Illustrations by Hannah Robinson
From Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion, two indomitable rappers at the top of their game, comes WAP. If you, like me, listened to it on repeat, you will know that the song delivers a spectacular ode to women owning their own bodies, their own sexualities, and, quite simply, loving their vaginas. However, not everyone is on board with this sex-positive message.
The song’s musical arrangements are paired-back and simple. The lyrics, meanwhile—in their (glorious) original deemed too explicit for almost every outlet—feature all the best uses for buckets, mops, credit cards (honestly,just go listen to it), and some of the most creative metaphors involving bottom-feeders and macaroni I have ever come across. It’s all about the women’s voices, and they make sure to be heard.
Nevertheless, as is to be expected when women celebrate their own bodies, out from the woodwork come men who have accidentally wandered into the twenty-first century, squinted around and, on their way back to the good old days having decided it’s not for them, shout about where we women have gone wrong. What is amusing is that they rarely need to be sought out. They can be relied upon to parade themselves before the awaiting eyerolls to, as loudly as possible, mansplain what is and isn’t empowering, and how women should consider (*inhales*) the children! before daring to discuss sexual pleasure.
One of the more comical examples came from Republican congressional candidate, James P. Bradley. Having tripped and fallen onto the ‘play’ button and unintentionally listened to WAP in full, Bradley simply had to share his insight that “Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion are what happens when children are raised without God.” Thankfully for him, Bradley won’t be alone on the set of ‘I Publicly Outed Myself as a Misogynist’ because joining the cast is Ben Shapiro. Ben tried to defend his first meltdown on the topic by conflating vaginal lubrication—a central theme of the song—with a variety of gynaecological conditions, managing to both entirely misunderstand the concept of hyperbole and embarrass his wife. An own-goal, if ever I saw one.
These reactions to WAP were, by-and-large, amusing. However, it was Russell Brand’s attempt at “critique” which I found nauseating. In questioning whether the song’s video accompaniment was “feminist masterpiece” or “porn”, Brand’s 17-minute long response video hinges on the rhetorical question: “do women achieve equality by aspiring to and replicating the values that have been established by males?” His answer: “No.” Great. To see displays of female sexuality as emulations of a male ‘type’, rather than proof of them as sexual beings in their own right, neatly summarises the central problem of Brand’s argument.
His attitude toward female sexuality ranges from blasé to contemptible as he goes on to liken the feeling of watching WAP to that of watching porn, and seemingly tries to justify his gross attitude by arguing that he does, in fact, like empowered women because he finds them “appealing” and “attractive”. So, there we have it. Russell likes female sexuality, but only on his terms and through the lens of his own gain.
Moreover, in 17 minutes of analysis there was no mention of race. Instead, what can be found is a white man grumbling about the supposed harm done to the feminist movement by two powerful Black women re-centering themselves as autonomous sexual beings in celebration of women’s bodies and sexualities. Would there have been the same response had Cardi and Megan been dancing for men in the video? I doubt it. The problem is that Russell sees himself nowhere, and in a song about female pleasure that is confusing. But do not let this influence you. Instead, rejoice in the creativity and power of Black womanhood, and await the day when the male gaze is left behind for good.