Is Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s ‘WAP’ empowering or demeaning to women?
- New York-born Belcalis Almanzar, stage name Cardi B, is the second-ever female rapper to reach the US Billboard Hot 100 chart for her song “Bodak Yellow” in 2017.
- Cardi B began stripping at age 19 (in 2011), but now has a net worth of about $8 million (as of 2019).
- Texas-born Megan Jovon Ruth Pete, stage name Megan Thee Stallion, released EPs in 2017 that had her trending on US Billboard 200, which got her signed to 300 Entertainment in 2018.
- This year, Megan Thee Stallion’s song “Savage” went viral on TikTok, making it land on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart.
- Cardi B’s single ‘WAP’ is Megan Thee Stallion’s second number-one song trending on the charts to date, and as of the week of August 22, ‘WAP’ is the number one song.
- Business Insider reports that in 2018, “rap and hip-hop is the most consumed music genre in the United States, and a substantial portion of that consumption lies in the youth population.”
WAP is an empowering, sex-positive song which allows women to reclaim their bodies and pleasure. For centuries, men have profited from the sexualization and exploitation of women's bodies, but now that women are the ones profiting, society suddenly has a problem. Kanye West released his song 'I Love It,' in 2018, which contained the line 'Send me some mo' [sh*t], you triflin' ho [b*tch].' To condemn WAP as degrading towards women is to overlook and excuse hundreds of demeaning, if not violent, songs written about women by men.
In a research paper published by the Pathways of Women's Empowerment RPC, authors Kate Hawkins, Andrea Cornwall, and Tessa Lewin explain the importance of sexuality in the women's liberation movement. They write, 'If, for example, you look at women's empowerment through a sexuality lens…You see a woman whose well-being depends, among other things, on making choices about her own body, about pleasure, and about her own sexuality.' As comedian Dulcé Sloan told Trevor Noah, 'Only in a repressed, patriarchal society would people consider a woman's pleasure graphic.' She continued, 'Men don't have to censor their pleasure.'
The objectification of women's bodies by men is not only demeaning, but dangerous, as it perpetuates a culture of rape and violence. It's hypocritical for anyone to claim that WAP is degrading. Those who claim so seem to subscribe to the same patriarchal values that have excused sexual violence against women for centuries. It's hard to believe that such a person has women's best interests at heart.
Objectification isn't empowering—no matter who's doing it. WAP has women promoting their own objectification, offering themselves to men who see them as nothing more than a sexual device. It encourages women to choose relational emptiness and to embrace pornographic crassness as femininity.
WAP opens with 'There's some whores in this house,' already putting us on a road of dissolved self-respect. Just because an artist appropriates a word with negative connotations—like 'whore’— doesn't mean the word is redeemed, now fit for use. A sampling of these increasingly obscene and vulgar lyrics, which sadly please a society capable of celebrating such music, include phrases like 'Spit in my mouth, look in my eyes' and 'I don't cook, I don't clean / But let me tell you how I got this ring.' Here, women are being and wanting to be degraded, missing the point of marriage and female value entirely. In rejecting the transactional caricature of traditional marriage ('cook/clean'), they have merely swapped one form of transaction for another. WAP seems to suggest no man would marry a woman because of committed love, but because of the many sex acts she is capable of performing on him. 'He bought a phone just for pictures' suggests he's happy to use her as nothing more than a 'masturbatory instrument.' She's only a means to an end for him, and vice versa as she sings, 'Pay my tuition just to kiss me on this [WAP]…'
WAP presents self-respect found only in the payment women get (tuition, cars, or cash) after a man uses them for sex. Cardi lets her checkered stripper past influence young listeners who will internalize these messages, encouraging a dangerous path of self-debasement and objectification of others.