A video has recently surfaced in which rapper Cardi B admitted she used to ?drug and rob? customers when she worked as an exotic dancer in New York City. Cardi grew up in the Bronx as a child of a single mom in poverty. Cardi herself has stated that she?s not saying what she did was right but it was ?what she had to do at the time to survive.?
Internet memes are making the rounds comparing Cardi to Bill Cosby and even R. Kelly. Here is why that is beyond wrong: Cosby did not drug and rape women to survive. He did not do it because he had limited options as a woman of color coming from poverty and finite options. He did it as a successful, famous millionaire for the sheer pleasure of it. I have NO tolerance for people criticizing Cardi because no, it is not the same. When men assault a woman it?s ok cause she was obviously a slut and wanted it. When a woman ?assaults? a man she?s the patriarchy?s boogeyman; a woman who dares to not uphold male life as inherently more sacred and precious than her own. When we as women trespass the patriarchy in these ways, we are swiftly and harshly punished. Cardi is also a woman of color. Women of color, particularly Black and Latina women make a fraction of what their white female counterparts make and this is no less true in sex work where whiteness garners more money and more work, particularly in the strip club industry where club owners ?don?t want to have TOO MANY women of color in their club.? Club management is often highly racist in their hiring practices and fears hiring women of color lest they be considered a ?black strip club? and they often relegate WOC to the much less lucrative day shifts. This is well documented by the strip club strikes, which recently took place in NYC by dancers of color who were taking a stand against racist oppression by club management.
I want to make clear that, no, I?m not saying institutional oppression gives people an ?excuse? to do whatever they want to other people. I?m not saying what Cardi did was necessarily ok or ethical. But Cardi herself has said this. She isn?t trying to make excuses. What offends me and angers me the most about the criticism of Cardi is the clear sexism inherent in many people?s commentary. Cardi is a woman of color from a background of poverty who was just trying to survive in a world where women of color are treated like disposable garbage. She was not a multi-millionaire famous male tv comedian or another multi-millionaire male R&B singer when this happened. She was barely surviving.
Why is it so hard for the public to have empathy for women? Why do we hold them to such a higher standard then we do men? Why can?t so many people hold disagreement with the nature of these acts in one hand but also hold compassion and empathy for a young woman just trying to survive in the other? You can disagree with what Cardi did and still show empathy for the obvious dire straits she must have been in to have to resort to such an extreme. Writing her off altogether for being a human being facing limited options and having to make hard decisions is cowardly and frankly ignorant. Maybe you have never had to do what Cardi did to keep afloat but we can?t measure Cardi?s validity as a person with a ruler made for someone else. Conflating cardi with Cosby is quite a lazy analysis. What would we lose by holding Cardi?s struggles equal to the unethical nature of what transpired? We would be acknowledging that privilege exists. Racism exists. Patriarchy exists. Inequality and unfairness exist. And maybe that?s what America is most afraid of.