Cardi B: The Ultimate Feminist Icon

Earlier this year, Cardi B inked a deal with Atlantic records following the success of Gangsta Bitch Vol. 2. Fast forward to last month and her contagious record “Bodak Yellow” made history by topping the Billboard Hot 100, making her the first female rapper in 19 years to reach No 1. But if you dig a little deeper, Cardi B’s achievement is actually even more momentous.
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Her astonishing rise to fame has been described as both a modern fairytale and the millennial manifestation of the American dream. From social media influencer to A-lister, Cardi B has sent reverberations through the music industry. Of course, relishing in her success isn’t just about whether you like “Bodak Yellow” or whether you’re an advocate for breast and bum augmentation. It’s about celebrating women – those with or without privilege or pedigree – and Cardi B is on top because of pure talent. She is a woman on a mission writing her own narrative and making a way in society for modern-day feminism.

Just a girl from the Bronx, Cardi B began her ascent to fame as a college drop-out. Aged 18 she became a stripper, then rose up with Instagram to become a reality star and most recently a mainstream rapper. She has made a name for herself with her unapologetic behaviour and uses social media to speak out on a variety of issues, based on real life experiences.

Feminism isn’t a subject that is talked about in hip-hop, but plenty of artists have fought for and made music to support the fight for women’s rights. From Queen Latifah to Nicki Minaj, Cardi B is the latest female rapper who isn’t afraid to label herself as a feminist. And when it comes to her music, she represents the underdog, encouraging female empowerment.

When you hear my lyrics, you hear the shots that I throw at people,” she tells XXL referring to Gangsta Bitch Vol. 2. "I throw shots because I always been the underdog. I got rejected so many times and I say it in my lyrics constantly. 'My ex told me I was never gon' be sh*t/Lookie, lookie now, lookie now, n*gga I'm that bitch,' I always got to prove myself, even now. I put that in my music because that’s something that still bothers me."

She has been praised by both fans and critics for her willingness to speak up and openly defend what being a true feminist means to her. But it has not come without criticism. She has been under severe scrutiny by haters for representing feminism in the ‘wrong way’ because she was a stripper.
I inspire women to make money. I’m not encouraging women to be a stripper. I’ma tell women to find a niche and make the best out of yourself and make money out of it.”
Unlike other artists, Cardi B finds her inspiration from the women she has been surrounded by, the women that she has seen struggle and her mum in particular.
My mom, she’s the best woman ever, the best mom in the world. But she was dependant on my dad and when he left, I saw how hard she had to work to take care of us. I knew I didn’t want to work that hard for a little bit of change.”
What Cardi B may not realise is that she has become the inspiration for thousands of people globally. Labelled a ‘feminist shero’ by fans, her frank and honest lyrics about her experience with domestic violence, inspires other survivors and proves that there can be life after leaving a violent situation.

In Gangsta Bitch Music Vol. 1, the skit ‘Her Perspective’ is a very raw representation of the traumatic experiences survivors of abuse endure on a daily basis. This, along with her commentary in other songs, raises awareness of the realities of how domestic violence can play out in the real world. She touches on this when discussing how becoming a stripper empowered her to move on, a good example of her sex worker inclusive feminism.

Perhaps a college drop out, Cardi B proves that you don’t need a degree in politics to have an informed opinion about the political landscape. From discussing the 2016 US presidential elections, she has used her platform to comment on current affairs and does what the American rapper does best – speak out against the status quo.

I love Cardi B, precisely because she represents so much of what society has told us to hate about women.
Sexists will call her a slut, that she sleeps around and climbed in her career by over-sexualising herself and that her music is trash.
Feminists will say she uses her body instead of her mind to get ahead, that she empowers women in the wrong way, because she was a stripper and that she uses the word “bitch” much too often.
But to love Cardi B, you’ve first got to love womanhood in all its shapes and forms – even the womanhood that is considered the worse, because it’s the one with makeup, weaves opposed to natural hair, the one that abides to patriarchy and the male gaze according to what is supposed to be respected in a woman. In order to love Cardi B, you got to give the woman some credit, for being a bad-ass modern feminist.

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