Arwa Mahdawi writes the singer’s new music video is far from the first example of the maker being imagined in non-masculine terms.
While some may consider Grande referring to God in female terms to be a heresy, it’s one with a very long history, and one that hasn’t always been controversial.
In 2015, for example, a group of female bishops within the Church of England campaigned for more “expansive language and imagery about God” that would encompass feminine pronouns. The Rev Emma Percy, the chaplain of Trinity College Oxford and a member of Women and the Church (Watch), a group that successfully campaigned for the ordination of female bishops, said that using more inclusive language to describe God would help dispel “the notion that God is some kind of old man in the sky”.
[D]espite the predictable criticism, plenty of people are persisting in trying to overturn the idea that God is an old, white man. Last year, for example, Harmonia Rosales, an artist from Chicago, painted a version of Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam, reimagining both God and the first man as black women – and it went viral.
Rosales explained to the Guardian that she made God a woman in the painting because, first of all, it just makes sense: “We all come from the womb.” Also, she says, “I made it a black woman because there are so many images as white male figures in power”. Rosales wanted to both illuminate and challenge the way we’re conditioned to think about who gets elevated in culture and show black women, “who are least represented as powerful and godly in any kind of way”, in an empowering light.