WAP should stand for “Women Against Patriarchy”

Martha Fishburne

As soon as the opening beat to WAP began playing, my dad’s face twisted with a mixture of shock, fear and embarrassment, and I instantly knew I had messed up. As the song progressed, getting more and more graphic, three minutes stretched into an eternity. The car fell silent, but the look on my parents’ faces said everything.

Needless to say, I have been banned from choosing music on family outings. 

Since WAP (which stands for Wet-A** P***y) was released on Aug. 7th, it has been met with overwhelming criticism from conservative politicians and well-meaning parents alike. 

Illustration by Kalyn Dawes

In one tweet, U.S. California Congressman James P. Bradley wrote, “Cardi B & Megan Thee Stallion are what happens when children are raised without God and without a strong father figure. Their new ‘song’ The #WAP (which I heard accidentally) made me want to pour holy water in my ears and I feel sorry for future girls if this is their role model!”

But while Bradley and the rest of anti-WAP Twitter users air their grievances with female sexuality online, they’re also demonstrating the exact reasons for why this song is needed. In a time when women’s reproductive rights are actively threatened and sexuality in women continues to be shamed, a song embracing female pleasure is more important now than ever. As Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, “Women Against Patriarchy (WAP) 2020.”

In 2018, Trump announced a “Gag Rule,” which banned all health care providers in the Title X program from offering abortion as an option to their pregnant patients. As a result, all California Planned Parenthood branches were forced to forgo Title X funding, according to the Planned Parenthood website. In 2020, the Supreme Court ruled seven-to-two that companies could deny women no-cost contraceptives for “moral” reasons. Although only an estimate, the New York Times reports that around 126,000 women could lose access to free birth control due to this decision. 

By denying women free birth control and hiding important information regarding abortions, the federal government is purposely complicating a woman’s decision to have or abstain from sex. In doing this, they imply that a woman should feel embarrassed for wanting to have sex, further proving the song’s relevance.

While the government shames women for their sexuality on a federal level, girls are first introduced to these suppressing ideas in the classroom during sex education. Many abstinence-based sex education programs–which 37 of 50 U.S. states opt for, according to the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States–compare sexual women to un-sticky pieces of tape, sullied roses and chewed up pieces of gum. In a country where more than half of all students are taught that women who have sex are comparable to inanimate objects, a song attempting to destigmatize that same sexuality is essential. 

Change comes with discomfort, and if rapping candidly about sex from the female perspective is what it takes to break America’s stigma around female sexuality, then WAP is the rally cry society needs right now. 

That being said, many critiques of the song are valid: its constant references to graphic sex and the vagina makes WAP provocative and unsuitable for kids. The issue with their reaction, though, lies in its hypocrisy. For many, it seems, the discussion of vaginas is only okay when it’s based on the exploitation of women rather than their empowerment. The president, a man who many of WAP’s critics will vote for (according to a GQ magazine article), was recorded bragging about “grabbing women by the p***y,” among a slew of other demeaning sexual comments about women. Yet his supporters seem to be more up in arms over a female artist singing about her own vagina than they were about Trump touching someone else’s without consent.

Furthermore, countless songs written, performed and rapped by men reference women in a graphic sexual way. “Plain Jane,” “Thotiana” and “Crazy Rap” are all acclaimed rap songs that include sexually explicit lyrics. This discrepancy of backlash between men who rap freely about their sexual desires and women who do the same highlights the blatant sexism at the core of WAP’s controversy.

However, I have faith that songs like WAP are breeding a new generation of sexually empowered women who are not daunted by America’s aversion to female pleasure. While my parents may cringe at WAP’s explicit lyrics, my 14-year-old sister raps along enthusiastically in a way I never could at her age. Maybe Cardi B and Megham Thee Stallion are better role models than Bradley thought.