The lies sold to kids about sexual ’empowerment’
On Sunday 14 March the annual Grammy awards were held in the US. Nothing more than a prideful chance for the rich and famous to pat themselves on the back for their hard efforts… y’know, singing and stuff.
The awards were televised and included numerous acts, but the standout was undoubtedly the song WAP (an acronym for something I won’t type here) by rappers Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion. “The duo performed a strip club-themed version of the song, featuring a pole on a massive high heel and ending with the two rappers writhing together on a giant bed,” writes Variety Magazine.
“Even though the chorus was changed to “Wet Wet Wet” to pass network muster, the song’s message of sexual empowerment remained clear.”
Grammys host Trevor Noah joked before the performance, “Tell the kids that “WAP” is about giving the cat a bath”. It probably should have been “tell your kids to go to their room”. Or, better yet, “turn off the TV and go spend time with the kids”.
A performance which, just 20 or so years ago, would have been seen via a pay-per-view arrangement by deviants and teen boys with inattentive parents careless with the credit card is now delivered on prime-time television and spread across social media around the globe, widely praised and hailed as “empowering” for women and girls.
A word of warning: if you feel you need to go and listen to the song or read the lyrics I advise you proceed with caution (I wouldn’t play it while mum is in the room).
In light of all-too-familiar stories of the mistreatment of women– a prime example being the 2017 #MeToo movement and subsequent allegations of sexual abuse in high profile public culture – a push to properly educate boys against sexual misconduct is a great idea.
There is no class (at least none that I’m aware of) that teaches young boys to objectify women. There is no overt ad campaign telling them that “Australia says yes” to ogling and cat-calling women in the street. But there are lessons on mistreating women reaching every young boy in Australia and across the West, though it may not be from where conventional wisdom suggests it is coming from.
The problem isn’t that we aren’t telling boys that these things are wrong. The problem is that we live in an overly sexualised world of ‘say one thing, and do another’. Messages get lost, particularly on young men, in the gap between what they’re told they can’t do and what they get away with.
Society says beauty is on the inside and then approves of the “window-shopping” culture of easily downloadable, non-age verifying apps. Society says don’t objectify women, and then promotes two rappers grinding each other on live TV and unrestricted social media while singing lyrics telling men to perform depraved and demeaning sexual acts.
Gee, I wonder why young men would think it is ok to treat women that way.
I know I’m at risk of being called out for “victim blaming” here, but I’m not blaming any victims. I’m blaming a society and political movement that promotes this behaviour and then tries to blame a generation who’ve never been taught anything else. Why are we surprised that young boys want to mistreat women, when women and men who promote that behaviour are idolised and held up as heroes?
You can’t have it both ways. You can’t promote sex as a meaningless transaction and be surprised when it’s treated as such. You can’t endorse the porn-industry as a free choice and act surprised when teens with iPhones turn in to men with depraved expectations of women and sex.
We live in a world of ‘do what as I say, not as I do’. If you want real change in the way men treat women, create a society where celebrating WAP is unthinkable.