WAP – Women Empowerment or Objectification?


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Note: This story includes sexual references and song lyrics that some readers may find offensive.

If you haven’t heard this song by now, you’ve probably heard commentary on it. WAP by Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion broke the internet the moment it was released on August 7th, debuting at No. 1 on Billboard, and shortly thereafter being used in a viral TikTok dance. The explicitly sexual lyrics and music video, on par with both Cardi and Megan’s usual content, wrought havoc through social media and the political world, with twitter users and politicians alike commenting on the content of the song and the message it sends. The controversy is this: does WAP encourage objectification of women or is it a feminist anthem?

“Certified freak, seven days a week,” are Cardi’s opening lyrics and are by far the most memorable of the song. This phrase encompasses the message these women aim to send; they own their sexuality and are unabashed when discussing it. While a repeating sample (popularized by rap artists Busta Rhymes and Lil Wayne) containing the lyrics, “There’s some whores in this house” plays throughout the song, the women rap non-stop about their sexual experiences, often using idioms and metaphors like buckets and mops to explain their various fetishes and desires. In comparison to many other rap songs both from female and male artists, these women are anything but submissive, and are straightforward about their desires and needs.

Mainstream music normalizes lyrics about men treating women as objects to be used for their bodies and tossed aside, sending the message to young boys and girls that it’s okay for men to own their sexualities and take control, but when a woman does the same, they are not to be respected. And, despite blatant misogyny that encourages abuse and exploitation of women, male rappers like Pop Smoke and DaBaby are widely celebrated, continuously topping charts. Even from beyond the grave, Pop Smoke has been releasing music that not only glorifies drug and alcohol use, but encourages a “player” and even “pimp” lifestyle. His latest song “For The Night,” featuring another prominent rapper, DaBaby, currently sits at #13 on Billboard Top 100. Some lyrics are as follows:

If I call you bae, you bae for the day. Or a bae for the night, you not my wife. She want a killer to f*** all night. I wanna f*** on a thot, gimme h**d all night

— Pop Smoke

By rapping about wanting a purely sexual relationship as well as by calling women derogatory terms and detailing the pleasure that only the men will receive, these rappers send the message that sex should be for the sole benefit of the man, and that the woman’s wishes to have romance or pleasure should never be respected. Boys and girls alike listen to this music, prematurely having these notions ingrained into them of what type of treatment they should give and accept. Male rappers have been repeating these messages for decades, and they only grow more disrespectful and one-sided as time goes on.
What Cardi and Meghan brought into 2020 was a different approach to the sexually explicit lyrics that flourish in our generation; it focuses on female pleasure, and lacks the lyrics that demean their partners. Not once in WAP did the women discuss purposefully disregarding their partners’ wishes, and not once did they call their partners derogatory terms. Rather, they explained their various kinks and the emotions they feel during sex. In contrast to popular male rap today, the lyrics about pleasure are centered around their pleasure from the act itself, not around pleasure they receive from abusing or manipulating someone else.

Tie me up like I’m surprised. Let’s role play, I’ll wear a disguise. I want you to park that big Mack truck Right in this little garage.

— Cardi B

While WAP was widely praised by many women as a modern if unconventional “feminist anthem,” the conservative political world was not as accepting. Politicians and commentators like Ben Shapiro and congressional-hopeful James P. Bradley of California, along with many other Republican senators and congressmen, took to Twitter and Youtube to air their grievances about the song. Shapiro went as far as to read the whole song lyrics, in his typical monotonous voice, before criticizing its message and stating that a wet vagina is unhealthy; Twitter users went wild after this statement, attaching his wife to the statement.

Meanwhile, Bradley wrote on Twitter, “Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion are what happens when children are raised without God and a strong father figure.” Others, like conservative pundit DeAnna Loraine, called for the song to be banned (despite her constant reminders to the public about the importance of the first amendment) and said that the women calling themselves “whores” was degrading. Keeping in mind that these politicians have never before openly criticized other rap music, especially those that demean women, we must ask ourselves the question, why do they feel so strongly about this and why now?
The answer is simple. First, these politicians wanted to draw attention away from the national issues regarding Donald Trump and his many scandals around election time. What better way to distract than to tear the country apart over the message of a rap song. Second, they are afraid of a world in which women have control of their bodies. They may claim that a woman owning her sexuality and her own pleasure is “ungodly,” when in reality it is healthy and natural. But, when a woman realizes that she can be in control of her own body, men and women become equal not only in the bedroom but in the rest of life. It is possible, yet a stretch, that politicians attacking WAP is really a guise for politicians attacking women’s rights. Either way, it should not have received the reaction it did considering that it encourages female empowerment and equality among men and women, unlike much of the messages in modern rap today.
WAP, while certainly not “pure” or “holy,” is a song that empowers women young and old to feel comfortable in their bodies and feel comfortable discussing their needs, overcoming the stigma surrounding female pleasure. Not only this, but it helps to center the sexual conversation around women, while helping the public realize that there is nothing wrong with a woman attending to her sexual desires. And, unlike much of rap today, the lyrics do not promote objectification or mistreatment of sexual partners, but rather encourage equality and mutual respect for each other’s needs. No, WAP is not about romance or love, but it doesn’t have to be in order to be a feminist song; embracing one’s sexuality and body is just as empowering as celebrating emotional bonds. And, it’s about time that the political and musical world starts to recognize that.