Every time you think Madonna doesn’t have any more “Wow” moments up her sleeve, she surprises. However, this time, it wasn’t with a performance or even a new song. It was a brutally honest and tear-jerking speech on misogyny, feminism, etc. Billboard posted a video of the Queen of Pop’s full speech, and it really needs to be seen by everybody — men, women, Republicans, Democrats, Madonna lovers, and Madonna haters.
“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,” Madonna began telling the audience in the video.
The speech was about survival as much as it was about misogyny. Madonna recalled being raped at knifepoint when she first moved to New York City. This is something Madonna first discussed in an improvised scene in her 1993 movie Dangerous Game, but didn’t come forward about it being truthful until 1995.
“But my real muse was David Bowie…He made me think that there were no rules. But I was wrong. There are no rules,” Madonna sadly said, following up that this is only the case with males, not females.
“You are allowed to be objectified by men and dress like a slut. But don’t own your sluttiness…Be what men want you to be. But more importantly, be what women feel comfortable with you being around other men,” she passionately said.
Madonna shed tears when she talked about how marginalized she felt when she put out her book Sex and her album Erotica in 1992. She said she was called a slut, a wh**e, and even compared to Satan. She didn’t understand how Prince could walk around with his butt cheeks hanging out and receive no criticism whatsoever.
“Do not age. Because to age is a sin. You will be criticized. You will be vilified. And you will definitely not be played on the radio,” the singer said before talking about how she was supposed to feel ashamed when Playboy and Penthouse published nude photos she took six years earlier in an art school, but she wasn’t.
Madonna talked about how she was unable to find other women to look to for support, and even Camille Paglia, who was a relevant feminist at the time, wrote bad things about her. That’s when Madonna decided she was a “bad feminist” and proud of it.
Madonna ended her speech by encouraging other women to not believe what men have to say about them, and that they shouldn’t believe they have to back men by getting the job done. She encouraged women to stick together and seek out those who can encourage and inspire them.
Madonna’s speech has been widely praised by the media, especially female writers and commentators. As the Huffington Post notes, even Lady Gaga, who has tried to distance herself from Madonna over the years, has tweeted praise to the speech.
@Madonna your speech at the Billboard Music Awards was inspiring. You're so brave & strong. Thanks for being that for us girls we need that.
— xoxo, Joanne (@ladygaga) December 12, 2016
It’s hard to take Madonna seriously sometimes because of the delivery of her message. In the early 1990s, she promoted gay rights by showing a “shock kiss” between two men in Truth or Dare, but that helped diminish the taboo of homosexuality in pop culture. She gratuitously grabbed her crotch and posed nude in a book of sexual fantasies, but that led to other women owning their sexuality.
Madonna’s battle against ageism has been a tough one. After all, it’s hard to take her message seriously when she dresses with her butt and breasts hanging out. It’s hard to take Madonna seriously when she wears grilles and talks about oral sex. However, Madonna has a sense of humor about herself and obviously doesn’t take herself as literally as her critics do. If history is any indication, Madonna’s uncomfortable provocations will soon lead to women sticking their middle fingers up at the puritanical notion of “aging gracefully.”
[Featured Image by Evan Agostini/AP Images]