On the occasion of Women's Equality Day in the USA, we take a look at the status of gender equality in music. Here's why Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion's No.1 hit "WAP" has everything to do with this topic.
On August 26th, 2020, the United States of America celebrate their 48th "Women's Equality Day". The celebration honors the historic moment when female American citizens finally gained the long-overdue right to vote in 1920 and were first proclaimed in 1972 under President Nixon. Precisely 100 years ago, the USA prohibited the states and the federal government from denying the right to vote to citizens on the basis of sex.
Today, it is common knowledge that on paper, all American citizens have obtained equal rights to vote, work, and live their lives the way they want to. However, the reality of equal rights is a different story, especially when it comes to the opportunities of minorities and oppressed majorities. Black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), as well as non-hetero and non-cisgender citizens, experience discrimination and unequal treatment in all parts of life on the daily. We could draw an infinite amount of examples here - from transgender individuals being excluded from the military and denied health insurance, to black people suffering at the hands of racist police officers - you name it. Instead, we will shine a light on a manifestation of unequal treatment of womxn and BIPOC that is extremely prominent today: slut-shaming in music.
Equality in music?
Since the release of Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion's "WAP", a pussy-praising ode to consensual sex and female desire, the two black American rappers have been celebrated and bashed equally. Within one week, after rising straight to the top of the Billboard Hot 100, the single had been certified gold by the RIAA, selling over 500.00 copies in the USA only. "WAP" also marked the first #1 songwriting work of a female musician, and the spicy music video broke the record for the most views within 24 hours for a female collaboration, with over 26.5 million views on YouTube. On top of that, "WAP" also earned Cardi B the title of first female rapper to achieve Hot 100 number-one singles in two different decades (the 2010s and 2020s), while the song became the first female rap collaboration to debut in the top position.
To summarize - "WAP" is the raunchy and ridiculously successful result of two A-list rap females collaborating, manifesting the power of womxn in the music industry uniting their forces. It set new standards for female rappers to come - and yet the song has been criticized heavily, causing major controversy on the end of conservative music critics and citizens of the USA.
"When womxn proudly express their sexual desires, their confidence and their sensual pleasures, an oppressive system of hetero-normative hierarchies is at stake."
For instance, a Republican congressional candidate from California, wrote on Twitter, "Cardi B & Megan Thee Stallion is what happens when children are raised without God and without a strong father figure". The song made him want to "pour holy water" in his ears. Many more critiques of the song, both on- and offline and coming from public persons and fans of rap music followed his example of deeming the explicitness of the song unacceptable. Why did "WAP" cause such a stir, when male rappers have been expressing their desire for wet-ass pussy, fat butts, and sex, as well as their objectification of (especially black women) for decades?
It is saddening, yet simple: when womxn, queers, and people of color proudly express their sexual desires, their confidence, and their sensual pleasures, an oppressive system of hetero-normative hierarchies is at stake. Those profiting from this system are appalled, threatened even. For centuries, (black) womxn have been sexualized both in music and in real life. This has created a system in which womxn are reduced to their curves and sensuality - but without them being able to profit from their physical attributes. Females taking control leaves those who are used to profiting from the oppression with empty hands.
Thus, in 2020, powerful women like Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion glorifying their sexuality and desires is political. By rapping about their most private parts, they do not just take control of their own sexuality - they also exclaim that their pussies cannot be grabbed, taken advantage of, or objectified without their consent.
The fact that the conservative public - and even parts of the hyper-sexual rap industry itself - is appalled by an explicit song manifesting a pussy-power mindset shows that (BIPOC) women are not fully equal yet in the eyes of many. A decade after gaining the right to vote, and 48 years into the annual celebration of "Women's Equality Day", all citizens may be equal by law, regardless of their gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation. In reality, however, womxn, queers, and BIPOC are at a disadvantage, criticized more heavily. and oppressed in their freedom of expression. The controversy sparked by the release of "WAP" is proof of this.