It took me awhile before I actually listened to Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s new song, “WAP”.
First of all, woah. Lots of splits and bottoms. Also, why Kylie Jenner? After the initial surprise, I listened again and noticed the chorus: “There’s some whores in this house.” On the third listen I lost count of the number of p*ssy references. On the fourth go around, all of the indignant facebook essays and soapbox Instagram posts made sense. After allowing myself to sleep on it, here are my thoughts.
- Women are prescribed a moral code
I don’t think people are mad that there exists a song with a ridiculous number of references to moist genitalia. Let’s be honest, most rap songs have these references and, for heaven’s sake, video vixens are not a new idea. I think people are mad because here we have two successful women refusing to let their art fit some moral code. The music industry formula isn’t a mystery. Child female vocalist turns 18 and in order to be seen as a serious adult artist she shows a bit of boob and twerks a little as an announcement that she has matured. These women could not come out the gate (and be successful) making serious music about real issues until the world notices them. The sad reality is that the industry teaches female artists that they are only noticed if they show a little skin. We reinforced this pattern with Brittany Spears, Christina Aguilara, Miley Cyrus, Ciara, and… shoot….Beyonce! (Don’t attack me Bey-hive, hear me out). The same pattern applies to men. But the accepted pattern suddenly diverges once true industry success is achieved. A man is allowed to take his artistry to the next level and glorify the carnal fruits of his success: the nature of his sexual prowess and number of conquests. But, for a woman, there is an expectation that when she becomes successful she has a duty to become an inspirational beacon of hope for the world. We can have Justin Timberlake bring Sexy Back but Cardi B can’t tell you how she got this ring WITHOUT cooking and cleaning (wink wink). Instead she must humble-thy-self and sing of the opportunities that allowed her to break the glass ceiling while wearing a cardigan? God forbid a woman feels just as proud that the doors of her success leads to physical pleasure. Because as a successful woman you aren’t allowed to have carnal desires, much less talk about it.
- Role Reversal
It also occurred to me that this song is a bit different than the over-sexualized music to which we are accustomed. Our comfort zone calls for female artists to depict sex as a service to men. Brittany Spears became “A slave for [him]”, Christina Aguilara a genie to grant all his wishes, Miley Cyrus swung on a wreaking ball in her panties because she was under a spell, and Ciara’s goodies were cookies in a jar. It’s almost as if women can only talk about sex in the context of romance and being smitten by a man. There’s one thing this society hates and it’s role reversal. WAP for me was the female version of Slob on my Knob, where Cardi B and Megan said it is okay to make a man get on their knees for a woman’s own personal enjoyment. The idea that a man can become undone by the sexual tricks of a woman is contrary to the patriarchy that says woman can only enjoy missionary style.
- A Successful Woman is a Modest Woman
For some reason we only talk about Cardi B’s art in the context of how often she shows her boobs instead of properly lauding her business acumen of successfully becoming a solo female artist without needing to be a video vixen extra. Where a man, as he becomes more successful, is allowed to grow in his individuality and diverging from expectation is a measure of accomplishment, when a woman becomes more successful role-modelism is even more forcefully imposed.
Will I let my son or future daughter listen to her music? Hell no, but for the same reason I won’t let them listen to Ke$ha sing about brushing her teeth with Jack: The message is just not sanitary. Just because I make different life choices doesn’t mean Cardi B can’t sing about hers.
I constantly remind myself to set my own standards for my child and to live the morals I want reflected in his life. That’s no one else’s responsibility. But I can also celebrate Cardi B, who, in my opinion is also setting a standard for her children: to be just as creative as any man and to reclaim words like p*ssy, a**, and whore, which were used to dehumanize black women’s bodies (regardless of whether or not that was her intention). The point is we live in a society where if we don’t see our morals reflected in other people we feel the need to condemn them instead of just looking the other way.
- Monolithic Mentality
Does WAP make me feel empowered as a black woman? God no. I would prefer to see more Hidden Figures types because I do believe women, especially black girls, see themselves reflected in more damaging stereotypes than enlightening positions. But I am only saying this for the same reason I was disappointed when Andrew Guillum got caught up in an unfortunate night of recreational drug use: I don’t want the other side to have another reason to judge minorities. To join in the condemnation of Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion is to reinforce that the black community should be treated like a monolith where black women are unfairly told they are the gatekeeper of all black-kind’s imagery. Does Cardi B represent me? No. Does she fail our community by not fulfilling a white anglo saxon imagery of womanhood? No. Cardi B is not a representative nor an example of the source of the evils that plague our community, we all know the vestiges of slavery are to blame for that. All Cardi B did was put out a song. Plain. And. Simple.