where I was critiqued day after to day for speaking too loud or too fast, freedom that can be found in spaces away from white supremacy, spaces where culture outside the system happens, culture that white folks then appropriate.
When we deprive other women of love, particularly women like Cardi B who are easy so to hate, we give into misogyny too.
To love Cardi B. is to understand that womanhood in all its shapes and forms is amazing―even the womanhood that is considered the worst because it’s the one with make up, the one with weaves as opposed to natural hair, the one that abides to patriarchy and the male gaze according to what is supposed to be respected in women. I’m honestly tired of the ways in which everything from our deaths to our day-to-day decisions to survive falls on our shoulders. I’m most carefree when I’m running around with no make up, looking messy but feeling fly nonetheless while tanning under the sun in a random park in NY.
I’m also most carefree when I dress sexy as fuck and wear heals and twerk my ass off on some guy while drinking a corona away from so many who I’ve met in woke spaces who look down on sexuality for the sake of “protecting our energy” or some other ideology that shames me for being me. To be liberated should mean to be able to do it all without worrying about being looked down upon, raped, or even killed. Beyond all of that, she’s a fly beautiful woman who’s funny, witty, empowering, inspiring, and just great to look at. Watching her videos or listening to “Bodak Yellow” just makes me happy, it makes me feel empowered, and makes me feel like I’m THAT BITCH.
It is baffling that we’ve been taught to hate on someone who can be all of that at once. I’m also aware that she’s made transphobic comments in the past, and that she herself does need to be critiqued for that and held accountable. While she did apologize, one can only hope that she did more work to understand not only that what she said was a slur but also why it was wrong, dangerous and unacceptable. A feminist narrative that doesn’t include trans women is a narrative that isn’t inclusive of women in general, period, no matter how dope Cardi B is. I’m currently reflecting on this further. My hope is that those cis women who resonate with this article hold ourselves accountable for dismissing Cardi’s remarks (if we did) and think of how to leverage our privilege to push for trans inclusivity always.
Cardi is open about it all, just last week she posted a video saying she hadn’t even showered but wanted to thank everyone for making her single number 1. It’s easy as feminists to love the hood girls who find mentors that teach them to love themselves as they are, while wearing flowers on their hair and performing in long dresses and big hair do’s and singing about not needed a man. There’s definitely a disparity in how these femmes don’t make it to the mainstream, and that cannot be denied. But when we deprive other women of that love, particularly women like Cardi B who got ahead with her wit and not because someone signed her right off the bat, particularly women like Cardi B who are easy so to hate, we give into misogyny too.