Ariana Grande recently dropped a new song called “God is a Woman”. For obvious reasons I was intrigued by this title.
It reminded me of a class in seminary where the professor asked us, “Is it bad to say that God is a rock?” We all said no. But then he asked, “Is it bad to say that God is a woman?” And we all went silent. Then he threw this zinger out there. “So essentially it’s more demeaning to call God a woman than to call Him a rock.”
And that’s what went through my head when I first saw the song title and found myself immediately wanting to defend the masculinity of God. Yes, theologically speaking, God has revealed Himself as the “Father” and the “Son” and not the “Mother” and the “Daughter”, so one can argue that God “is a man”. And yes, God has no genitals so one can also argue that He’s “not a man”.
But underneath all of the semantics is this question:
What do you feel when you hear the phrase “God is a woman”?
Whatever you feel is probably what you feel about women.
Because in reality, there are plenty of feminine images of God in Scripture: He compares Himself to a comforting mother(Is. 66:13), He gives birth(Deut. 32:18), He gets emotional and cries out in labor pains(Is. 42:14), and He even calls Himself a mama bear(Hosea 13:8). So clearly God has no problem being associated with femininity.
But Ariana isn’t interested in making a theological debate and the music video makes that clear. This is not about theology. This isn’t even about God. It’s about how the world views women.
The video’s chockfull of vivid imagery that’s pregnant(literally at one point) with double meanings and subliminal(and sometimes not) messages. Some of the most iconic include her letting physical insults from men bounce off her, replacing Adam in Michelangelo’s creation painting with a black woman, and throwing a gavel into a glass ceiling.
She’s taking the oppressive misogyny she’s been subjected to and attacking it, subverting it, and turning it on its head. All the ugly things people feel about and say about women, she literally puts on display in the video and uses to thrust the video forward.
Before moving on: I don’t condone the video. I do see a lot of things wrong with the approach and I wouldn’t recommend it as a model for young girls to follow. But I can see where Ariana’s coming from.
Because the other thing that struck me about the video was realizing that Ariana isn’t alone. A lot of women—not just in general, but in the church—have felt the same way for a long time. But they can’t get up and make a music video about it so they shut up or just leave the church.
The video hits a nerve because it’s trying to answer a question that has been asked for centuries: is femininity a good thing? The world and the church have given a resounding no. Nowadays even though the church isn’t as overtly anti-feminine as it used to be it’s still not as pro-woman as it could be. We haven’t really answered that question with an equally resounding yes.
And because the church hasn’t shown that “Yes. Femininity is very good.”, women are forced to provide that answer themselves. And this often comes in the form of taking everything that is villainized about femininity and extremifying it. A woman is seductive. So Ariana unabashedly displays her sexuality throughout the video and even fingers a hurricane while straddling the Earth. Women shouldn’t have power. So Ariana wears gloves with the word “power” written on them while she chucks the gavel through the glass ceiling.
Watching this video made me less offended that someone was “defaming” the image of God and did more to open my eyes to how women must feel living underneath this patriarchal image of God.
I’m not saying we should do away with the male image and replace it with a female one. But if our view of God as one gender results in the oppression of the opposite gender, maybe something needs to change.
So if you haven’t watched the video, check it out sometime. But be warned, it is pretty risqué. So if you struggle with lust you might want to stay away and stick to reading articles about it instead.
Whether you watch the video or not, I encourage you to chew on these:
1. What does the phrase “God is a woman” make you feel?
2. How can the church make it clear that femininity is good?
Comment below what you think…