Coachella had a lot going on. Some of this was expected: Beyoncé killed it with a rendition of the black national anthem that left me in tears. Other things, like Cardi B’s decision to twerk on stage were unexpected and less well received. As a mom, though, I was more touched by Cardi B’s joyful exuberance than Queen B’s glorious tribute to Blackness. Cardi B, 25, is coming into her prime and everyone is talking about her, but the reality of being a scrutinized mom-to-be is nothing new, especially for a black woman. To me, her unapologetic choice to dance freely is an inherently political act, since both pregnant women and black women invite so much criticism.
A quick glance at Cardi’s Instagram reveals tens, if not hundreds, of videos of her dancing and enjoying life. Her vibrant personality and blatant authenticity are why we all love her so much. In a world that expects you to alter yourself to please the masses, she is true to herself. She has always been lively and animated. Did people expect that to disappear because she became pregnant?
From the moment we get a positive pregnancy test, women’s lives cease being our own. It might seem like the right to choose is the most frequently debated topic for pregnant women. But the truth is, when you’re pregnant, everyone has an opinion about what you should and shouldn’t be doing. Your weight and diet are up for public debate, your wardrobe choices are under constant surveillance and your sexuality becomes a hot topic.
Pregnancy comes with hormone fluctuations, new experiences and plenty of physical and emotional adjustments. It also comes with a ton of judgment. Suddenly, your life revolves around milestones, charts and vital signs. It can be so stressful that many women face anxiety and depression surrounding the mental, physical and financial obstacles that accompany it. Of course, that anxiety comes with invasive questions and plenty of outside opinions on whether women should take antidepressants while pregnant, to address mental health issues.
As a black woman in the spotlight, Cardi B will face even more than the usual judgment. Black mothers are at increased risk for many things, from preterm labor to maternal mortality, but Cardi B refuses to let the “what ifs” slow her down. Her hair length and color still change in almost every photo, her clothes are form-fitting yet stylish and she often communicates in sound words (Think: Okkkkkkkurrrr). It’s refreshing to watch a woman, especially one of color, who is so free, both before and after announcing her pregnancy. That beautiful freedom should be celebrated, not scrutinized.
By dancing on stage, Cardi B reminds us that pregnant women have just as much silliness and zest for life as they did before. She follows in the footsteps of women such as Ashley Wright, who did yoga and pole-danced through her pregnancy, and Meghan Leatherman, whose experience with CrossFit during her pregnancy inspired her to start CrossFit and Pregnant. Pregnancy might be a time of vulnerability, but it isn’t necessarily a period of weakness. These women are embracing that idea.
All pregnant women, regardless of race, just want the chance to exist and enjoy our lives in a world that tells us we only have value because we are carrying a life. Pregnancy doesn’t change who you are. Sure, it can trigger inspiration and provide you with the drive to push harder, out of love for your children. But that is simply polishing the beauty you already possess, not changing who you are.
Cardi B is a black woman who defied the odds — she was born into poverty in the Bronx and has made her way to the top of the Billboard charts — to achieve success, and that is worth celebrating. If she wants to twerk on stage to express her joy, that is her right — pregnant or not.
Cardi B is an example for black mothers — and mothers in general — to enjoy life outside of the scripts that society has forced upon us. Maybe society needs to spend more time supporting moms-to-be instead of judging their choices. With time, I hope more mothers will have the mental freedom to follow in her footsteps and will live their lives authentically, regardless of the criticism.
Besides, life is way too short not to dance when your favorite song comes on.