“To my fellow goddesses who work their asses off every day to ‘break the glass ceiling,’ this is for you. I respect you and am endlessly inspired by you. Please continue to fuck it up, to be yourself unapologetically and always know how celebrated you are.”
— Ariana Grande on Twitter, releasing the video for “God is a Woman”
Ariana Grande’s song, “God Is a Woman,” is, at its core, a song about sex—but in the music video released Friday, the pop star subverts cultural norms around sexuality and gender in a stunning display of woman-power. In a matter of only a few minutes, Grande celebrates sisterhood and declares women to be all-powerful forces of nature—all while rejecting slut-shaming in an unabashed celebration of female pleasure.
The music video opens with Grande dancing in the middle of a rotating galaxy, implying that she is the center of the universe and the ultimate giver of pleasure. In the next scene, Grande sits atop a large book as tiny men on the ground throw words like “fake,” “slut” and “stupid,” at her, but the insults merely bounce off of the musician’s body as she sensually stares into the camera and declares: “I’m tellin’ you the way I like it, how I want it.” Grande is later shown dressed in a jewel-encrusted blue robe, standing among a crowd of women dressed in identical white uniforms. “When you try to come for me,” she remarks, “I keep on flourishing.”
The music video also features a multitude of images alluding to the concept of a female “Mother Earth”—Grande is seen mounted on top of the planet Earth as her fingers dance inside a swirling hurricane, surrounded by natural elements that blossom as she touches them and even taking on the form of a maternal she-wolf as men suckle on her “teats.” These images reference, and even pay reverence to, the idea of women as the ultimate providers and creators.
The end scene, a re-creation of Michelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam” featuring Grande, as God, surrounded by a diverse troupe of women and reaching out to Adam, depicted in the scene as a black woman, is the climax of such a narrative—and a delightful subversion of the centuries-old biblical subjugation of women that has laid the foundation for centuries of political and legal discrimination against them.
But the ultimate feminist flourish in the “God is a Woman” video comes towards the end—when Madonna recites a biblical passage from “Like a Prayer” while Grande, donning a cat-ear helmet and long gloves that say “POWER” on them, mouths along. “I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my sisters,” Madonna declares. “And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon you.”
Grande then engages in her most heavy-handed feminist reference: she launches an oversized gavel upwards, shattering a glass ceiling.
Grande, an outspoken feminist, is not the first person to reference God as a woman—but her own take on the phenomena has resulted in a catchy anthem for modern feminism that denounces patriarchy, celebrates female solidarity and revels in female sexuality.