Feminist media are praising singer Ariana Grande’s new single, God Is a Woman, for valuing women for their sexuality. Not for their brains, intrinsic worth, or even their capacity to love. No, this song was about sex making women like gods.
Earlier this month, Grande released the her music video for God Is a Woman, which placed religion and sex side by side. As Grande teased the contents, an Elle magazine editor confirmed beforehand that the song was “more about taking agency in the bedroom” than a “feel-good Women’s-March–y anthem.” She was right. And, in response, women’s outlets from Bustle to Glamour celebrated the “anthem worth worshipping.”
In the video, God isn’t portrayed as a woman: Grande is portrayed as God. The video, boasting more than 26 million views, opens with a galaxy revolving around Grande and, later, shows her sitting atop Earth while dipping her fingers suggestively into a hurricane. The scenes are rife with sexual imagery, especially when Grande dances beneath a giant pair of disembodied women’s legs spread open.
Even the Bible makes an appearance. In the middle, Grande reads Ezekiel 25:17 with Madonna’s voice, replacing “brothers” with “sisters”: “And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my sisters. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon you.”
More religious scenery come into play when women in robes dance like a gospel choir around Grande. And, for the final scene, Grande replaces herself with God in Michelangelo’s famed painting of the Creation of Adam. Where God should stretch out His arm towards Adam, there was an Eve.
This last scene was presumably one of Grande’s favorites. In May, she donned a gown displaying Michelangelo’s Last Judgement at the 2018 Met Gala on “Fashion and the Catholic Imagination.” Grande admitted the dress was “a hint” of the video in a recent interview.
But instead of the men, as on her dress, there were women in her video. And in place of religion, there was sex. When one fan asked Grande about her song’s messaging, she responded, “sex is empowering. it’s the source of all life. p***y is a privilege.”
Her song’s lyrics agree.
“You, you love it how I move you / You love it how I touch you / My one, when all is said and done / You’ll believe God is a woman,” she sings in the chorus. In her verses, she infuses other religious-themed lyrics like “Baby, lay me down and let’s pray.”
And Grande stood by every word, she stressed, even when she anticipated criticism on Twitter.
I “of course understand it … but it’s art,” she said in defense of the video. “[I]t’s okay if not everybody understands everything i do. i’m grateful for the opportunity to be myself and inspire others to do that as well. I would rather do that than play it safe.”
For her efforts, the feminist media applauded her.
“The newly-released clip is packed with symbolism, unusual imagery, and unapologetic sexuality,” gushed Bustle entertainment writer Alexis Rhiannon, “all of which combines into one unique package encouraging female empowerment.”
“[I]t suggests that feminine energy is at the center of everything,” she added, and it’s a process “fans should count themselves lucky” to witness.
Likewise, Glamour’s headline nodded to the “Incredible Manifesto for Empowering Female Sexuality.” Music journalist Bonnie Stiernberg praised the “anthem worth worshiping” for “female sexuality, for knowing what you want and not being afraid to ask for it, for knowing your own worth, for recognizing that women can be powerful and spiritual and horny and whatever the hell else they want to be.”
Cosmopolitan editorial fellow Jasmine Ting began her piece insisting that “‘God is a Woman,’ and her name is Ariana Grande!” “Ari has given us the greatest blessing of all: a glorious, super extra, out-of-this-world music video,” she wrote.
Not one suggested Grande had mocked a religion that hundreds of millions practice worldwide. Here’s the thing: religion agrees women are important and sexuality is powerful. The Church doesn’t fight this – the Church teaches this.
As Pope Francis wrote in his apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, “God himself created sexuality, which is a marvellous gift to his creatures.” But, he added, “Sexuality is not a means of gratification or entertainment” either. Instead it is something much greater: “an interpersonal language wherein the other is taken seriously, in his or her sacred and inviolable dignity.”
He didn’t mean entertainment, as in Hollywood entertainment. But still, the video’s messaging missed the mark. To suggest women’s value can be reduced to their parts (think disembodied legs), is to minimize their greatness. Instead, every woman – including Grande – is a human person with inherent dignity and worth.
God is not a woman. But every woman is made in the image and likeness of God.