God Is A Woman
By Lucy Bidie
When Ariana Grande released the song title ‘God Is A Woman’ in the publicity-fuelled Instagram build-up to her latest album, my first reaction was excitement.
Excitement, because what we potentially had on our hands was a tremendously influential, skilful songstress, commenting on the history of the patriarchy to her swarms of young female followers - as well as to the world. The product, however, appeared initially to be something quite different: Grande’s prowess in the sack. Now, I understand that there is only so much subject matter you can cover in a pop song, however, I couldn’t help but feel short-changed by it. It isn't the meaning of the song which raises questions, it is the failure of the content to execute what the title commands.
By positing a reversal of the system as we know it, Isn’t Grande instead placing herself securely inside it? If we were turning the tables the way in which the title suggests, shouldn’t we be trying to loosen the seemingly inextricable bonds between women and their sex appeal? The female body has been the object of a far too focused lens for an all too lengthy period of time, and to market this song towards women ‘who work their asses off everyday to “break the glass ceiling”’ sends a very confusing message. The same self-made women who worked to break the glass ceiling, did so accompanied by the inappropriate sexualisation that comes with being a woman. Furthermore, the revelation of Grande’s cousin, mother and grandmother on stage at the end of her VMA performance left me astonished - if I follow the easy steps to female empowerment in your song, Ariana, do I take from this that your granny too can dominate in the bedroom?
It must be said, a single titled ‘God is a woman’ probably wouldn’t be the anthem we now know if it rung ‘You, you love it how I work late, you love it how I touch-type, my one’. Sex sells, it always has - nota bene Kim Kardashian. A much-contested issue is whether Kim's scanty clad selfies are helpful for women or not- she claims feminism, others call bullsh*t.
The assertion of sexual authority is key here, however, and this cannot be skated over. The hypsersexualisation of women, but also the shaming of any expression of their libido, dominate discussions of the relationship between women and sex. There is a lot to be said for reclaiming tropes like this, so tired out by common discourse. This is one argument in favour of what we hear in Grande's 'God is a woman', as well as the Kardashians’ antics. One could also point out Beyoncé, whose self-titled album of 2013 sets out to prove that women can be 'the sexual beings that boys are'. It is certainly healthy for women to be able to take control of their own sexuality, and to express it to the world on their own terms. So with this in consideration, my ambivalence on the song is somewhat subsided.
When I actually listen to the song now my disappointment is distinct and yet short-lived. Just like it is hard to stay angry with someone who brings you flowers as an apology, my frustration is acquiesced into respectful resolve by the nimble rhymes, effortless superstar effusions culminating in the dramatic faux-choral outbursts. Ariana makes a mark with this song, not necessarily the mark I was hoping for, and not necessarily one which lives up to the title, but a beneficial mark nonetheless.