by Michelle Cove, Executive Director MEDIAGIRLS
“I want it, I got it, I want it, I got it (Yeah)
I want it, I got it, I want it, I got it (Oh yeah, yeah).
You like my hair? Gee thanks, just bought it
I see it, I like it, I want it, I got it (I see, Yep).”
These are the lyrics of pop icon Ariana Grande’s new song “7 Rings,” whose music video was released on Jan. 17th. It is hard to know what is more disappointing: the fact that the lyrics are about the power of “retail therapy” and buying things like diamonds to make yourself feel good, or the fact that the visuals are downright pornographic. Or maybe the most disappointing part of it is that the video has been called a “female empowerment anthem” by mainstream media outlets including CNN and People. Seriously?
We do appreciate that there is some positive messaging in here, with Ariana singing about the fact that she doesn’t need a guy to be happy (she recently broke up with “Saturday Night Live” star Pete Davidson). But the focus in this song is on the fact that Ariana can buy her own stuff (of course she can, mind you, she’s a huge celebrity): “Wearing a ring, but ain’t gon’ be no Mrs./Bought matching diamonds for six of my b****es/ I’d rather spoil all my friends with my riches.”
I’m all for celebrating women being financially independent. We’d just rather it not be because “retail therapy my new addiction; whoever said money can’t solve your problems must not have had enough money to solve them.” (Exasperated sigh here.)
Is that what we want the millions of girls watching this video—which currently has over 40 million views—to take away? That female empowerment is about dressing like a stripper while crawling on a counter, and buying yourself new hair because you can? Is this the feminist anthem we want for girls and young women?
Rather than hoping our girls don’t see the video—they will—let’s watch it with them and make sure we’re helping them to think critically about the complicated media they’re consuming. To get you started, below are a few important questions you can ask your girl. I recommend starting the conversation when she has free time, saying, “I’m wondering if you saw the ‘7 Rings’ video yet and whether you have a few minutes to talk about it? I’d love to hear your thoughts.” She may want to know how YOU ended up seeing it, and you can let her know you saw it here or on your newsfeed.
During your discussion, let her answer without inserting yourself too early, or attacking the artist or the song; try to be open-minded and calm. Listen to her responses, even if you don’t love them, and ask more follow-up questions. The point here, which can be so hard to remember, is to get her to think more critically and not force upon her your viewpoints. (In fact, I should not assume here that you agree with my assessment of the video, and I’d love to hear on Facebook if you feel differently.)
Once your girl(s) is done responding, ask her whether you can share a few of your own viewpoints. Perhaps, start by letting her know one aspect that you like about the video, and then explain what troubles you about it. One last note: It’s important that neither of you judges Ariana Grande as a person (we just don’t need more women attacking women) but rather the choices she is making and/or messages she’s sending.
5 Questions You Can Ask Your Girl:
- When you watch this video, how do you feel about it?
- Do you think Ariana Grande wrote the lyrics and came up with the video concept, or do you think it was a team of producers; why or why not?
- I heard that the song is being called a “female empowerment” anthem. Do you think this is true, and why or why not?
- What parts of the song are empowering, and which aren’t? What messages do you think are being sent to her millions of girl fans?
- Do you think Ariana Grande and other female celebrities have any responsibility because of their fame to put out healthy messages to girls? Why or why not?
If you like this post, we recommend reading the following essay for more context “Why today’s music videos may be even more hazardous than ever for girls…and what we can do!”