Has Social Conservative Outrage Against Profanity Lost its Purpose?
Updated: Nov 7, 2020
Music is powerful. It has the power to make people feel happy, sexy, romantic, and for some, music has the power to make them feel mad and outraged.
Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion premiered the "Wap" music video on August 7, 2020. The video is a fun, colorful, sexually charged anthem of two women owning their sexuality, power, creativity, and humor.
Unfortunately, women owning their sexuality has always rattled certain social conservatives. Like Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion, Madonna in practically the entire scope of her career, has also embraced her sexuality through video and song and has been met with outrage by the self-appointed gatekeepers against the moral decay of society!!! (how I envision they see themselves.) Beyond sexuality, musicians such as the rap group NWA, have used their music to bring attention and discuss issues like police brutality.
After the music video for "Wap" premiered it received a lot of attention, and deservedly so. During the current Covid-19 pandemic, days have turned to weeks, that have then turned into months of boredom. "Wap" was desperately needed to bring us out of the never ending funk known as the summer of 2020, if only four minutes and twelve seconds of escapist bliss.
When the social conservatives started attacking the "Wap" song and video for its themes and use of sexuality and nudity it came as no surprise. The endpoint of social conservative outrage is to harm the success and influence of the offending song and artist. In the past, these outrages have lead to certain videos and songs being shown only in late hours, diminished sales numbers, public album burnings, YouTube age restriction, and social shaming.
In undoubtedly, the most public conservative critique against "Wap," conservative pundit Ben Shapiro read the "WAP" lyrics in an ill-fated attempt to highlight the nature of the words and meaning. Instead, what viewers saw was a man well out of his element discussing uncomfortably female sexuality and anatomy. Shapiro's cringeworthy segment has been seen by millions, and enjoyed as humorous but failed to be the galvanizing lesson on morality it was probably intended to be.
The outrage movement against "WAP" was a bust...but, why?
Exploring trends on TikTok, a top 5 social media platform, might help to shed some light.
On TikTok, since "WAP" debuted, members have reenacted the video's choreography. The choreography like the lyrics is explicit and sexual. People reenacting risqué choreography is nothing new, but what is interesting is that young people are purposely doing the choreography in front of parents and even grandparents. They want to shock them, sure, but they also want to entertain them and let them experience a piece of their generation.
Traditionally, parents were the "conservative pundits" we all had at home, that demanded we act right, and part of that was steering clear of certain things such as sexuality. Recalling, those moments of intense awkwardness when you watch a movie with a parent and a sex scene comes on, and we are screaming inside "can this scene finish already!." But, in 2020, parents and their expectations are not what they used to be, because society has changed. If there was any doubt society as a whole has become more comfortable with the ideas of sex, female self-empowerment, and tolerant of others you need only look at parents and grandmothers singing and dancing to "WAP," because what you are seeing is not just a 70 year-old woman singing that she will make "his pull-out game weak," but a woman not letting antiquated values prevent her from enjoying music and owning her right to be a sexual being, just like men of every age seem to be able to do.
With over 100 million YouTube views and two weeks and going strong as the number 1 song on Billboard's Hot 100, "WAP" is a success for Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion. Remarkably, not too long ago "WAP" would have been a song that could not have been played on the radio, or it's video easily seen. That is not to say that everyone is more liberal. There will always be those that want YOU to have conservative values and live as if it's still the 1950's. But, the international success of "WAP" underscores that people are changing. So as our societal norms continue to progress and lean towards a liberal path that does not shy away from the realities of natural human desire and needs, the power once held by conservatives to punish and sideline artists whose work outraged them on the basis of moral indecency seem to be becoming a thing of the past.