Is this the new face of feminism?
A number of people have mentioned Cardi B.'s background in talking about WAP and I do think it’s relevant, since she’s being put forward as a feminist icon. So let's start with a little history in case you don't know. (I don't know about Megan's background, so I won't comment on that.)
Cardi has talked about the fact that she started stripping when she was 19. She’s also talked about what she did when men offered her money for sex, she drugged them and robbed them. So she did what's shown in Hustlers in real life and was never caught or prosecuted. She's also talked about getting back at men who cheat on her by getting them drunk/drugged and having a “tranny” have sex with them.
I think this is part of the problem, a lot of people have, with holding up Cardi B. as a feminist role model. I think we can all agree that drugging, raping, and robbing people is wrong. From her own description, it's clear she was not a good, ethical sex worker. And I think Cardi has some pretty messed up ideas about consent and transsexuals, if she thinks it’s ok to get “even” with a cis-het* guy she’s dating by getting him drunk/drugged and setting him up to have sex with someone who’s a “tranny”.
Beyond Cardi's past though, there's the lyrics to WAP. A number of women have proclaimed WAP as being feminist and a great anthem for female empowerment. AOC (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) even went so far as to tweet about WAP standing for "Women Against Patriarchy" and Gwyneth Paltrow talked about WAP being "part of the crumbling patriarchy" and glowingly said that "Cardi B is changing it by her incredible lyrical prowess".
Are you blindly ignoring the lyrics? Did you just hear the word “pussy” and decide that it must be feminist and progressive? The lyrics reinforce the idea that the only thing women have of value, the only currency women have to trade is their bodies and sex. The lyrics talk about trading sex for money and cars, using sex to get ahead in your career, and how sex is all that's important get a guy to marry you. Are these empowering, feminist messages? Are these women against patriarchy?
"There's some whores in the house"
Let's look at the lyrics, starting with the backing track, "There's some whores in the house". This line is repeated over and over again like a mantra throughout the song. This is the main message!
(The fact that you never see a guy in the video makes it ambiguous who’s saying this or why. I know it’s a sample, but in the context of the lyrics, is he their pimp? Is he a customer? Is he a neighbour complaining?)
You can interpret "There's some whores in the house" in two ways:
- There are some actual sex workers in this house.
- There are some women who enjoy sex in this house.
Is it catchy? Yeah, it's catchy as fuck, like an STI (more on that comparison later). WAP is an awful earworm that will get stuck in your head. You have been warned!
The lyrics graphically talk about sex, and comically and ridiculously talk about female arousal, like the line about needing "a bucket and a mop for this wet-ass pussy".
I think the *best* I can say about WAP is that the lyrics talk about women liking sex. Typical cis-het sex with lots of sex work and a little kink. But being raunchy is not revolutionary. There are LOTS of song written and sung by women talking about being aroused and enjoying sex. And I’m not convinced that merely talking about enjoying sex equals female empowerment, particularly considering the lyrics and messages conveyed in WAP overall.
It’s possible that WAP is trying to reclaim the words "whore" and "freak". Both of the women sing about enjoying sex and doing sex work, so perhaps they are trying to reclaim the word “whore”. And there is the line “I said certified freak, seven days a week”, so perhaps the song is trying to reclaim that word as well.
I think that is the most glowing, positive light I can shine on WAP. Beyond that, well, I don't think the messages are particularly feminist and I have difficult seeing this as a great song for young women. Here are some of the lessons you can learn from WAP.
The song includes a number of lyrics talking about sex work, like "Pay my tuition just to kiss me on this wet-ass pussy...Now make it rain if you wanna see some wet-ass pussy". So the song glorifies sex work as a way to pay for college. There's also a line saying you should, "Ask for a car while you ride that dick". So there are a number of lyrics that talk about exchanging sex for money and goods. Is it feminist to encourage women to do sex work? To demand money before showing your WAP to a guy?
You don't need to use condoms, the guy can just pull out.
There are several lines that talk about the guy pulling out, such as "Wet-ass pussy, make that pullout game weak" and "Quick, jump out 'fore you let it get inside of me". No need for condoms apparently, even though they're talking about doing sex work and having sex with guys who don’t know your name. Apparently they’re not worried about sexually transmitted diseases. Yeah, you thought I was joking about the STI bit.
If you suck the right cock, you can get a record deal.
There's also this lyric, "I spit on his mic and now he tryna sign me". This line is clearly saying she did oral on a guy and now she's getting offered record deal. After #metoo and #timesup is this what we want to encourage? Women willingly sucking dick to get ahead in their career?
How to be a gold digger
And then there's this line, "I don't cook, I don't clean, but let me tell you how I got this ring". Saying quite literally that you can be a talentless whore and still get married. No need for common interests, love, or anything like. No, all you need to do is find a rich guy and have sex with him.
Oh, you don't think that's what this song says? Here's another line "He got some money, then that's where I'm headed, Pussy A1 just like his credit". Either she's looking for a rich guy to get money and goods for sex, or she's looking for a rich guy to marry her. Which is it? Which is a better message for women?
I've read some people think the lyrics are feminist because women used to be expected to cook and clean if they got married, but this song is saying women don't have to cook or clean. Um, really? So it's better to focus on how all women need to do is be good in bed?
Really, this whole song talks about women enjoying sex with men and using sex to get money and goods, get ahead in your career, and get married. Is this moving feminism forward? Is this going to crumble patriarchy? Or are these messages heteronormative?
Why do some feminists think WAP is great?
I've asked women who proclaim WAP to be feminist and empowering to explain what's feminist and empowering about the song. They seem to struggle to explain it and eventually descend to telling me to shut up if I don't like it and insults. Hmm, so much for an open-minded discussion on this topic.
@feminist shared Raquel Willis's post speaking positively about WAP and asking people to “Imagine if women and other folks could love their selves on their own terms without being concerned with the white cis-hetero patriarchal gaze.”
I think that’s a nice idea, but WAP is clearly designed for the cis-het male gaze. Every sexy outfit, pose, and dance move. The lyrics too. Even their bodies! I know Cardi has openly talked about getting plastic surgery to look more attractive to men. All of WAP is designed to appeal guys, maybe not so much white guys, but definitely for cis-het guys!
WAP and young women
A number of people commented online about WAP being great for young women. When I asked of one the commenters why they thought WAP was great for young women and they said WAP makes young women feel good about their bodies.
I'm all for women feeling good about their bodies! But I don't think that's something WAP does. And in terms of its effect on young women, have you seen Generation Wealth? Have you seen Cuties?
Here's a still from the WAP video and a still from the dance performance in Cuties.
Cuties and #cancelnetflix
Here's a clip of the infamous dance performance in Cuties.
Should you cancel Netflix? Yes, but not necessarily for Cuties. There are other reasons to cancel Netflix.
I think the director of Cuties is trying to show a young woman's journey and ultimately, she shows a middle ground for the young lead character, not conforming to her family or to dance crew she joined. But there is a LOT of young women dressing sexy and doing sexy dance moves in Cuties, so yeah, pedos would probably enjoy watching it.
At the same time, I think it's probably an accurate depiction of a young woman journey. Women are looking at videos like WAP and emulating the dance moves, and looking at women like Cardi B. and Kim Kardashian as roles models.
However, I do think Netflix choice to use a more sexualized poster for the English version of Cuties rather than the original image used for French release is questionable.
I guess Netflix realized using sexy poster of children and advertising 11 year old girls twerking might not be the best idea.
Big Cats & Tiger King
There's one other detail to WAP that bothers me, the wild animals. I thought everyone watched Tiger King! There should not be big cats in this video. Wild animals should not be exploited. Here's a longer article discussing this problem and how this isn't the first time Cardi has used big cats in her videos. She's a repeat offender.
When she was called out about it by Carole Baskin, Cardi said, “Like, that’s just ridiculous you know? Like, girl, you killed your goddamn husband.” I think her husband’s disappearance is suspicious too, but that’s not the point. The point is Cardi B. is contributing to the exploitation of big cats and using them to to portray extreme wealth in her videos, and apparently sees nothing wrong with that. I guess she doesn't care about big cats.
Sex, sluts and sex workers
To be clear, I love sex, I've enjoyed some porn, and I've even written some erotica. ;) I think being aroused and wanting sex are perfectly natural and normal for anyone, any person, or animal for that matter. And if you want to be a slut, go for it, but I think it’s best to be an Ethical Slut. :)
Much like the lyrics of WAP describe, I want to have sex every day, given a chance 4 or 5 times in a night. LOL But for me personally, I like other aspects to go with that, like common interests, connection, love, a relationship...
And if a billionaire or millionaire would like to date me, send me a message. I would be happy to marry someone wealthy, there are just other qualities I’d be looking for too, like compassion.
And I'm not against sex work. I've had a number of friends and acquaintances who have done sex work. I think it's a skilled profession and it's been around a very long time. But, and this is a big BUT, a lot of women do sex work for the money. They don't do it because they enjoy it, they do it because it pays well, because they're desperate for money. Sex workers usually get paid at least $250 an hour. What other jobs can you get that pay that well? Even Cardi talks about being a stripper to "survive" and clearly she focuses more on music now that she has a choice.
Have you seen how many women suddenly started OnlyFans accounts during the pandemic? It's a sign of the times. Women needed a way to make money, preferably from home, so it makes sense they would turn to becoming web cam girls and offering sexy pics on OnlyFans. I think sex work is something women turn to the same way men turn to gangs and dealing drugs. It's often because they see it as the best option available for them to make money. If there were other options available, many wouldn't do it. And men do sex work too, it's just not as common.
The other day someone mentioned to me that Seeking Arrangements is doing a “Back to School” sale, because you know, it’s time for students to go back to school and they need money. Seeking Arrangements boasts that Sugar Baby University now has more than 4.5 million students, 2.5 million in the US and over 330K in Canada. In its annual report for 2020 it said the number of students in Canada has risen "44 per cent in one year" and that was before than pandemic. A number of articles have been published talking about the growing trend and how it’s increased even more now with the pandemic. In one of the articles a student says, "I knew that the only way for me to make money was to either sell drugs or get a sugar daddy." So I think the comparison to dealing drugs is right on target. Sex work is choice, but what other options do women feel like they have?
Doing sex work, being a sugar baby, even being a gold digger, these are things women do to try to survive and thrive in a “man’s world”. Sex sells! And men have money. As woman, you have accepted that and have chosen to sell yourself as a sex object. In all of these cases we’re talking about a relationship with a man that is centered around the women’s sex appeal and her performing sex acts, and the man rewarding her with money and goods. As a woman, you are being valued for your beauty and how good you are in bed. As a man, you’re being valued for how much money you have.
I do understand in *some* cases there is an actual relationship where the people love each other, but in *most* sex work situations that is not the case and some of those articles included horror stories about being a sugar baby that are comparable to the some of bad experiences sex workers have. The sugar babies interviewed confirmed there is definitely an expectation of sex for money at the start, so I think this is a spectrum of exchanges of sex for money, money for sex. This is capitalism at its core, sell your body for money.
I think the questions I have about WAP are: Are the messages in WAP actually feminist? Or is it enabling patriarchy and promoting capitalism by encouraging women to sell their bodies to chase after wealth at any cost? If you haven’t done so already, I strongly encourage you to watch Generation Wealth and consider these questions.
*cis-het = cisgender heterosexual. One of the most common gender identity and sexual orientation combinations. Cisgender a term for people whose gender identity matches their sex assigned at birth. Heterosexuality is romantic attraction, sexual attraction or sexual behaviour between persons of the opposite sex or gender.