It was a sultry, Tuesday evening when it happened. The single greatest moment when my friends and I streamed ‘WAP’. Yes, the oh-so-controversial Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s ‘Wet Ass Pussy’. The lyrical melody elicited furore and contemplation. Unaware of the spicy soup it had stirred within and outside the music industry, I mindlessly dismissed the song as one-and-the-same. Even so, anxious thoughts provoked me: ‘is this against feminism?’. Is it against all that the movement wishes to destroy—hyper-sexualisation of women, provocative clothing, sex-spewed stereotypical symbolizations, the inherently carnal imagery of women in animal-print outfits? Wasn’t Cardi a feminist herself? The questions couldn’t help themselves.
A week later, post a very monotonous lecture a couple of my friends brought up the song again, this time it wasn’t as passive as just streaming it. Both equally committed to female empowerment, they took extremely contrasting views on the ‘wet and gushy’ video. While one stood firm on its hampering women’s pleas to equality, the other slid deeper into her opinion on empowering achievement WAP symbolises.
In the discourse that followed (where I continued to be a passive participant) what became clear, and extremely important to understand was the nature of the feminism movement itself. The following is my takeaway.
Women through centuries have been pushed out of all mildly controversial spheres of society and polity. Sex, apparently still, continues to be one of such spheres. The narrative of the ‘virtuous, shy, clean girl’ fed to generations of females has had us shy away from expressing the desires of the female libido. Very much a reality, that libido, in the same society where female orgasms continue to be fake and damsels-in-distress applauded. To put things into perspective, the sheer number of ‘90s ‘chick flicks’ where the underconfident, non-demanding, shy girl is paired with a ‘tomboy’ to go out and find love, is tragically devastating. The blatant expression of libidinous and lecherous desires of women, by women, thus, was a definitive and the biggest threat to patriarchy.
Sex has always been a topic of conversation in the hip-hop, rap, and even pop music industry. Male singers are often seen lying on silky bedspreads surrounded by women massaged in sparkling gold oil (as if flown directly from the UAE). The unapologetic hyper sexualisation of the female body has never been contentious when partaken-in by men. Nevertheless, when a female decides to express her own primal sexual needs on an independently produced and marketed platform, the world promptly falls on a bed of nails. The loud and clear articulation of the mere existence of female sexuality, when expressed by a female sets politicians and opinionists ablaze. The narrative of the artists sticks to pleasure for the self—the woman. It isn’t gift-wrapped and concealed behind prioritization of any male’s enjoyment. We didn’t start the fire, it was always burning, since the world's been turning, we just made society aware of its burning.
The unbridled use of animal motifs portray the class discrepancy, namely ‘classy v/s trashy’. Through the colonial occupation of the African states, animal prints and furs became an image of everything ‘exotic’ and ‘wild’. This wild eroticity and savageness attached to black women (undoubtedly damnable) came to be laced with racially discriminatory connotations. These stereotypes have left black women, often, as epicenters of facetious narratives. Black women have little or no control over society’s perception of their bodies.
‘We, as women, aren’t all empowered by the same things and that’s okay. Some women enjoy allowing their “freak flag” to fly. Others don’t. Neither preference makes us any less as women. However, by putting down those women that do feel comfortable flaunting their sexuality, we inadvertently help those that insist on upholding a controlling and archaic patriarchy that allows men to maintain power over how women are allowed to represent themselves sexually or even as independent beings that have a mind and agency of their own.’ - Jasmine Chantel
The reigns of my sexuality are in my hands. The freedom to choose. That's what the empowerment movement has always been, and will continue to be about. The fluidity of feminism, its ability to progress with the times and people, is what makes it so wonderful. One doesn’t need to stick to age-old archaic notions of where the female morals lie (they definitely don't lie in the vagina, the roundness of the bust, or the nature of the fabric on the body).
This song is the epitome of women’s liberation. Celebrating female sexuality through and through, on her own terms, in her own way. While criticism runs on various rounds such as lewd imagery, ‘pronographic content’, hypersexulaization, what’s better than destroying a patriarchal system with its own structures (r. stereotypes)?
By Akshaya Singh
Akshaya Singh is a third year Political Science student at Hindu College and the Vice President of The Symposium Society. Besides a keen interest in everything political, she loves herself some old soul 80’s music. Current obsession; croissants.