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After tweeting a video demeaning single women, American R&B and pop singer Ciara was put on blast across Twitter for encouraging young women to “#LevelUp” and change themselves for marriage.
The controversy all began on Saturday morning, after Ciara posted a sermon on Twitter and Instagram from Pastor John Gray. In the video, Gray makes fun of single women and stresses that many women can never be married because they’re “walking in the spirit of girlfriend” and don’t “carry yourself like a wife.”
Gray’s message plays into a lengthy Christian tradition where a woman’s worth stems from her ability to secure a husband. It’s a message that often treats women as men’s caretakers, too, rarely asking men for any sort of accountability for their actions.
Needless to say, after posting the message, Ciara was quickly met with the internet’s scorn.
“So many sermons are tailored to telling women what they’re doing wrong,” one user tweeted. “But why aren’t there more teachings about men being the husband any women would say ‘yes’ to?”
Just waiting on a sermon telling men how to walk in the spirit of being a husband since... ya know... they cheat and all pic.twitter.com/bP59HO9KGY— *~Bea (@BeaBad_) January 20, 2018
Or, we’re looking at married woman who many supported wondering why she feels womens’ accomplishments aren’t enough for us to ‘level up,’ and that we need a man to select us as a wife to be worthy? Marriage is challenging and not a contest of women’s worth.— Michele Canty (@DPMCanty) January 21, 2018
I think you & your family are wonderful, but this is a trash take. Marriage isn’t a reward for good behavior. Teaching women they’re “unworthy” is part of the reason so many end up settling for relationships where they’re disrespected and unappreciated.— K I A R A (@_DamnGina_) January 21, 2018
Others pointed out that Ciara is throwing single women under the bus, even after many supported her during her messy breakup with her then-fiancé Future, who cheated on her during the relationship. Now that Ciara is married, it seems like she’s criticizing other women for not achieving the same goals as she has.
Ciara, honey, no. We rooted for you when you were going through your mess. I’m so disappointed that you would share something so silly. What pastor John Gray is saying here is intellectually lazy and a twisting of scripture. That’s not what Prov. 18:22 meant at all. https://t.co/IePlLJrVOL— CiCi Adams (@CiCiAdams_) January 21, 2018
“level up”? these types of messages are so toxic to women. your value does not depend on a man wanting you and marriage is not the be all and end all. ciara is basic af for spreading this https://t.co/EQqTBDAIwa— sabrina (@sabrinaahmed) January 21, 2018
Again implying that single women are single because of their behavior. And why the hell would anyone “act” married if they aren’t. https://t.co/e6fpIh1bvc— “Win a ring this decade” (@Rodd18) January 21, 2018
OK. my Ciara tweet: people who share that sentiment in the video tend to treat a wedding like a finish line when it's really just the beginning of something. acting like marriage is a long victory lap will lead to nothing but misery in your prized matrimony.— David Dennis Jr. (@DavidDTSS) January 22, 2018
And some have more questions than answers about how the internet is responding.
And the way y’all keep centering Ciara’s tweet into a debate about acting like a wife versus acting like a hoe proves that women are forced into choosing between two identities— elexus jionde (@Lexual__) January 22, 2018
Ciara has since responded to the backlash, arguing that God helped her find her husband by teaching her self-love. But once again, Ciara seems to stress that getting married is the end goal that comes with self-improvement—not being happy for one’s own sake.
“I was a single mom sitting at home, and I then realized that the perfect love I was looking for was how God loves me, how He wants me to be loved, and who He was calling me to be as a mom and a woman,” Ciara wrote. “Thats when I realized married or not married… I needed to love myself.”
Ciara isn’t alone in her embrace of sexist messaging when it comes to marriage, however. According to a study last year, women who keep their maiden names are generally seen as less “committed” to a relationship. Then there are the ways in which gender roles force men and women to conform to marriage that are very preferential and harmful. As these online conversations are showing, perhaps it’s time to re-examine our cultural norms regarding why we get married in the first place.
Ana Valens is a reporter specializing in online queer communities, marginalized identities, and adult content creation. She is Daily Dot's Trans/Sex columnist. Her work has appeared at Vice, Vox, Truthout, Bitch Media, Kill Screen, Rolling Stone, and the Toast. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, and spends her free time developing queer adult games.