“I ain’t finished yet / Get another bitch / Got her ridin’ dick and screamin’ ‘Yeehaw’………. / Got me fuckin’ her upside down / Yeah we goin’ dumb / She say she wanna cum.”
“Slob on my knob / Like corn on the cob / Check in with me / And do your job / Lay on the bed / And give me head / Don’t have to ask, don’t have to beg.”
—“Slob on My Knob,” Three 6 Mafia
“I took a white bitch to Starbucks / That little bitch got her throat fucked ……….. / Skeet on your main bitch’s forehead / Don’t want your pussy, just want head.”
—“Look At Me!,” XXXTENTACION
Did these lyrics cause you to have a visceral reaction? Did they cause you to question the state of rap and our generation’s morals? At this point, hearing those songs at parties or on the radio doesn’t make me squirm or even bat an eyelid. It seems as though popular rap has desensitized our generation to many formerly taboo topics: sex, drugs, partying, etc. Although rap is popular with Gen Z and Millennials, older generations still shudder and complain about rap’s vulgarity. As a genre primarily dominated by Black men that often features explicit content, rap is already under a tremendous amount of scrutiny. But what about when rap is made by Black women?
Enters Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B. Whether we choose to admit it or not, almost all of us attempted to learn Megan’s “Savage” dance earlier this year while imprisoned in our homes in isolation. Cardi B’s hit “Bodak Yellow,” along with dozens of other popular tracks, took her from a career in stripping to a seat at the table with queen Nicki Minaj herself. “WAP” rose to #1 on the Billboard charts in a matter of days and rapidly acquired a viral status on Twitter and TikTok. The song has accumulated over 6.7M videos on TikTok and has inspired numerous dances. In the midst of the song’s rise to success, there has been a male (mostly conservative) movement latching on to “WAP” and making it a conversation piece. Led by Ben Shapiro, middle-aged white men have heavily scrutinized and criticized WAP’s overwhelming commercial success. There have been a multitude of think pieces, Youtube videos, and podcast episodes of men giving us opinions that no one asked for. I won’t bore you by including their quotes. They are all essentially saying the same thing: blah blah, *sexually explicit*, blah blah *vulgar*, blah blah *inappropriate.*
But it seems that white men are not the only demographic that has taken issue with “WAP.” A few days after the song was released, my sister and I were in the living room watching the “WAP” music video. Seeing black female artists starring in their own rap video, rather than sitting behind men and twerking on cars as props, felt liberating. However, my mom walked by and muttered something about how the video was disrespectful and inappropriate. This brief exchange brings up the topic of intergenerational perceptions of feminism.
America is now on her Fourth Wave of feminism. Movements 1-3 included marriage equality, surage, workplace equality, and overall basic respect. The new feminism is centered around empowerment and embracing our bodies and narratives: Amber Rose’s Slutwalks, empowerment online via #MeToo, the popularization of OnlyFans content. Evidently, older women aren’t happy with this new feminism. There even seem to be intragenerational clashes surrounding the perception of the female body in modern media, as seen in Lana Del Rey’s haphazard and unfleshed Instagram post in which she rants and complains about popular black women who have monetized their sexuality. She poses a “question for the culture” (a botched nod at ebonics), complaining that other popular female artists have had numerous #1 songs about “being sexy, wearing no clothes, fucking, cheating etc.” and that she is still being criticized for her 2014 Tumblr soft-girl daddy issues aesthetic. While we can’t immediately dismiss Lana’s truth, we must admit that black women have a harder time in the world of media.
Racism and feminism go hand in hand. This is primarily seen with the hyper-sexualization of black women from a very early age. Meg and Cardi are on a mission to reframe this narrative of non-consensual sexualization, as part of a larger movement to monetize their own sexuality. In the age of OnlyFans and sexual liberation, people seem to have issues with women who monetize their sexuality, only deeming it acceptable when they are being sexualized by men who control the terms and conditions of their bodies.
There seem to be two (unofficial) types of feminism: a traditional and modest one, contrasted with one where women reclaim their femininity and sexuality and use it for their own gain. So….which feminism is correct? The one where women are stepping on the necks of men while wearing pantsuits and judges’ gowns? Or the one where women are stepping on the necks of men while wearing Fashion Nova bodysuits and Christian Louboutins?
Well, one could argue neither: as Margaret Atwood so eloquently put it: “Male fantasies, male fantasies, is everything run by male fantasies? Upon a pedestal or down on your knees, it's all a male fantasy.” Whether women present a soft and docile image (think early Taylor Swift or Ariana Grande) or a loud and confident one (think Doja Cat or Nicki Minaj), ultimately, men will always be the standard and benchmark for deciding what women should and shouldn’t do. Was their sexuality ever theirs to own? Or is every female narrative and experience dominated by an oppressive, underlying male one? This is a pessimistic (albeit valid) argument, but that’s not the angle I choose to see it from; I choose to see Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B, as well as their black female pop culture predecessors (Lil Kim, Missy Elliot, Nicki, etc.), as champions of modern feminism, as pioneers in reclaiming women’s power and sexuality.
Nandi Dube is a freshman in the College studying Sociology.