Why Cardi B Inspires Me As A Jewish Feminist
Cardi B continues to make moves as she releases yet another music video, this time for her Latin-inspired song “I Like It,” a major hit in her most recent album, ‘Invasion of Privacy.’
Over a month after the album’s release, Cardi B’s lyrics “I don’t dance now/I make money moves” from her #1 hit “Bodak Yellow”continue to echo from car windows in the city and on any pop radio station in the state.
Cardi B has broken multiple records in the past two years. In 2017, she became the first solo female rapper to have a song reach #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 since 1988 and passed Beyonce’s 12 song record by having all 13 titles from Invasion of Privacy make Billboard’s Hot 100 list.
Aside from her distinct position as a newfound music legend, Cardi B’s persona of effortless confidence has taken center stage as the epitome of female empowerment — whether she realizes or not.
I am tempted to call Cardi B a feminist icon. Considering the multiple conflicting definitions of feminism and it’s goals in the 21st century, however, I am attempting to stay away from political semantics and uber-specific explanations. So, we’re going to stick with the model of female empowerment instead. Ironically, however, Cardi B has yet to acknowledge any of the empowering messages she sends.
Instead, she does what she does best: Herself.
Cardi’s unapologetic lyrics give off an assertiveness that lets everyone know that her musical triumphs are no coincidence. In “Bodak Yellow,” Cardi B shamelessly states that she “Dropped two mixtapes in six months/What bitch working as hard as me?” She knows she has talent and a good work ethic, compelling others to recognize it through her lyrics.
Beginning in 2014 as a widely followed Instagram and Vine personality, Cardi B used the money she earned working as a stripper to kickstart her dream of becoming an artist. She worked hard to merit a place on her rightfully earned pedestal and feels no shame in admitting it. As she told Ellen Degeneres, “People want me to be like ‘oh I hated [stripping],’ ‘I don’t recommend it to nobody.’ I don’t recommend it to everybody because it’s not for everybody, but it made me money, it paid my bills…it got me my boob job…it just helped me a lot.”
In The New Yorker’s raving review of Cardi’s album Invasion of Privacy, Carrie Batton explains how Cardi “is the first to admit that rapping takes work and that her progress has required intense study.” Instead of putting up the Taylor Swift-like romantic facade that writing music relies on sparks of emotional inspiration, “Cardi…makes studied premeditated songs. She is a formalist who wears the writing process—and her influences—on her sleeve.”
We can acknowledge that it seems a bit antiquated that women, in 2018, need a strong female persona to exemplify confidence in women.
Yet, even in today’s hyper-aware millennial atmosphere, women “frequently express that they don’t feel they deserve their job and are ‘imposters’ who could be found out at any moment.” Pauline Claunce and Suzanne Imes coined this “imposter syndrome” in 1978, and the issue remains relevant today. What dooms women according to Jack Zenger of Forbes, is “not their actual ability, but rather the decision not to try.”
“Imposter syndrome” applies to women across the board, regardless of race or religion, and the Jewish community is no exception. The constant separation and differentiation between men and women in aspects of religious life further propagate this feeling, but Cardi B can show us that there is no reason for women to feel inadequate.
Seeing Cardi, a strong female persona, take both personal and musical risks while continuing to charm the world, can do wonders for female confidence. She has broken down barriers from the recording studio by showing women everywhere confidence and self-assurance.
For years society has dictated the “proper” path for a woman -— from marriage to motherhood. The Jewish emphasis on marriage propagates a pressure to settle, making the choice to forgo the typical dating scene seem like jumping into a black hole of eternal loneliness. Cardi B’s unconventional beginning shows women that the path less taken remains a wide open option for a road to success and happiness.
Cardi’s most shining moment came on April 7th’s episode of Saturday Night Live. During her moving musical performance, she revealed her pregnancy to…well, everybody. For many women in many professions, pregnancy is an insecurity. It leads to questions and “opinions,” as Cardi B explained on the Ellen Show.
Cardi’s relatable anxiety surrounding her pregnancy makes her graceful handling of the situation all the more influential. At that moment, confidently singing in her sexy fitting stunning white dress to a televised audience of millions, Cardi did not let the pregnancy define her.
Still today, society (and the Jewish community in particular) often emphasizes motherhood as essential to female self-worth and happiness. By skipping any formal announcement and allowing the news to spread through her performance, Cardi showed the women of the world that her humanity, her future motherhood, and her pregnancy — while crucial parts of herself — do not need to overshadow and take over her career.
Cardi B is really just being herself, but in doing that, she is breaking records and making waves with female empowerment. As a Jewish feminist — to quote Cardi herself — I like it.
Lilly Gelman is a student and writer living in New York City. Her work has appeared in The Jewish Georgian, Kol Habirah, The YU Commentator, and Perspective. She is a senior editor for The YU Commentator and Perspective.