The Formative Years – Riot Grrrl Cardi B
Part of my formative years were shaped and influenced by the underground feminist punk movement that emerged out of Washington and the greater Pacific Northwest at the early 1990s and what eventually became known as “riot grrrl” spearheaded by bands like Bikini Kill actively destroying the traditional image of femineity and addressing issues like domestic abuse, rape, patriarchal structures, et cetera. To this day, I am grateful that I got to meet some of the protagonists and exposed to the ideas propagated by them.
Now, I do not want to draw a direct line between Kathleen Hanna and the likes of Cardi B as they are not only in genres that could not be further apart but also have come up in different environments.
However, after having gotten over the first impression of superficial sexually overly explicit rap with the female protagonists appealing to the lower instincts of their audience, I started to like what Cardi B does and what she stands for.
Inherently carnal in nature and with all systems up to eleven in terms of production, what I like about Cardi B’s oeuvre is that is unapologetic in not merely mimicking the male counterparts but actively taking ownership, celebrating and articulating the sexuality of women.
Interestingly, despite expected public backlash, amongst my female friends, the sentiments seems to resonate – not necessarily in terms of the outlandish and at times vulgar delivery – but in that they welcome such a vocal voice in the public sphere.
At the core of most criticism about Cardi B and other female rappers of her calibre, there seemed to be misogyny and hypocrisy in that the subject matter of Cardi B’s songs was deemed okay for male rappers but not women.
To come back to the aforementioned riot grrrl movement, the parallels seems to lie in the refusal to engage in sex for the sole outcome of male pleasure, which e.g. Bikini Kill clearly stated with their 7” appropriately titled “I Like Fucking”.
From that angle and given that he world has not become less patriarchal over the last three decades, I enjoy the rebellion, confident female empowerment, subversiveness and threat to stereotypes that is inherent in songs like WAP.