WAP, Cuties, and the Over-Sexualization of Black Women

Without a doubt this summer’s smash hit has been WAP by Cardi B and Meg thee Stallion. The day the video and the song dropped it went viral instantly. A song where two women of color are unashamedly embracing their sexuality; created its fair share of controversy. As I listened to the song and watched the video, I didn’t feel as proud as other women did. I am a Black woman and even though I am not ashamed of my sexuality, I was worried about how those who are not people of color would look at this and perceive us. 

            Last week, the trailer for Netflix’s newest international film was released and went viral. “Cuties” is a coming of age film where young girls aged 11 are in the dance group at their school. It’s a French film and has received accolades for the way it handles sensitive topics. However, in anticipation of its release here in the States, Netflix released the poster below and many critics pointed out the way that Netflix sexualized the young girls. 

French Poster for Cuties

          

American Poster for Cuties

  In the poster, it is the Black girls that are displayed in more sexual poses than their white counterparts. Black women are often depicted as Jezebels unable to control their sexual urges, or as Mammies who are only put on this earth to provide maternal comfort. Which is why WAP has been deemed so groundbreaking and innovative. Even though Cardi B, and Meg thee Stallion are hardly the first female rappers to own their sexuality (hello Lil Kim?). But my concern is that society doesn’t understand the difference between grown Black women asserting their sexual freedom and young Black women who are discovering their sexuality. There is a difference. 

            I’ve had a few conversations about women and sex in the past couple of weeks, and while talking to a man about it I was amazed at how we still expect women to be virginal, but not saints. Sexy, but not too sexy. It’s exhausting the labels and the expectations that society puts on us. Men can have as many sexual partners and it makes them experienced, but a woman saying she likes sex is wanton. But for Black women, the belief is that we always want sex. This belief made it easier for slave owners to rape their slaves, because if you’re always ready and willing then it’s not rape, is it? Society carries this belief about Black women to this day.

            My fear with WAP is not that we are truly embracing this side of ourselves, but that we are filling a role that we have been expected to play for hundreds of years. Sex sells, and it sells even more when it is coming from a body that is deemed exotic or other leading to a poster like Cuties; thus perpetuating a viscious cycle. If we don’t have the proper conversations with our children about songs and visuals like WAP, it can have lasting effects. I’m glad that people were outraged by Cuties enough to say something, and Netflix apologized for their choice. However there are no plans to cancel the release. And while I won’t be adding WAP to my library, I hope that we can understand that there are many ways to be a woman and a Black woman. Let’s remember that nudity empowers some while modesty empowers others.

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