All the ‘Rumors’ are True: This Song is a Feminist Anthem
Last week everyone’s favourite beacon of positivity, Lizzo, teamed up with Cardi B and released their new song, which could potentially be the feminist anthem of the year. Both Lizzo and Cardi are no strangers to producing feminist tunes, with Lizzo’s breakout song ‘Good as Hell’ and Cardi’s polarising song ‘WAP’ with Megan Thee Stallion, there isn’t a better pairing than these two women.
Their new song ‘Rumors’ serves as Lizzo’s first release since ‘Cuz I Love You’, which was released as a single in January 2020. The new track is an excellent reintroduction to the music world after what has been a difficult year for everyone. Meanwhile, Cardi B has been on the top of her game since WAP with the hit song ‘Up’ as a follow-up, which made the rounds on TikTok a few months ago and a recent collaboration with former Fifth Harmony member Normani on ‘Wild Side’. Both women are some of the biggest names in music right now and over the past few years have cemented themselves as some of the defining voices of women in music in the late 2010s and 2020s, which makes this collaboration all the more fitting.
The song itself has an undeniably powerful feminist message. Lizzo opens the song by listing off a number of rumours that have plagued her career as a larger woman in the music industry, where slimmer bodies are still praised over curvier figures. She openly discusses how her rise to fame was met with claims that her self-love is glorifying an unhealthy body type and that she’s turning “big girls into hoes”. Instead of denying this or offering an explanation, Lizzo proudly proclaims that all the rumours are true. She unapologetic states that when people criticise her expression of self-love, her confidence, and her refusal to censor her body because it is larger than what society deems to be ‘acceptable’, that she is proud. For larger women and women of colour, this narrative is incredibly important.
Throughout her career, Lizzo’s body has been politicised as a statement, as a warning, and as a monument to body positivity. She is one of only a very select few women in the media who exist with such a mainstream and wide-reaching platform who has a figure that exceeds the social norm presented to us in pop culture and mainstream media outlets. This position has made her the flagship name in discussions about body positivity, to the point that her own narrative has been overridden by the conversation about her body.
In ‘Rumors’ Lizzo is taking back that narrative and finally asserting that the conversation about her body, allegations of cleanses and diets, and the content she posts (such as videos of her twerking, sharing her daily diet, or working out) are part of her power. The overarching message of Lizzo’s lyrics in ‘Rumors’ is that she is self-aware, and refuses to let her body and her online presence become the political presence that the media would so like to make it.
In the second verse, Cardi B takes her turn on her bars to dispel and confirm a few rumours of her own, including unapologetically stating she has undergone cosmetic surgery, how she “made a million at Sue’s” (the strip club she danced at before fame), and addressing the way her work is discredited by people for being successful on the back of payola. Payola is when an artist pays for their music to be played or streamed. Cardi is no stranger to controversy, in fact she is probably one of the most divisive women in the media right now, and she is no stranger to addressing criticism with a clear and candid style that transpires through her lyrics and her presence on social media.
Cardi has never shielded away from being head-on about how she was proud of her work as an erotic dancer, something she reinforces in ‘Rumors’, dispelling the expectation that women in sex work of any kind need to be ashamed of their past and that a past in sex work can and should be used as ammunition against women. Cardi’s continued defiance against this narrative is inherently feminist, she has made it crystal clear that sex work for some people is not the last resort, but is an astute career choice that can lead to wealth and other career opportunities.
Cardi and Lizzo in their own ways are two women who are picked apart by talking heads in the media who debate their validity as artists and criticise their presence in the music industry. A song like ‘Rumors’ is so important because in it Lizzo and Cardi are taking a stand and refusing to bow to the power of hearsay and online criticism, instead turning the narratives used to drag them down into inspiration for an impactful and important pop song.
This song continues the history of women in the media turning the sexism they experience into excellent feminist songs, examples from the past are ‘Dumb Blonde’ by Dolly Parton, ‘Costume Makes The Clown’ by Shakira, ‘Blank Space’ by Taylor Swift, ‘Piece of Me’ and ‘Gimme More’ by Britney Spears (#FreeBritney), and ‘Wasabi’ by Little Mix. Music like this is so important because it reminds us that women in pop music are the arbiters of their own narratives, they are not passive to the media’s perception or conversation about them.
Lizzo and Cardi B are tackling the divisive narratives made about them in the media head-on in ‘Rumors’ and this can remind others that they do not have to adhere to the standards placed on women like Lizzo and Cardi by society. The media perpetuates a narrative that larger women, sexually provocative women, former and active sex workers, women who have had body modifications, and women of colour, all need to behave in certain ways in order to be considered respectful or acceptable.
This is not the case at all, and the message behind ‘Rumors’ reminds us of this. We are the owners of our own story and the expectations and comments made about us should not break us down but instead should be used as tools from which we can redirect the narrative. It is this, and the refreshingly unapologetic attitude that Lizzo and Cardi B always provide in their music, that makes this song an undeniable feminist anthem.