SZA and Feminine Insecurity

by Izzy Kings

In “Normal Girl”, SZA longs to be the girl of her dreams. A normal girl. The type of girl men want to “take home to their mama” and that makes her “daddy proud”. She laments over not prescribing to the traditional roles of femininity and over not being “good enough”. She sings, “I wish I was a normal girl, oh my/How do I be? How do I be a lady?”

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In June 2017, SZA released her second album Ctrl. Its success launched her career, earning her a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist. Her album is confessional, as if songwriting is her therapy, into which we’re given a window. Her songs are about control (or lack thereof) and tackle issues like unrequited love, adultery, self acceptance, and insecurity.

With Ctrl, SZA asks questions like:  ‘Am I good enough?’ ‘Do you think I’m good enough?’ While femininity often brings power, passion, and control, it also brings with it the societal pressures of not feeling good enough or being told we aren’t good enough.

In Supermodel, SZA sings to her lover, “I could be your supermodel/If you believe/If you see it in me,” and goes on to say, “I don't see myself/Why I can't stay alone just by myself?/Wish I was comfortable just with myself/But I need you.”

SZA is giving her lover the power to decide her worth. SZA’s honesty is beautiful and true, shining a light on a perverse insecurity. How many times have I let my worth be dictated by someone else? How many times have my friends? My family members? The girl who I know is back with her partner yet again even after they’ve cheated on her for the third time?

In Drew Barrymore, SZA is comparing herself to her lover’s new beau while shining light on the dysfunction of an unhealthy relationship. She sings,  “I get so lonely, I forget what I'm worth/ We get so lonely, we pretend that this works/ I'm so ashamed of myself think I need therapy-y-y-y.” She goes on to say, “I'm sorry I'm not more attractive/ I'm sorry I'm not more ladylike/I'm sorry I don't shave my legs at night.”

Lauryn Hill warns us about losing ourselves to our partners in Doo Wop, (That Thing). Beyonce claps back with Best Thing I Never Had. There’s the Miss Independent’s and Take a Bow’s of the world that put men in their place and reminds women of their power. While these songs are necessary and important for feminine growth, there is another side of the coin that needs to be addressed as well.

In her song Doves in the Wind, SZA asserts the power of pussy and puts men on blast that don’t revere it accordingly. In The Weekend, SZA confidently puts slut shamers to bed by owning her role as the “side chick”. In Lover’s Galore, SZA reminds us not to “cry over spilled milk.” Like all women, her insecurities don’t own her and doesn’t necessarily prevent her from living a life of confidence. Insecurity is nuanced, just like Ctrl.

  art by Chloe Krammel

art by Chloe Krammel