This New TikTok Trend is Exposing Sexism

Photo by Kon Karampelas on Unsplash

There’s a new app, first popularized in 2019, that’s become all the rage in 2020 — and that’s Tiktok.

It’s actually a really cool social media platform, with lots of confidence-boosting trends, creative videos, and inspiring accounts that push for social change. And anyone that has Tiktok knows: it goes through “trends,” or phases of time where specific songs, sounds, dances, pranks, etc. are very popular. I’m here to talk about one today:

The “my parents react to WAP” trend.

Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B came out with WAP on August 7, 2020, and since then it’s been flying across the Internet and receiving an unprecedented amount of listens. Of course, this wonderful support for the song also comes with much criticism, such as from people like Ben Shapiro who urge the two female rappers to “see a doctor” since the arousal that they describe in the song is abnormal (umm, what?!). There’s clearly a double standard in the music industry that’s reflected here: when men write, even in graphic detail, about sex, they are praised or they’re told their music is “catchy” and they are hardly ever accused of being disgusting or atypical. Women, however, are faced with immeasurable backlash and downright disrespect when they do the same.

Okay, so we’ve established that there’s a double-standard. Now let’s come back to this whole Tiktok trend thing and how it’s exposing sexism.

This new trend on Tiktok goes like this: someone (usually a teenager) plays WAP for the first time in front of their parents, then records their initial reaction. Most people think it’s funny. The song starts out sounding like just a basic rap song, and then the lyrics come in and shock — or even offend — the parent who’s innocently listening to the song for the first time.

It’s interesting to watch the parent’s face change from pure neutrality to absolute horror and disgust.

Most of the time their jaws drop and they turn their heads to look at their kid, wide-eyed, steeped in surprise (and not the good kind). Sometimes they even gasp. Some parents have immediately ask that it be turned off. Some put their heads in their hands and sigh.

The point is, though, that I have yet to see a positive, uplifting “parent reacts to WAP” video. I’ve never seen a video of a parent reacting to WAP where they appear surprised at first, but then start jamming out to the song or smiling at the catchy, sexually-liberating (albeit raunchy) lyrics.

Now, I’m not arguing that everyone needs to love WAP. I get it — raunchy lyrics aren’t everyone’s thing. It’s difficult to hear a song like WAP where arousal and sex is so graphically depicted and not have at least some initial shock in your reaction. But the the shame, the disapproval, the discomfort, and the utter disgust that I’m seeing in these videos is troubling.

For one, this doesn’t happen with male songwriters or rappers. They’ve been writing graphically about sex for ages, and sometimes it’s even about people other than themselves — specifically, the women that they continuously objectify. When Big Sean was dating Ariana Grande, he featured this lyric in his song Stay Down: “I got a million dollar chick / with a million dollar pu**y.” And Jason Derulo has been writing songs for ages about admiring women’s butts and wanting to “fulfill his fantasies” with them. In his song Wiggle, rapper Snoop Dogg was even featured with a verse in which he uttered the phrase, “Taste my raindrops.” Whoa! As if that isn’t graphic?

But those songs, rappers, and musicians were never criticized. They were never accused of having something wrong with them or being gross or vulgar. Sure, Big Sean received some backlash about the Ariana Grande lyric, but it was mostly out of defense for Ariana rather than disapproval of his sexual expression in song. And people like Jason Derulo and Snoop Dogg have never, to my knowledge, been publicly criticized or used as shocking trends for people to “react” to.

Plus, the three musicians I just named are only a fraction of male musicians in the industry who write liberally about sex and walk away unscathed. I could name dozens — even hundreds — more.

But the minute that a woman does the same thing, she’s saying too much. She’s a slut. She’s weird. She’s gross. Not talented or catchy or simply “raunchy” (a mild adjective we use to excuse males from their objectifying tendencies) like the guys are.

They scare people like Ben Shapiro. They scare the parents in the Tiktok videos. They scare Gen Z-ers who don’t want to listen to WAP because it makes them uncomfy.

Let me be clear that I’m not urging people to overstep their boundaries. If a song like WAP makes you uncomfortable because you don’t like to listen to music about sex, or if you don’t enjoy listening to graphic lyrics, then that’s very valid. But I’m not directing this reflection to those people.

I’m directing this at the people who are so quick to open their mouths and condemn Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s new song, but turn their cheek — or even dance and sing along — when a man does the same thing. Ask yourself: are you being fair? What about WAP scares you more than a similar song by a guy? How many times can you think of that society came down on men in the same way and level that they do every single day to women? Are you uncomfortable with the music, or are you uncomfortable with sexually liberated women?

We need to stop thinking men’s sexual desires and descriptions are more fine but that women’s are a deviation from the norm. We need to stop demanding that women stay in their lane when men have been cruising this lane for decades, centuries.

It’s more than just music, too — it’s also language and slang. How many times have you unflinchingly heard the word “boner” be uttered in public? Do you gasp every time you hear it? Do you see heads turn? I can only speak for myself, but I hear the word “boner” almost every day and it’s as if people have become desensitized. There is hardly ever a negative response.

Yet I hardly ever hear people talking about wetness in public, or female arousal. If we did — if someone was overheard talking about getting wet in public or something — they’d probably get a lot of stares and weird looks. Someone might tell them to quiet down and talk about something more appropriate.

So why do we shrug off sexual discussion from a man’s perspective but never from a woman’s?

This is bigger than just WAP. It’s bigger than Tiktok. Of course, Tiktok is a good example because it’s one of the ways our social lifestyle is reflected online. But it’s a way bigger issue than anything tangible like an app or a song or a celebrity.

This is about the big, scary realization that yes, sexually liberated women still scare and offend people. And no, they are not accepted in society. No, they are not normalized.

And that needs to change.

Writer. Creator. Teacher. Feminist. Just trying to spread love, talk about equity, and be a good human. She/her. Follow me on Instagram @brooklynxreece!

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