Expressing Surprise That Cardi B Is Clever And Politically Aware is Sexist and Racist

Guilty of it? Have a word with yourselves.


by grazia |
Updated on

A new interview sees Cardi B discuss politics, race and other vital topics with presidential candidate Joe Biden. In the accompanying video she is articulate, well-informed and utterly charming, but still very much Cardi. She bookends statements with her trademark 'okurrrs' and flashes her iconic nails. Unsurprisingly, many are shocked that the combination is possible.

The Daily Beast's resulting headline was 'Cardi B - yes that Cardi B - grills Joe Biden on police brutality...' The implication was that it was surprising that a woman known for sexual lyrics, and for her past as a stripper, might pick up a newspaper once in a while, might consume current affairs, may take a real interest in what is going on in her country.

The sentiment was repeated all over Twitter, with people shocked that Cardi could string a sentence together let alone show real academic prowess. Some meant well - they were 'pleasantly surprised' to see that she possesses such political awareness. At best, this is still wholly patronising. At worst, it is both sexist and racist.

Cardi is an educated woman - she studied at Manhattan Community College but dropped out - who has found success despite the inherent prejudice and discrimination that she faces as a woman, and as a Black person. It takes great strength to pull yourself up in a society that treats you like nothing. The fact that she has thrived should be celebrated. Instead, she is patronised.

Aside from anything else, Cardi's craft is based in language. You may find WAP uncouth, but rap is an art form. Her lyrics are smart, evocative and stirring. When Eminem first appeared on the scene, think pieces galore equated his vocabulary with Shakespeare, and said he was a poet. No one applauds Cardi for the same skillset. They're too busy worrying about how WAP might impact their children. You might not think that rhyming pussy with cushy is elegant, but if you think sexual content renders something less worthy of critical acclaim then you might want to give the Songs of Solomon a read sometime.

Cardi's crime seems to be that she does not look like a smart woman, as if a woman with a sensible up-do and mousy lowlights is inherently more intelligent. She doesn't sound like a smart woman, as if cut glass consonants and a Received Pronunciation accent denotes a high IQ. She does not dress like a smart woman, because smart women wear pantsuits and dumb ones wear PVC.

It's all laughable, based on stereotype and misogyny designed to tear women down. She is having none of it. She is the latest woman in the public eye who refuses to accept the impression the world has of her. When Sofia Vergara was mocked week after week as the funny foreigner on Modern Family, she played her part, then showed her behind-the-scenes acumen by becoming the world's best paid woman in television. When Nicole Richie was depicted as unintelligent via The Simple Life, she tore her detractors down with eloquence and charm. Ever time Kim Kardashian is derided as stupid, she banks another million dollars via her latest business venture. We keep calling glamorous women stupid, and they keep on proving us wrong.

Cardi B is perfectly intelligent. She is a strong, successful woman with the world at her feet. Expressing surprise that a woman, any woman, is more intelligent than you expect makes only one person look like an idiot. And it's not Cardi B.

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