Y’all Need to CHILL: Why the #SurvivingCardiB hashtag is tone-deaf AF

Op-Ed: If there's ever been a textbook example of "doing too much" it's this. There are reasons creating a hashtag over her actions, while certainly problematic, is heavyhanded

Cardi B
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This week Cardi B has found herself in yet another controversy after a clip from an Instagram Live she posted 3 years ago resurfaced. In the video the rapper responded to fans who questioned her success by revealing the lengths she went through to survive — which included drugging and robbing men when she was a stripper.

“I had to go strip, I had to go” the Bronx native shared with her followers at the time. “Oh yeah, you want to f*ck me? Yeah, yeah, yeah, let’s go back to this hotel,’ and I drugged n***as up, and I robbed them. That’s what I used to do.”

Once the video went viral it was only a matter of time before those on social media hit back at the outspoken artist, creating the hashtag #SurvivingCardiB, a clear reference to the title of the Lifetime docu-series Surviving R. Kelly.

READ MORE: Cardi B tries to clarify admission in IG Live post after hashtag #SurvivingCardiB emerges

I don’t think anyone can condone Cardi’s actions and admitted crimes, the use and intention of that specific hashtag is a bad look for several reasons.

Below, are my top 5.

It makes a mockery of R. Kelly’s alleged victims

Surviving R Kelly was a gut wrenching docu-series that once and for all exposed over 20 years of sexual abuse and psychological trauma that Kelly allegedly committed against women and children while exploiting the reach of his celebrity.

While Cardi’s actions were wrong (and illegal), to flippantly attach a hashtag associated with decades of calculated sexual abuse to a young woman running a scam on a few dudes looking for a lap dance — is heavy handed as hell, and completely undermines the serious allegations that Kelly’s victims say robbed them of their dignity, personal freedoms and in some cases — their families.

It ignores blatant power dynamics in the sex industry

And let’s not forget the blatant and often demeaning power dynamics that exist in the sex industry. Not all strippers are down and out victims who are being made to dance against their will. But even the most empowered exotic dancer on the planet is still being viewed and treated as a product rather than a person, in a set up where men have the power and women have “the goods.”

Strip clubs tend to glorify and encourage the most shameless and unchecked displays of misogyny. In this dynamic even women who are sought after are not treated as equals and regularly put in precarious situations to make money to survive.

Everything about the set up is the literal opposite of the situation that Kelly found himself in when he committed his alleged offenses. He was the mastermind of a toxic ecosystem he created. Cardi was clawing her way out from the bottom of ecosystem built to use her up and then dispose of her.

READ MORE: R. Kelly’s publicist now says singer is “depressed” and “emotional”

So to compare Cardi B to R. Kelly, is like comparing a shoplifter to Donald Trump; both did something wrong, but only one is abusing their power (from the top of the food chain) to systemically ruin people’s lives.

It fuels the toxic “gender wars” narrative

I strongly suspect that much of the reason why #SurvivingCardiB was created is because men who are sick of #MeToo complicating their lives with silly things like accountability, were just itching for a reason – any reason – to lash out at women who won’t shut up about sexual abuse.

Do I think the movement is flawed and has some work to do? Of course I do, all movements take a while to find balance. I also believe that accusations made against anyone (male or female) should be responsibly vetted and investigated. No reasonable person wants to see innocent people vilified for crimes they didn’t commit.

However, resentment is an emotion that is often not steeped in reason. And as a result, many men (and some women) who are tired of what they perceive to be an attack on masculinity, are using this situation with Cardi to stoke the fires of this gender war they perceive to be taking place.

The same way some whites respond to their white guilt by pretending they’re actually the race under attack, those who find comfort in normalized misogyny are having a similar reaction to women pushing back against rape culture.

It feeds into the trigger happy side of “cancel culture”

I have always been weary of cancel culture and only subscribe to it in the smallest doses possible. Rather than universally cancel folks, I’d much prefer we hold them accountable, watch their actions for signs of evolution, and only hit the delete button on those who are egregiously problematic.

But it’s clear that my sentiments are in the minority these days. And as a result, the angry “Cancel mob” is now attempting to claim yet another victim.

What Cardi did was problematic, I can’t state that enough.

But a part of me continues to be impressed by the fact that she bluntly owns her ish and simply vows to do better. That’s it. No theatrical displays of false remorse or deflection from her actions. Just a simple, “Yeah I said it. This is why I said it. And now that I know better, I’ll do better.”

From an emotional intelligence stand point, despite being rough around the edges, Belcalis Almanzar (her given name) could actually teach a few of her counterparts, who purport to be more articulate, what taking responsibility looks like.

It’s a smokescreen for people who already disliked Cardi and/or the #MeToo movement

Speaking of cancel culture, please don’t think I haven’t noticed how class, race and gender tend to play a factor in who we’re quick to dismiss these days.

Being “woke” might be trendy, but respectability politics are still alive and well. We only seem to feel good about clapping for women who are pure, stoic and respectable — ratchet girls, not so much. Which is why there are still millions of people out there who simply don’t believe that a woman like Cardi deserves any of the accolades she’s worked so hard for.

Never mind that she took advanced placement classes in high school, was a political science major in college, and has broken numerous records in the last few years based largely on her strong work ethic and clever business deals — some of ya’ll are still annoyed a hood chick from the Bronx made it so big. She was cute on Instagram when she could be dismissed as a “thot” but how dare she be legitimized by all these rich white people right?


Cardi B is no saint, and has never even pretended to be one. So if she continues to be called out for her problematic statements, and/or someday faces charges for her actions, that would be her cross to bear.

But whether you like it or not, women like her deserve a seat at the table as much as anyone else. And at just 26, this young woman has repeatedly used her seat at that table to speak out against the less than human way that sex workers and women of color are treated in the music industry. She’s also been vocal about how #MeToo still has yet to penetrate urban circles in the same way that it’s affected the white Hollywood elite.

There are those who are rightfully upset about her actions, and this list, isn’t for (or about) them. They are allowed their outrage.

But my Spidey senses tell me that unlike the intentions of those who worked tirelessly on the #SurvivingRKelly project, the more vocal and vitriolic proponents of #SurvivingCardiB don’t really give a damn about victims. Instead, their tweets read more like an attempt to lash out at both Cardi and #MeToo in one swipe.

Is this really the hill ya’ll wanna die on?

Follow writer Blue Telusma on Instagram at @bluecentric