Joe Biden & Cardi B: How Can He Justify Embracing Her?

Cardi B in WAP (via YouTube)

Whether or not Biden should condemn Cardi B, how can he justify embracing her?


ne week after the release of her mega-hit rap song with Megan Thee Stallion, “WAP,” Joe Biden had an interview with Cardi B in which he referred to her in glowing terms. I wonder if Biden would have done so had he actually listened to the words in the song or seen the video. The song is the story of a woman who whores herself to make money; the video is a hypersexualized objectification of the female body.

The video begins with a voiceover chanting, “There’s some whores in the house.” We are told: “I don’t cook, I don’t clean, but here is how I got my ring.” To make the sex-for-money narrative clearer, Cardi B shouts, “Pay my tuition just to kiss me,” and later, “He got some money, then that’s where I am headed.”

It also presents female sexual liberation in the worst way for women, encouraging them to embrace painful, rough sex: “Never lost a fight, but I’m looking for a beating,” and, “You can’t hurt my feelings, but I like pain.”

In a video titled “WAP: Feminist Masterpiece or Porn?” the actor Russell Brand pointed to its similarities with gangsta rap and concluded, “It’s . . . ultimately a sort of capitalist objectification and commodification of, in this case, the female.” Indeed, not only does it demean women as whores, embracing rough sex, and presenting them in semi-nude seductive poses, it several times uses the N-word to give the video the same presentation found in those gangsta rap songs of a decade ago.

Is this the message that we want to send young men and women? That all women should willingly trade sex for gifts? That they should like rough sex? That they should wear provocative, revealing clothing? What does it teach young men about women? Is this a video that you would want your 15-year-old sons and daughters to watch? Is Cardi B a role model? The meager reply to all of these questions comes in a Huffington Post article that approvingly quotes Brianna Holt: “Critiquing ‘WAP’ as degrading, dehumanizing art is a camouflage for critiquing Black womanhood as a problematic expression.”

For the Huffington Post, “WAP is making people uncomfortable because it’s about female pleasure.” For Vox, WAP is solely about showing how liberated women can unabashedly enjoy sex; “looking for a beating” is just “a guarantee of endurance from her vagina.” This is an interesting explanation. But what about “I like pain”? Indeed, both responses ignored the reference to whores, the use of the N-word, and the sex-for-money narrative that runs throughout the song.

The notion that the song is powerful because it shows that women can be sexually liberated might have made sense 30 years ago with Madonna or when Sex in the City aired, but not today, when Teen Vogue can run a long article on the potential pleasures from anal sex. Nor does it serve black women who are not interested in embracing this “liberating” fantasy but are looking for men to provide more stable environments for their children, who are looking to gain dignity in the workplace, and who are interested in finding role models for their children.

The use of the whore motif and promoting sex-for-money resurrects the damaging environment that too many black women experienced in the 1990s. Only after welfare reform spurred employment and educational advances were more black women able to gain financial independence. But before then, many poor black girls who lacked employment unfortunately sought money by hooking up with problematic men. As Patricia Collins documented, “Young women engage in casual sex with men” with the “unstated assumptions that they will be rewarded with a little financial help.” Some scholars, including Frank Furstenberg, suggested that unwanted black pregnancies were strongly associated with younger teens entering coercive sexual relationships with older men. In 1993, 21.3 percent of black teen girls from 15 to 19 years old became pregnant; 7.7 percent had abortions, and 10.7 percent gave birth.

For many teens, having a child only intensified the pressure to trade sex for money. Indeed, this was the theme of City High’s 2001 hit single, “What Would You Do?” As the singer speaks to a former junior-high-school classmate who asked her why she was working as a stripper, the ex-classmate explains:

What would you do if your son was at home
Crying all alone on the bedroom floor, ’cause he’s hungry
And the only way to feed him is to sleep with a man
For a little bit of money, and his daddy’s gone
Somewhere smokin’ rock now, in and out of lock down
I ain’t gotta job now, so for you this is just a good time
But for me this is what I call life

Whether or not Biden should condemn Cardi B, how can he justify embracing her? Unfortunately, it is a choice many liberals have made. They have chosen not to embrace the hundreds of thousands of black parents who desire charter-school expansions; they have chosen not to embrace the more than 80 percent of black Americans who want the same number of (if not more) police in their neighborhood. They have chosen not to embrace the struggling black mothers who are trying to succeed. Instead, they have chosen to embrace problematic segments of the black community that loudly espouse the desired progressive slogans. Biden should do better.

Robert Cherry — Mr. Cherry is a professor emeritus at Brooklyn College and a member of 1776 Unites.

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