Madonna has been a pop idol since 1982. This year, Madonna Louise Ciccone bridged idol with icon and emotionally accepted Billboard’s woman of the year award. According to her, ageism, and sexism doesn’t get easier as you mature, and misogyny in the entertainment industry and beyond is surely still going strong. The fight for equality for women is nowhere near over.
Madonna is known for reinventing both her music and image, and for maintaining her autonomy within the recording industry. Music critics have acclaimed her musical productions, which have generated some controversy- her Billboard speech is no different.
“I stand before you as a doormat. Oh, I mean, as a female entertainer,” Madonna said, via Billboard. “Thank you for acknowledging my ability to continue my career for 34 years in the face of blatant sexism and misogyny and constant bullying and relentless abuse.”
“If you’re a girl, you have to play the game.”
“You’re allowed to be pretty and cute and sexy. But don’t act too smart. Don’t have an opinion that’s out of line with the status quo. You are allowed to be objectified by men and dress like a slut, but don’t own your sluttiness. And do not, I repeat do not, share your own sexual fantasies with the world,” she said. “Be what men want you to be, but more importantly, be what women feel comfortable with you being around other men. And finally, do not age. Because to age is a sin. You will be criticized and vilified and you will definitely not be played on the radio.”
A teary-eyed, 58-year-old Madonna went on to discuss the release of her album “Erotica”. She recalled being called “a whore and a witch” in the press, and being compared to Satan.
“I said, ‘Wait a minute, isn’t Prince running around with fishnets and high heels and lipstick with his butt hanging out?’ Yes, he was. But he was a man,” she said. “This was the first time I truly understood women do not have the same freedom as men.”
“People say that I’m so controversial,” she added. “I think the most controversial thing I have ever done is to stick around.”
Madonna has dusted her self off many times in the 30+ years she’s been in the public eye, and she had a message for her haters- “To the doubters and naysayers and everyone who gave me hell and said I could not, that I would not or I must not ― your resistance made me stronger, made me push harder, made me the fighter that I am today,” she said. “It made me the woman that I am today. So thank you.”
As baby boomer women, the fight for equal pay, equal opportunity and the notion that a woman can feel and be sexy, and own it- is still as necessary as ever. What’s your message to younger women who think the battle has been won?