The Sexist Flap Over WAP
After three months of consuming a healthy rotation of quasi-apocalyptic news podcasts, the first half of Public Enemy’s discography, and Rage Against the Machine’s Battle of Los Angeles, I broke the cycle with a summer jam that everyone (over the age of 18) can enjoy: Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s “WAP”. These, of course, are initials. You can go look up what WAP means on your own. It does NOT mean “wireless application protocol”, which is incidentally the avenue by which I saw the video.
Some are not happy with the video and song for many reasons. For the most part, people take issue with the lyrics’ frank subject matter and accompanying visual explicitness. GOP congressional hopeful James P. Bradley “accidentally” heard “WAP” and had the time to tweet out:
James P Bradley: https://www.lamag.com/culturefiles/wap-cardi-b-megan-thee-stallion/
“Cardi B & Megan Thee Stallion are what happens when children are raised without God and without a strong father figure. Their new “song” The #WAP (which I heard accidentally) made me want to pour holy water in my ears and I feel sorry for future girls if this is their role model!”
It is amazing how a song by two women can make a man slide into misogyny and thinly veiled racism so quickly. Also, “accidentally”? Was he looking for a derogatory term for Italian people, misspell the term, and just stumbled upon the song? Did he listen all the way through to realize that it is not, in fact, a song disrespecting the people of Rome? Because after about minute 0:25, you can surmise what the subject of the song is.
This conservative man’s view is not new, nor is it exclusive to the politically conservative, though. Whenever a woman rapper comes out with a sexually explicit song, erstwhile “progressive” men and women deride the song for the same reasons, with the same amount of anti-blackness, but at least they don’t lie about “accidentally” finding the song. They speak of how the artists used their bodies and “exploited” themselves to get to the top of the charts. They speak of how “unfair” it is that they are so popular, yet artists like Noname or Rapsody get little to no airplay. I know these criticisms are permeating out there, because I used to be a purveyor of such misogynoir, and I remember the last time two artists cause such a stir.
When I was in college, Lil Kim and Foxy Brown were the popular women rappers who were famous by talking frankly and explicitly about their sexuality. Some people did not like that at all. I made the same argument about them just using their bodies for attention and exploiting themselves. I put them down while talking about underground rappers with more skill. Just replace Noname and Rapsody with Bahamadia and Rah Diggah. And back then, just like now, the people, especially men, eviscerating famous women rappers’ lyrics could recite the lyrics to Akinyele’s “Put It in Your Mouth” and Notorious BIG’s “Dreams” forward and backward. They don’t bat an eye when the Yin Yang Twins craft a song whose entire theme is speaking heavily in hushed tones into a woman’s ear about their enthusiasm to show her their manhood. They get hyped when Miami bass music blasts and Luther Campbell is directing thong-clad women to do nearly acrobatic feats with their legs and torsos.
Even “backpack” rap is no stranger to sexual songs. Run The Jewels’ “Love Again” is a 21st Century ode to fellatio so popular that El-P reproduced it with cat sounds, and it is actually better than the original. Hip-hop’s rawness is the beauty of it. Artists speak on subjects descriptively and frankly, and the better ones weave their lines into a volatile rhythmic tapestry. Sex is one of those subjects, and it shouldn’t be a major controversy when a rapper talks about sex well enough to get attention. Except it seems when women do it, it’s a problem.
I do understand that this can be a sensitive subject, as women, and especially Black and Brown women, have historically been hypersexualized and exoticized by Western society. They were often not viewed as human being so much as ravenous succubi. Enslaved Black women would be raped by the slavemasters and then accused of enchanting or tempting their attackers by the slavemaster’s wife, which would invite more abuse against the victims. Saartje Baartmann was paraded around Europe naked because of her curves, and then she was not even given the dignity of a proper burial when she passed away. Today, Black girls in school are often seen as older than their white counterparts punished for their own bodies as they go through puberty. I can’t count how many times my cousins would be accused of being “fast” and be told to “tone down” her dress, which was usually jeans and a t-shirt.
Despite the history of women being exploited and sexualized, Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion are sexualizing themselves. They are in control of the narrative. They are taking agency of their bodies, and they are doing what they want to do with them. Most adults are sexual beings. There should be no reason we cannot talk about sex, and we shouldn’t be so offended by Two Black and Brown women creating entertainment by bragging about their own sexuality. So it raises the question: these men mad because “WAP” is sexually explicit, or are they just mad that they are not doing the sexualizing this time?
…Also, why exactly is Kylie Jenner in the video? That part, I don’t understand. Every other guest was doing flips and splits. She just walked down a hall. Maybe they needed a Pepsi hook-up.
About Chris Thompson
(he/his/him) Chris Thompson is an engineer, writer, comedian, and activist who made Rochester, New York his home in 2008. In addition to his role as Contributor for 540Blog he currently writes and regularly posts on his own on Instagram and Twitter at @ChronsOfNon. Chris is also a regular contributor for Rochester City Newspaper. His blog is www.chroniclesofnonesense.com
Still thinking about how you can practice antiracism in your every day life?
Your support goes directly to providing new, dynamic & affordable class content, the planning of a rigorous antiracism facilitation training program, and the hiring of a grant writer.
- Visit our blog for over 700 social justice focused posts from our Founding Director, contributing writer Chris Thompson, and various guest writers.
- Morethanisms podcast a series created by Calvin Eaton that unpacks social and cultural issues that impact black and non-black millennials of color.
- Discuss books relating to antiracism in our Unpacking Book Discussion Series. Join at facebook.com/groups/540unpacking
- Check out our on-demand class library to learn about structural racism, environmental justice, and more.
Knowledge is power, educate yourself with 540WMain