“I want you to park that big Mack truck, right in this little garage,” said Cardi B as she struck the liberty bell. She looked off into the distance to see her fellow pop music sensation Megan The Stallion and joined her for a music video filled with the booty shaking that changed the world. This was the day she created the movement that would define our generation and Spotify playlists. This was the day that started with one tiny ripple but evolved into a tsunami of social change. This was the day… that WAP was born.
WAP by Cardi B and Megan The Stallion is a catalyst for a feminist revolution. It is a song, dance, and video that aims to speak on humanity’s views on women and censorship. What are they saying exactly? Some pretty explicit things that on the surface mean nothing, but after further analysis, reveal hidden truths about how we treat women. Lyrics like “In the food chain, I’m the one that eat ya,” are meant to empower women and showcase their value in an industry typically run by males. By using popular male artist braggadocio, they bring up the conversation of gender equity. Cardi B and her partner in crime use male tendencies to test the established norms of what women “should” be “allowed” to do.
WAP is not trying to change the world or change practical things, but it is trying to change perceptions. If you’re listening and you don’t like it, that means it’s working. The goal is to make people have an opinion on it. Without words there is no change, and without thought there are no words, so WAP is the first step in instigating the thought of change. WAP perpetrates the stereotypes of (male-dominated) popular music with a female voice. It cannot physically shift the landscape of nature, but it can shift the nature of our thoughts. Art becomes a neutral place for exchanges and discussions, further advancing and defining popular culture’s views on gender.
The WAP movement addresses issues of censorship and gender bias in the United States by bringing up a moral question: How much freedom of self-expression should women have? We are no longer in the 1920’s where women are basically born in the kitchen and men wear hats all the time. WAP is doing to humanity what it has been doing for centuries: evolving. By testing the boundaries of societal norms with lurid lyrics, videos, and dances, WAP ushers in a more radicalized era of how we relate to each other on the internet.
The coronavirus pandemic brings us closer than ever to our phones, so WAP feeds off our new dystopian reality by setting the standard of what is acceptable online. Pushing commonly accepted gender norms to their limit, WAP strikes up a conversation about how autonomous our bodies and words should be. There is no change without thought, so WAP kickstarts that thought with some twerking. Dance brings people together, as it is apparent with how fast WAP spread. Through the ritual of movement, we express the connection of our minds with our bodies. That is the connection that defines art. While Csikszentmihalyi may say that we are wasting our potential by partaking in passive entertainment, the creativity of WAP comes from its universalizability. You can participate by doing the dance, playing the song, watching the video, or by simply bringing up the conversation, and each of these reinvigorates the point that women are as capable as men.
What we see changes who we are, so art acts as a vehicle that enables you to change the world. Using the social media platform TikTok, WAP creates a dance trend for women to follow. By forming a community of women that are all trying to understand their role in society, WAP paves the way for women empowerment in popular culture. It doesn’t take an adman from Mad Men to realize that sex sells. Celebrity endorsements build credibility and attract more views. What better people to pair up with a message about female self-worth than female superstars Cardi B and Megan the Stallion. This is crucial for the survival of this project because what good is art if no-one sees it?
WAP uses dance, video, and audio to deliver a message. The message is open to interpretation, as it can be seen as a mere party anthem or a cataclysmic spark for revolution, but it does its job, nonetheless: It gets people to talk about it. As French street artist JR says in his My Wish Ted Talk, “the fact that art cannot change things makes it a neutral place for exchanges and discussions, and that enables you to change the world.” A positive difference is subjective, so I cannot speak for everyone when I say WAP is having a positive impact on the world. What I can say though, is that it is certainly having a lasting impression. WAP is bringing up a conversation that cannot easily be had without art. Just like how in Footloose the teenagers rebelled to laws forbidding dancing, WAP is challenging our unspoken social agreements. I can say with full confidence that the WAP movement would not have been nearly as well received just 30 years ago. That shows that we are moving in the right direction.
Freedom of Expression in the Arts and Entertainment. (n.d.). Retrieved October 08, 2020, from https://www.aclu.org/other/freedom-expression-arts-and-entertainment?redirect=free-speech%2Ffreedom-expression-arts-and-entertainment%29
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1996). Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention. New York, New York: Harper Collins.