If you have been on the socials, listening to music and chatting to your mates over the past couple of months, you have probably seen and/or heard of Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s song WAP (Wet Ass P***sy). For one little song, it has certainly generated a lot of comments, arguments and debates, so we thought we might as well jump in and lay out all pro’s and con’s and let you make up your own mind.
Why do some people love this song?
Well, aside from the energetic beat, as soon as this track dropped it sparked debate as to whether the sexually explicit song was a good or bad contribution to pop culture today. People who defend it say that talking explicitly about their own sexual desires and bodies is something that male rap artists have done since the beginning of rap, but this is the first time that that a lot of people have heard female rappers doing it. Some commentators and writers have pointed out that Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion are getting more flak than male rappers who have been bragging non-stop about their bodies and their sex for their whole careers.
This argument says that WAP shows strong and confident female voices that take control of their own sexuality and aren’t ashamed or afraid to speak out loud about what they want. “Men for centuries have capitalized off of selling women’s bodies for sex, and they like it when it’s for them,” one commentator said, “But I think when women have autonomy (control) over their own bodies and are confident in their sexuality people really start to have an issue with that.”
Others have pointed out that in the past female rappers have made headlines by tearing each other down, and this track shows strong, popular musicians like Cardi B including less popular female singers like Rosalia, Mulatto, Rubi Rose and Normani in the music video. This display of women standing strong together and helping each other in an industry that is incredibly male dominated is an example of what a strong sisterhood can accomplish.
So then… what’s the problem with it?
Well, ask yourself this … with all the things in the world there are to rap about, why are the most popular tracks about sex? Because sex is what gets attention and sells. There are plenty of excellent female rappers who do not get as much play because they do not fall into that highly sexualized stereotype (check out Rhapsody or Noname). A sexualized stereotype means individuals are seen as sex objects and judged in terms of their bodies and sexiness.
OK, so what’s so bad about that?
There are a few things that are a worry here. The over-the-top, exaggerated sexuality shown in videos and lyrics like this make it seem like it’s totally the norm to be focused on sex and sexiness all of the time, and show a really narrow view of what women are like, and what they can be. This can cause a lot of stress for girls and women comparing themselves and their friends to these images, and believing that being sexy and beautiful is more important than being smart, healthy and kind. It can also cause confusion for boys wondering what girls and women are actually like, and what they want.
This confusion can actually lead to unhealthy relationships, and even violence against women and girls in the community. Studies have found that the more boys and men are exposed to media that sexualized and objectified women, the more likely they were to have “attitudes supportive of violence against women.” If women are shown as being there purely for your enjoyment and aren’t shown as having their own full lives and needs, you’re not going to feel too bad about doing whatever you feel like with them. These studies have also shown that males who see a lot of objectified and sexualized images of women tend to be less likely to see consent as important and are less sympathetic towards women who have experienced sexual violence.
Another issue is the constant portrayal of unrealistic, digitally airbrushed bodies like those in the WAP video that make normal, everyday women feel bad about their own bodies. One study even found that just ten minutes’ of watching music videos featuring thin, sexualized performers led to a measurable increase in in girls feeling bad about their bodies.
So … is the song a breakthrough in empowering music where women are unafraid to speak up and be proud of their bodies, or is it just more hyper-sexualised imagery of women that is adding to violence and women’s body dissatisfaction? Well, human society and its treatment of women is not simple, and neither is the answer. Perhaps it is both. While the song may be empowering for some people who have the information and knowledge to understand it, for the majority of people, especially for kids and young people, it is adding to the very narrow and shallow sexual stereotypes already in the media.
As one female student commented after watching WAP, “Just because men sexualize us doesn’t mean we should do it too. As women we should be trying to get rid of stereotypes and this doesn’t.”
What do you think?