Why Cardi B Gives Me Life: I Went to a Feminist Book Club and Left Feeling like Dog Doo

“There’s just nowhere I can have a safe space.”

“I feel like everyone is just looking at me.”

“I just feel like sometimes people think I walk like an elephant and it’s like I feel like I have to shrink myself.”

“I just hate it when men tell me I’m pretty.”

I felt like I was on Mars, but I was not. I was at a feminist book club.

What on earth are these women talking about? I thought to myself. I had heavy footsteps to and I gave zero fucks. I used to listen to my mom’s high heels clicking on the floor as a kid and even as a five-year-old I thought she sounded like a badass with her 4-inch stilettos. I yearned to sound like I had power feet one day. Plus, I used to tap dance until I graduated high school, so that didn’t help.

I decided to offer my own personal story to the group.

“I have heavy footsteps too. A former coworker told me I did sound like an elephant. I responded by telling him to ‘bite me,’” I announced gleefully.

The women looked at me like I had lost my mind.

“It’s really about the way the patriarchy makes us feel like we take up too much space,” someone chimed in. The other women nodded in agreement.

Taking up space? Was that a thing? Between all the cheerleading and dancing I did growing up, all I knew how to do was take up space. To this day “Peanut butter and jelly spread it out!” is one of my favorite chants.

The woman completely missed my point.

I wondered would what would these women think if I said I wasn’t afraid to “take up space”. That when some guy on the subway asked me if I can move over so he can sit closer to the door I told him to blow me. Or that when the male religious realtor refused to talk to me, instead only addressing my then-boyfriend, I snapped and told him to stop being so sexist. I was the one moving into the apartment anyway. Or perhaps even worse what if they knew at one time the ringtone on my phone was “Girls, Girls, Girls” the Motley Crüe ode to strippers. It’s catchy and I always appreciate a little debauchery. Would I be shamed and tossed out the door like some sort of interloper?

“This is what living under oppression is like,” the moderator said solemnly.

I squirmed in my seat, wishing I had wine in my water bottle instead of green tea. Or better yet one of those wine bras that give you big boobs until you drink all the wine. I almost felt disingenuous just being there. When I think of oppression, I think of authoritarian regimes like North Korea or Syria. I think of my aunt who lived in Saudi Arabia and was forced to wear a burqa. Or my cousin in India who was pressured to marry some fuck face who dictates her every move, including what she wears to bed. I think of all the Amnesty International petitions I’ve signed for prisoners of conscience. Literally, nothing in my life could ever be compared to the fear of being jailed and tortured for voicing my opinion or being forced to wear a sari to bed.

I’ve been irritated, frustrated, and pissed, and some of the dumb sexist things I’ve heard, but oppressed? I could hardly nod along with the women considering how many free drinks and dinners I’ve gotten, how many times I’ve had the door held open, had my tires changed by a considerate bystander, or bags lifted in the overhead compartment on a plane by a man. Surely I couldn’t be the only one who had experienced chivalry.

Shitty things have happened to me too; being grabbed, catcalled, being talked down to, and experiencing inappropriate sexual encounters at work. You know, just the typical BS women go through. In 7th grade, some little shit told me wanted to rape me on an almost daily basis. I was a hot shit mess at the time, (because duh I was 12), but eventually moved past it. Those things never made me want to shrink. They made me want to speak louder. Or maybe that’s years of cheerleading camp speaking.

I kept my mouth relatively shut for the rest of the afternoon. I wanted to run out, eager to wash off the feeling of helplessness and victimhood, and summon my inner Wonder Woman, but I also wanted to see where this discussion would ultimately end up. Also, they had some really good cheese and crackers laid out and God knows I am a sucker for a creamy brie.

However, after the book club was over, I was left with an overwhelming sense of malaise and despair. I felt like a victim, not a badass. I wanted equal pay for equal work. I wanted to be able to walk down the street without having men leer at me, threaten me or touch me. I don’t think women’s wardrobes or intoxication levels should be an issue in rape cases. I think slut-shaming a woman is bullshit. I wanted my ideas to be taken seriously. But concern over safe spaces and what people think of my footsteps? Scared of people looking at me in public? Dictating gender roles and male/female behavior in relationships? Not so much.

To assuage my PTSD, I came home, poured a glass of wine, and listened to Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Beyoncé, Madonna, and Cardi B.

I bounced around my house singing.[1]

“I woke up like this”

“I’m feelin’ myself jackrabbit”

“Don’t go for second best baby”

“Said little bitch, you can’t fuck with me if you wanted to”

I didn’t know who this imaginary bitch was that I was singing to, but I knew he or she couldn’t fuck with me. I felt a surge of confidence run through my veins like a deflated Pilates ball coming back to life. Or like the Incredible Hulk when he turns into the Hulk. Minus the anger and hideous green color. Listening to other women croon about their power was a sweet intoxication that filled me with joy.

Their lyrics are full of braggadocio and female strength, often flipping the male/female dynamic. Whether it’s Beyoncé proclaiming, “If he fucks me good, I’ll take him to Red Lobster” or Rihanna proudly asserting “Rocking this skirt, Rocking this club, Got my middle finger up, I don’t really give a fuck” or Nicki rapping “Lemme make this clear I’m not difficult, I’m just ‘bout my business”, it’s the same message. These women don’t shrink. They don’t hide their femininity, their sexuality, their strength, or their voice. They are in your face, not putting up with your shit, and you’re going to have to deal with it.

Listening to Cardi B’s Invasion of Privacy — which is pussy power from start to finish — made my hooha literally want to scream “I am woman hear me ROAR!”

On “I do”, she raps:

“Now I’m a boss, I write my own name on the checks
Pussy so good, I say my own name during sex”

YESSSS. THIS was the kind of girl power I could relate to. Now can Cardi start her own feminist book club? Because I would totally join.

[1] Truthfully, squawking is more like it.

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