Criticism of new Cardi B song “WAP” might be sign of underlying sexism in music industry

By Rohail Spear || Contributing Writer

Photo courtesy of The Mary Sue.

As of September 2nd, the song “WAP” was currently at its second week at number one on the Billboard Top 100, and, at face value, it’s a song about “wet-ass pussy.” Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion teamed up in this sexually charged, highly controversial song featuring x-rated lyrics that causes some to cringe in disgust. Immediately, detractors denounced the song as too aggressive and vulgar. One must wonder, though, whether the song received criticism due to its explicit lyrics or since it was created by two women.  

Six years ago, Taylor Swift was “canceled” for a variety of reasons. Among them was her penchant for singing about her exes. She was criticized for writing too many songs involving breakups, and some began to view her art as a means of getting revenge on those who had wronged her instead of what it really was: art. Again, Taylor Swift was writing about breakups. You can imagine the uproar “WAP” would have created if it was released at that time, with Cardi B wanting “you to park that big Mack truck right in this little garage,” and Megan Thee Stallion boasting about a partner “[paying her] tuition just to kiss [her] on this wet-ass pussy.” Critics would have condemned the song for being shallow and excessively brash, while the public would be too embarrassed to listen to two women sing about such racy subject matter. Both artists would have faced mass criticism, and cancel culture would have ensured their music never saw the light of day again. 

Today, however, neither Taylor Swift nor these newer artists would face that issue. Taylor Swift and her fans point out the numerous male artists who write and sing frequently about their breakups, including Drake, Justin Bieber, and Ed Sheeran. Drake, for example, refers to his exes in songs such as “Marvin’s Room,” “HYFR,” “Shot For Me,” “Practice,” “Come Thru,” “Unforgettable,” “Good Ones Go,” “Look What You’ve Done,” “Doing It Wrong,” “Charged Up,” and “In My Feelings,” just to name a few. 

Today, those who formerly hated Taylor Swift’s style might be seen in a different light; did they not like Taylor Swift and her music, or were they just being sexist? We’d see articles about Taylor Swift getting hate for the same behavior as male artists instead of articles slut-shaming her or deeming her an attention-seeker. “WAP” serves as prime evidence for this cultural shift; finally, we are seeing the public question the double standards regarding what male and female artists can and can’t sing about. 

Today, it is well known that many male rappers have sung about sex in ways just as detailed and vulgar as what Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion exhibited in “WAP.” In 2018, for example, Kayne West rapped about how he “[likes his] dick sucked,”  “[he’s] a sick fuck,” and how “We can tell niggas today, ‘Hey, I wanna cum,’” in his song “I Like It.” This song, and countless others, containing similar sexually aggressive material received no criticism whatsoever. Nonetheless, some now claim that “WAP” does not set a good example for young girls and that Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion are poor role models. Several casual listeners simply see the song as too strong. 

It is 2020, however, and the majority of listeners praised the song for its sexually liberating message and the fact that two powerful black women could confidently rap about their wet pussies. Recognizing that society looks down on outspoken, authoritative women, the culture of rap and pop music understands that women should not be expected to be shy, quiet, and polite while men never have to be. After its release, “WAP” was the most-streamed song on Spotify in the US for the twenty-seventh day in a row,* and several critics guessed that it would be nominated for Record of the Year at the Grammys. 

“WAP” is a step forward. It transcends the music industry’s outdated expectations of which topics women can and cannot express in their music, doing it in a way that left a strong impression on the listener: whether you like it or not, it stands out. It’s different. You will remember it. 

It took several years for the general public to accept Taylor Swift for singing about her breakups and even more time for women to be able to openly sing about their sexualities. And while many people still don’t accept it, the fact stands that “WAP” is a wild success. By forcing us to ask ourselves why women are always condemned when they sing about sex while men are usually applauded for doing the same, “WAP” symbolizes the progress of today’s Women’s Movement. 

Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion should be praised as pioneers in the industry for going beyond the boundaries society places on them, and they should be remembered as heroines of this revolutionary point in history. 

*As of 9/2/2020

First-year Rohail Spear is a contributing writer. His email is rspear@fandm.edu.

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