Tag Archives: 2021

WAP Grammys 2021 Performance is Not Empowerment or Feminism–It’s Misogyny

16 Mar

Visibility is imperative. Pushing norms is progress. But disguising the objectification of women for the male gaze as empowered feminism is super-problematic, and that’s what is happening here. Cardi b and Meghan Thee Stallion’s Grammys 2021 performance was supposed to push boundaries, and shock. And it did! Madonna pushed boundaries of female sexuality with her cones and simulated sex scene prior to this. But I see the Miley Cyrus/Robin Thicke twirking on all the negative YouTube videos for ‘top 10 cringe moments’, ‘celebs that are problematic’, ‘people who got cancelled’, etc, etc… And let’s not forget how Janet Jackson was ENDED over a fraction of a sec of nipple pasty action at the Superbowl. Can you say, double standard?!

Anyway, I keep seeing a lot of arguments for the merits of this song/performance because it matches what men do. Men have scantily-clad women on their videos, demean women as “bitches” (and far worse) in their lyrics, talk about sexual acts in explicit detail, and are “pimps” when they rack up the number of women they conquer. So people are arguing it’s cool that now women can do that too.

Except here’s the thing:

Feminism isn’t doing whatever you want or being as disgusting as men, it is breaking away from objectification, truly empowering the individual self and collective group of women.

Joining in on objectification of women is not empowerment!

em·pow·er·ment (N)- Authority or power given to someone to do something. “individuals are given empowerment to create their own dwellings” the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights.

This performance isn’t about women owning their bodies, sexuality, or controlling the narrative. This is women selling their image in a package that men like in order to make money and gain fame in the small niche that female rap artists have carved out.

Women in this patriarchal society have to fit in a box–the Madonna/whore dichotomy. Women in music, already in that narrow box of patriarchy, have to fit into an even smaller box of being a role model to girls while having sexual appeal for the general public. The rap category is an even teenier box a couple of select women have to fit in to keep going. In the end, the box is so small and limited, there is no space left.

People online are praising the performance as visible female sexuality, black women owning their own bodies, and empowerment. Which, I agree might be present (though in this writing, I’ll argue it’s in diluted form). I felt the performance was harmful to women’s progress. What I don’t want to do is add the the terrible narrative that black women’s sexuality is wild/animalistic/scary/out of control that colonialism, racism, sexism, and patriarchy has painted it. I find the performance harmful because it is misogyny in feminist clothing, to borrow the sheep expression.

I know there’s a whole song, and the music video that goes with it. I don’t know much about either so my critiques are based solely on the following video of the 2021 Grammy performance:

My racap of the action:

-A stripper pole-references the men’s domain of the strip club where women take off clothes and dance suggestively for men’s entertainment.
-Cardi B backs up and puts her butt-crack on the pole. Side-note: Butt implants are for men. A women can die getting plastic surgery to enhance her body. Her clothes will fit differently. She will have to move differently, walk differently, lay down differently than she did before putting plastic in her butt. And she may have complications later. Leaking, autoimmune issues, cancer… This is not for a woman’s pleasure–women’s butts are not an erroneous zone, or secondary sex characteristic. A big butt is for men’s pleasure.
-In case the viewer couldn’t put it together, a giant, clear plastic stripper platform shoe flanks the stage. The type of shoe men like to look at, but women have trouble walking effectively in, and certainly running from danger is out of the question in such a shoe. It shows the power dynamic–females are weakened by such a shoe but men get pleasure from them wearing the shoe. Men are in power here. The women are just props for them to use to achieve sexual gratification.
-Other suggestive moves that drive home this is a performance to cater to men’s sexual desire: Splay legs, she grabs/rubs her puss, gyrating hips and doing suggestive humping dance moves. Cardi B elevates and licks her own leg. Countless squats split legged. Laying with legs far apart on the bed. Crawling on the bed. Split legged humping. Laying on her back with split legs. The two women crawl toward each other on bed. They scissor their legs together. [Pet-peeve] this is NOT a thing! I mean, it might technically exist in the way the pile-driver is a thing, but not used in real life, it’s only for porn. This scissoring maneuver is performative and it’s is ignorant/Lesbphobic. As a matter of fact, if two out, butch lesbians did the same move, I’ll bet the reaction would be totally different. Then to finish the show, more split legs.

Here’s the test to know

a) if this is two women owning their own bodies, displaying confidence and empowerment

OR

b) this is a sexually suggestive performance for the male gaze

In the above video and descriptive paragraph, trade out the women for men.

Have you seen men doing a similar performance before? Does it seem like the same type of performance? Would it garner the same reaction?

I’d say fail.

You do not/would not see two men: Dancing on a pole. Licking their own leg. Crawling toward another man on a giant bed. Or scissoring legs together with another man…

This is not women owning their sexuality. This is objectifying & commodifying women for the male gaze.

Research by Calogero has shown that the male gaze can have detrimental effects on women’s self-esteem and self-objectification, leading to increased body shame and a worsened mental state. The male gaze creates a power imbalance. It supports a patriarchal status quo, perpetuating women’s real-life sexual objectification.

So that’s why I don’t like it. I’m not even going to mention being role model for girls, b/c the conservatives always trot that out to shame women. But I will say it would be nice if society was better at recognizing misogyny. I can understand why it’s difficult because it’s ubiquitous and pervasive. But we need to educate ourselves a lot better, because things are still BAD for women. And I would love to see women being successful by truly own their own bodies and sexuality in an empowering way. I hope it happens.

But this was not it.