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So this song by Cardi B, "WAP", is #1 on Spotify and Apple Music and the Youtube video has 60 million views and counting in just a couple days - i.e. this is a big deal in pop culture right now. The New York Times highlighted the song in its playlist, hailing it as "exuberant" and "sharp". Pitchfork says Cardi B and fellow songstress Megan Thee Stallion, "center themselves as women in order to freely celebrate their coveted power." And pop culture magazine Complex calls the song "the epitome of female empowerment."

A groundbreaking artistic moment in female empowerment! Women centering themselves! Hey, that sounds good to me, a feminist. Sign me up! Right?

I mean, it's **THE EPITOME OF FEMALE EMPOWERMENT. **

Except... it's not.

This supposedly feminist anthem centers on, as you might have predicted, Cardi B and crew writhing around in bodysuits and pasties, rapping about their female anatomy, selling themselves as sex objects for the delight of men and for the brainwashing of women.

I am eerily reminded of one of the things that "drove" me to radical feminism in the first place. In 2014, Nicki Minaj released the song "Anaconda", and the accompanying video was hailed as being an incredibly empowering, breakthrough expression of female sexuality. For literally YEARS I was gaslighted by libfem friends and the full spectrum of media - from niche to mainstream - which pressured me with the message that if I found this portrayal of women in media to be offensive and disempowering, that that makes me some kind of anti-progressive, conservative, pearl-clutching racist. I am, in fact, none of those things.

What I am, is a person who doesn't understand how a woman actively participating in her own degradation, actively participating in a misogynistic culture that oppresses women on the basis of their sex, is at all empowering. How does producing art, that exists for the sole purpose of provoking and titillating men help liberate and advance the roles of women in our society? What am I missing?

Cardi B no doubt is an active participant and making a mint off this music/video. Does the fact that she's benefitting monetarily from this song make it empowering? Can a person be a willing participant in their own exploitation? Does monetary gain from degradation negate the fact that she's being degraded? She's reinforcing a patriarchal power structure that holds ALL women back. How is that empowering? How is that **THE EPITOME OF FEMALE EMPOWERMENT. **

One aspect of this whole thing that comes up repeatedly is the race dynamic - that black women have always been sexualized but their "sexuality" has historically been seen as second class to white female "sexuality". And that women like Nicki and Cardi "owning" their sexuality is a challenge to that power structure. And anyone who has a problem with the media they're producing is somehow trying to police black/brown women's self-expression.

And this is where gaslighting comes in - when any woman who asks questions like I'm asking is immediately told she is racist. And it's easy to want to shy away and not comment on this stuff and not have an opinion because you're afraid of being called a racist. I'm not saying that black/brown women should be policed in their self-expression, should be told what they can/can't wear/say/talk about. Saying that this kind of media is offensive and ultimately bad for the cause of women is NOT the same as saying that these artists should have no voice at all. But some people will try to equate calling this form of expression regressive with saying that these artists should be shut up at home and only appear in public wearing niqab or something.

I'm saying that we as a society need to think critically about what this kind of artistic expression reinforces as far as our ideas of all women and women of color (apologies if there's a better phrase-lmk).

If it doesn't advance the cause of women, if it doesn't contribute to women's liberation from sex-based oppression, it really should not be promoted as "empowering".

Willful participation (if such a thing is even possible) in misogyny is not empowering. It sends a total garbage message to young girls that their value is in exploiting their beauty/bodies/sexuality. With this message sold to young girls as feminism, is it any wonder they are leaving womanhood in droves, now that the option to become "boys" exists? Who wouldn't take that escape route when hyper-sexualization is mainstreamed like this. Does this kind of media help girls who are struggling in puberty and young adulthood, uncomfortable with the male gaze and their increasingly emphasized role in society as hyper-sexualized objects?

Who wants to be degraded like this? Only the most brainwashed and indoctrinated - and that's the only other aim of this music besides getting men off.

Empowering? I don't think so.

So this song by Cardi B, "WAP", is #1 on Spotify and Apple Music and the [Youtube video](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hsm4poTWjMs) has 60 million views and counting in just a couple days - i.e. this is a big deal in pop culture right now. The New York Times highlighted the song in its [playlist](https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/07/arts/music/playlist-cardi-b-megan-thee-stallion.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage&contentCollection=AtHome&package_index=1), hailing it as "exuberant" and "sharp". Pitchfork says Cardi B and fellow songstress Megan Thee Stallion, ["center themselves as women in order to freely celebrate their coveted power."](https://pitchfork.com/reviews/tracks/cardi-b-wap-ft-megan-thee-stallion/) And pop culture magazine Complex calls the song ["the epitome of female empowerment."](https://www.complex.com/music/2020/08/cardi-b-megan-thee-stallion-wap-essay) A groundbreaking artistic moment in female empowerment! Women centering themselves! Hey, that sounds good to me, a feminist. Sign me up! Right? I mean, it's **THE EPITOME OF FEMALE EMPOWERMENT. ** Except... it's not. This supposedly feminist anthem centers on, as you might have predicted, Cardi B and crew writhing around in bodysuits and pasties, rapping about their female anatomy, selling themselves as sex objects for the delight of men and for the brainwashing of women. I am eerily reminded of one of the things that "drove" me to radical feminism in the first place. In 2014, Nicki Minaj released the song "Anaconda", and the accompanying [video](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LDZX4ooRsWs) was hailed as being an incredibly empowering, breakthrough expression of female sexuality. For literally YEARS I was gaslighted by libfem friends and the full spectrum of media - from niche to mainstream - which pressured me with the message that if I found this portrayal of women in media to be offensive and disempowering, that that makes me some kind of anti-progressive, conservative, pearl-clutching racist. I am, in fact, none of those things. What I am, is a person who doesn't understand how a woman actively participating in her own degradation, actively participating in a misogynistic culture that oppresses women on the basis of their sex, is at all empowering. How does producing art, that exists for the sole purpose of provoking and titillating men help liberate and advance the roles of women in our society? What am I missing? Cardi B no doubt is an active participant and making a mint off this music/video. Does the fact that she's benefitting monetarily from this song make it empowering? Can a person be a willing participant in their own exploitation? Does monetary gain from degradation negate the fact that she's being degraded? She's reinforcing a patriarchal power structure that holds ALL women back. How is that empowering? How is that **THE EPITOME OF FEMALE EMPOWERMENT. ** One aspect of this whole thing that comes up repeatedly is the race dynamic - that black women have always been sexualized but their "sexuality" has historically been seen as second class to white female "sexuality". And that women like Nicki and Cardi "owning" their sexuality is a challenge to that power structure. And anyone who has a problem with the media they're producing is somehow trying to police black/brown women's self-expression. And this is where gaslighting comes in - when any woman who asks questions like I'm asking is immediately told she is racist. And it's easy to want to shy away and not comment on this stuff and not have an opinion because you're afraid of being called a racist. I'm not saying that black/brown women should be policed in their self-expression, should be told what they can/can't wear/say/talk about. Saying that this kind of media is offensive and ultimately bad for the cause of women is NOT the same as saying that these artists should have no voice at all. But some people will try to equate calling this form of expression regressive with saying that these artists should be shut up at home and only appear in public wearing niqab or something. I'm saying that we as a society need to think critically about what this kind of artistic expression reinforces as far as our ideas of all women and women of color (apologies if there's a better phrase-lmk). If it doesn't advance the cause of women, if it doesn't contribute to women's liberation from sex-based oppression, it really should not be promoted as "empowering". Willful participation (if such a thing is even possible) in misogyny is not empowering. It sends a total garbage message to young girls that their value is in exploiting their beauty/bodies/sexuality. With this message sold to young girls as feminism, is it any wonder they are leaving womanhood in droves, now that the option to become "boys" exists? Who wouldn't take that escape route when hyper-sexualization is mainstreamed like this. Does this kind of media help girls who are struggling in puberty and young adulthood, uncomfortable with the male gaze and their increasingly emphasized role in society as hyper-sexualized objects? Who wants to be degraded like this? Only the most brainwashed and indoctrinated - and that's the only other aim of this music besides getting men off. Empowering? I don't think so.

29 comments

[–] Samhain 32 points (+32|-0) Edited

Well that was raunchy. I thought songs I listened to back when I was a teenager were dirty, but at least they used metaphor and sublty. This song is kind of like listening to the closed captions of a porno.

I think western society (specifically men and those who drink the patriarchy kool-aid) really misunderstood the women's movement during the sexual revolution. With the pill and women's fight for equality, women's relationship to sex changed. They argued that they shouldn't be seen as simply vessels for procration, but active participants in sexual intercourse, as people with their own physical wants and needs with the ability to feel pleasure and enjoy sex. Men took this idea to mean that we as women enjoy being sexualized and objectified. Men get to do everything they were doing in the past, but this time they get to believe that we like it.

Is this song empowering? Lyrically you have two women talking about their sexual wants, which is kind of empowering. Women should be active participants in sex and they should ask for what they want. The sex acts in the lyrics, on the other hand, at times sound violent and degrading ("I wanna gag, I wanna choke") and although Cardi sings like she's in control, the lyrics sound like she wants to be dominated. It doesn't sound empowering. It sounds like a women going along to get along. "Look how turned on I am to do all the degrading things men like to do." And then there's the sampled hook "There's some whores in this house."

The music video adds an extra layer with outfits that are basically lingerie (which, let's face it, is the current pop star uniform) and the sexualised dancing (gyrating?). As a woman, this video doesn't look like its for me. And if it is, its more like a training video of how men want me to look and act. Like I walked out of a Fredricks of Hollywood commercial, apparently.

Has the word empowered turned into a word that means "those who have learned to love their chains?" Because if it has I don't want to use it anymore.

[–] immersang 22 points (+22|-0)

Has the word empowered turn into a word that means "those who have learned to love their chains?"

Oh, VERY well put.

[–] VirginiaWolfberry 13 points (+13|-0)

Has the word empowered turn into a word that means "those who have learned to love their chains?"

Brilliantly put.

[–] chewedanddigested 12 points (+12|-0)

They argued that they shouldn't be seen as simply vessels for procration, but active participants in sexual intercourse, as people with their own physical wants and needs with the ability to feel pleasure and enjoy sex. Men took this idea to mean that we as women enjoy being sexualized and objectified. Men get to do everything they were doing in the past, but this time they get to believe that we like it.

Preach

1971

Guy at concert: "Are you a liberated woman?" leer

My thought bubble: oh shit

[–] gold_bee 23 points (+23|-0) Edited

My first thought when watching the video: "Wow, music for porn addicts". It's oddly boring despite the raunchiness. The costumes are ugly, the lyrics are boring.

There's nothing empowering about WAP. You're not "owning" your sexuality if you're literally selling it. And the fact that Black female artists have to rap about sex while wearing crappy lingerie in order to make it big is very indicative of a racist and sexist system. You don't see male rappers wearing thongs and writhing seductively in their videos.

There's no new Lauryn Hill or Missy Elliot or Queen Latifah. We are being robbed of an entire generation of female artists because anyone with talent has to transform into a boring stripper who raps, or never gets a record deal because she refuses to degrade herself.

[–] immersang 13 points (+13|-0) Edited

There's no new Lauryn Hill or Missy Elliot or Queen Latifah. We are being robbed of an entire generation of female artists because anyone with talent has to transform into a boring stripper who raps, or never gets a record deal because she refuses to degrade herself.

Heartbreaking, really. Even more classic "girl power groups" back then were nothing like what we see today. Looking at TLC in particular. Destiny's Child were already more sexualized, but at least they also had "Independent Women" which truly had an empowering message. The watch I'm wearin', I've bought it, the house I live in, I've bought it, the car I'm driving, I've bought it, I depend on me...

Sigh.

[–] gold_bee 13 points (+13|-0)

TLC, Salt N Pepa and Missy are really interesting examples since they famously sang/rapped about having sex in a way that didn't sexualize them, it sexualized the guys, and it wasn't degrading.

My working theory is that the sea change over the past 20 years is due to the emergence of Internet porn and associated increase in the sexualization and objectification of women and girls. Still just a theory :)

[–] immersang 6 points (+6|-0) Edited

It also seems like the ones you mentioned in particular had other women and girls as their target audience. So they wrote songs for this target audience. While today if you cannot grab the male audience you are done, apparently.

(Reminds me of the very first episode of 30ROCK when Alec Baldwin's network exec character tells Tina Fey's character that her successful show that's very popular with women still needs improvement, because she's "missing men". To which she replies "I'm not missing them. They are just not there.")

I would also point out that Missy Elliot does NOT age. I'm pretty sure she has to be some sort of vampire. Love her so much

I agree that it's boring! There's not really a single element of creativity or originality, leaving me befuddled as to why it's insanely popular and seen as groundbreaking or whatnot.

"You're not "owning" your sexuality if you're literally selling it." - Exactly. So perfectly said, thank you!

[–] pigeonfaced 2 points (+2|-0)

Hey, I know this is an old comment, but there are women making excellent rap at the moment. They're not chart-toppers, but they're successful. Check out "Industry Games" by CHIKA for rap that's incredibly musically intricate, emotionally deep, full of social commentary, and clearly written with love and passion. CHIKA is an absolute badass and wonderful role model for growing girls.

I also happen to be a huge fan on Bree Runway, though granted a lot of her songs are sex bops (she's very in control of her image though and is vocal about racism/colorism, and her songs about sex don't feel nearly as degrading as mainstream shit and she often puts a spin on it, as in "What Do I Tell My Friends."). Angel Haze is incredible too but heavy listening.

[–] gold_bee 0 points (+0|-0)

Thanks for the reccs! I'll check 'em out. Much of my frustration is with the mainstream music business and the artists who get promotion/radio play these days... most of them are mediocre to bad, regardless of genre. It seems to have changed quite a bit in the past 20 years, although I had like two cassette tapes 20 years ago so was stuck listening to the radio!

[–] RegularFeminist 10 points (+10|-0)

Haven't seen the video you are talking about, but I've seen other Cardi B's videos. Yep, don't find them empowering either. But I guess the problem is that in order to become successful in a male-dominated industry you have to play by men's rules. HeeSun Lee criticises that in her song Future. And HeeSun Lee is an amazing artist, but who is more popular?

[–] BathMat 9 points (+9|-0)

Yes to all of that. But the thing I find most offensive is that the video is a display of bodies that you have to have dangerous surgeries to ‘acheive’. It’s literally marketing that to teenagers. And any critique being called racism or sexism is gaslighting of the highest order.

My favourite quote regarding to this issue: "Why does our so-called “sexual empowerment” look so very similar to the pornified imagery men have long imposed on women?". Female empowerment in pop and *especially *hip hop industry is bullshit. It's the perfect method to brainwash women of all ages into thinking the hypersexualisation of the female body is a feminist act. No joke, I'm actually really worried for the upcoming generations who will grow up with content like this. I mean, everyone is already used to teenage girls sexualising themselves on social media. The future doesn't seem *that *bright.

You forgot the third kind - the one who will sell her soul for money and fame.

Is it just me or are most popular female pop singers sexual in one way or another. There might be a few exceptions, but for the most part, women need to sexualise themselves in order to be "successful." Men don't. Or men just used sexualised women in their videos too while they remain fully clothed.

[–] moody_ape 5 points (+5|-0)

i agree with every line! everytime someone criticizes something like this, people say something like "oh, but it's different for black women. you need to acknowledge their struggles are dfferent and you must respect that!"

[–] lucretiamott [OP] 12 points (+12|-0)

Yeah, and in posting this I obviously am/was not trying to offend anyone - but I've seriously been like, what am I missing? I'm being told I'm a racist for thinking this music and video are disempowering. AM I a racist if I find this degrading to women of any color? I really don't think so.

I mean, look. I KNOW I'm not a racist. I think white women are being gaslit and guilted for not embracing this porny stuff. Just because it's black/hispanic women creating it doesn't make it okay. I'm 1000% behind any woman of color who creates actual empowering art.

[–] moody_ape 6 points (+6|-0)

i've leraned from my black friends that black women have always been more sexualized and objectified than white women and that sexual liberation doesn't apply the same way to them because of that. i think many black women think this kind of thing is empowering because they are also considered less attractive, since the beauty standard is white. so saying "look how hot i am" feels good. it's so fucked up.

Yeah I can definitely see all that...

"Look how hot I am" is problematic whoever is saying it and for whatever reason. It's saying that "my value to this society is in how my body is objectified." I get that white women's "sexual liberation" has been centered/accepted for a lot longer than black women's has, but I guess my issue is with "sexual liberation" overall, because I don't see it really benefitting women, but as a tool for the patriarchy to exploit women.

[–] CatPetter 4 points (+4|-0)

I'm not going to jump anybody for liking this song but saying it's empowering is pretty pathetic. I wouldn't be half as annoyed by stuff like this if people weren't claiming blatantly sexist content as feminsit. Do people just...not use their brains ever or is the bar for feminism really that low???

[–] antandro 3 points (+3|-0)

I wasn't able to get past 2 minutes of this, and I tried! I think it's difficult for most of us who have grown up in a Western environment to criticize anything that is packaged as "art". The strong messaging of free-speech has made it nigh on impossible to do, and the moment that one does it, one immediately becomes a censor ... and it's one short step from there to being McCarthy, Hitler, Stalin, or Mao, isn't it? But there are times when the shoe fits, and when it does, I think we have to be ready to point that out.

This isn't art. This is a poorly-made "hypno" porno. This is the exploitation of women's voices and women's bodies to redefine what is acceptable in a sexual relationship — and it is because women are singing it that it magically transmutes into something "empowering". I eventually went to read the full lyrics on genius.com — feel free to do the same! — and they are shocking in their shallowness and their submission to male dominance. This is grooming; this is not art. There is no depth here whatsoever. Women are being told exactly where their "power" lies: in being objectified, and then using that objectification to demand cars, money, and other items. Very disturbing stuff, and it says a lot about the entertainment industry that reviews of this are so fawning.

If anything, Cardi B reminds me of this. Born in an abusive family, exposed to some of the worst examples, she "empowered" herself through stripping and carries exactly that mentality through to her music. I rather feel sorry for her, but honestly, there's nothing that I can do about it. How do you manage to tell someone that this isn't a good thing when it's brought her fame and fortune?