She tackles sexism, misogyny AND ageism
‘I stand before you as a doormat. Oh, I mean as a female entertainer,’ Madonna said as she accepted Billboard’s Woman of the Year award. These words were the first to begin a speech that ended up being so politically powerful, it’s rightfully gone viral. The singer, who released her first single in 1982, was pretty hard to ignore then, and thankfully is even harder to ignore now.
‘Thank you for acknowledging my ability to continue my career for 34 years in the face of blatant sexism and misogny and constant bullying and relentless abuse.’
Recalling her harrowing sexual assault when she first moved to New York City, where she was raped at knifepoint in 1978, she told the audience, ‘I remember feeling paralyzed. It took me a while to pull myself together and get on with my creative life — to get on with my life. I took comfort in the poetry of Maya Angelou, and the writings of James Baldwin, and in the music of Nina Simone. I remember wishing that I had a female peer that I could look to for support.’
Luckily, now, Madonna has a whole host of female peers ready to cheer her on, including Lady Gaga, who tweeted the below:
Tackling sexism, Madonna went on to talk about double standards: ‘[David Bowie] embodied male and female spirit and that suited me just fine. He made me think there were no rules. But I was wrong. There are no rules – if you’re a boy. There are rules if you’re a girl. Prince was running around with fishnets and high heels and lipstick with his butt hanging out… yes he was. But he was a man. This was the first time I truly understood women do not have the same freedom as men.’
‘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, at least. 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.’
‘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 criticised and vilified, and you will definitely not be played on the radio.’
‘People say that I’m so controversial. But I think the most controversial thing I have ever done. is to stick around. In the world of music to age is a sin. You will be criticized, you will be vilified, and you will definitely not be played on the radio.’
‘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. It made me the woman that I am today. So thank you.’
Watch Madonna’s speech below:
Queen Madge, we salute you.