My underpaid but highly appreciated research assistant has pointed me towards this video of Madonna’s acceptance speech at the 2016 Billboard Women in Music awards in which she won Woman of the Year, or something. It deserves a bit of a fisking, and thankfully somebody has produced a transcript here.
She starts like this:
It’s better this way. I always feel better with something hard between my legs.
What is it with modern-day feminists that they believe making crude, unfunny jokes of a sexual nature is somehow useful to the cause of women being afforded more respect? Let’s remember this opening as the speech goes on.
Thank you for acknowledging my ability to continue my career for 34 years in the face of blatant misogyny, sexism, constant bullying and relentless abuse.
Madonna is by far and away the most successful female pop star to date. Her career has been absolutely staggering: her latest tour alone saw her rake in $170m. Much of her success has come from the shock value of her challenging societal norms regarding women and sexuality, and hundreds of millions of people bought her music because they liked what she did. This tells us two things: she is far more popular than she is disliked, and her career has depended on the existence of misogyny and sexism to generate the controversy which fueled her fame.
When I first started writing songs I didn’t think in a gender-specific way.
Like a Virgin and Material Girl were not gender specific? Papa Don’t Preach? How dense do you think we are?
I just wanted to be an artist. I was of course inspired by Debbie Harry and Chrissie Hynde and Aretha Franklin
All of whom were miles better singers than you, but didn’t feel the need to court controversy at every step in their careers: they relied purely on musical ability.
There are no rules – if you’re a boy. If you’re a girl, you have to play the game. What is that game? You are allowed to be pretty and cute and sexy. But don’t act too smart. Don’t have an opinion. Don’t have an opinion that is 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.
And if you do break those rules? Why, you become the most successful female pop artist of all time and a multimillionaire! Don’t do it, girls!
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, you will be vilified, and you will definitely not be played on the radio.
Madonna isn’t played on the radio? Whut? And yes, you will be criticised, you will be vilified: every celebrity is. The important thing is whether the criticism and vilification prevent genuine talent from shining through, and in the case of Madonna that is clearly not the case. Cristiano Ronaldo is vilified and I remember David Beckham being subject to appalling abuse in his prime. It’s not nice, but unfortunately it comes with the territory, and it is not limited to women.
When I first became famous, there were nude photos of me in Playboy and Penthouse magazine. Photos that were taken from art schools that I posed for, back in the day to make money.
And there is nothing wrong with that: it’s a woman’s choice, after all. But let’s not forget all those women who choose not to take their clothes off when they need money, eh?
They weren’t very sexy. In fact, I looked quite bored. I was. But I was expected to feel ashamed when these photos came out, and I was not. And this puzzled people.
Which people? Not being ashamed of posing for nude photos is absolutely fine, but people can and will make judgements about your character depending on whether you do or not. Personally I have no problem with your decisions, nor of your lack of shame, but I’m not going to place you in the same category as a woman who either kept her clothes on or is capable of some self-reflection regarding daft things she did when young. My guess would be that those who were puzzled expected higher standards, or something.
Eventually I was left alone because I married Sean Penn, and not only would he would bust a cap in your ass,
Fine qualities in a husband that all feminists can aspire to, I’m sure.
Years later, divorced and single – sorry Sean – I made my Erotica album and my Sex book was released. I remember being the headline of every newspaper and magazine. And everything I read about myself was damning. I was called ‘a whore’ and ‘a witch.’ One headline compared me 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. This was the first time I truly understood that women really do not have the same freedom as men.
Except you were free to do so: you made an absolutely fortune in the process, and your career went from strength to strength. And for all your complaints about the headlines and the damnation, it was this very notoriety that you carefully nurtured because it translated directly into record sales. True, Prince might not have come in for the same criticism but I notice you didn’t use Michael Jackson as an example: had you done so, your argument that men don’t get vilified for controversial and weird behaviour while selling millions of records would have fallen a bit flat.
I remember feeling paralyzed. It took me a while to put myself together and get on with my creative life — to get on with my life.
You experienced unprecedented, staggering musical success but you needed to “get on with your creative life”? This is supposed to be a rallying speech for oppressed, downtrodden women everywhere?
I remember wishing that I had a female peer that I could look to for support.
That you didn’t have one speaks volumes, don’t you think?
Camille Paglia, the famous feminist writer, said that I set women back by objectifying myself sexually.
Oh, I thought, ‘so, if you’re a feminist, you don’t have sexuality, you deny it.’
If that’s what you thought then you’re an idiot. It is perfectly possible to be a feminist who is both sexy and comfortable with their sexuality without flaunting it everywhere in the crudest, most classless way possible. One of the biggest failures of modern feminism is believing that adopting the worst aspects of male behaviour will advance the cause of women. That “joke” she told at the start of her speech was unfunny and the sort of thing a twelve year old boy would say. If this is the behaviour modern women want to emulate, God help them.
So I said ‘ **** it. I’m a different kind of feminist. I’m a bad feminist.’
Yes, and your sort seem hell-bent on undoing the work of the good feminists. Here, have an award!
People say I’m so controversial. But I think the most controversial thing I have ever done is to stick around.
No, your ability to stick around is not controversial, it is remarkable. People say you are controversial for wholly unrelated reasons. But hey, don’t let me stop you from telling us what you think about yourself.
What I would like to say to all the women here today, is this: Women have been so oppressed for so long, they believe what men have to say about them.
Presumably men do nothing but lie to women.
And they believe they have to back a man to get the job done.
Which women believe this? The ones in the audience? Really?
And there are some very good men worth backing, but not because they’re men – because they’re worthy.
In other words exercise good judgement about men, says the twice-divorced single woman.
As women, we have to start appreciating our own worth and each other’s worth.
Right, but women have a nasty habit of looking beyond another woman’s net wealth and musical talent and forming an opinion about their character based on their behaviour and appearance. If women don’t appreciate you as much as you think they should, there are probably reasons why. What this has to do with men, misogyny, and sexism I don’t know.
Seek out strong women to befriend, to align yourself with, to learn from, to be inspired by, to collaborate with, to support, to be enlightened by.
Women need Madonna to tell them this? Only let’s hope that when choosing “strong women” they don’t entangle themselves with a bunch of demented, third-wave feminists sporting neck-tattoos and like Madonna believe sexual promiscuity is something to be celebrated.
Look, I think Madonna is an incredible entertainer and her ability to reinvent herself and sustain a career that long is astonishing, and I am happy that she receives so many awards and has made so much money for herself. Good on her. But in the face of such astounding success her complaints of sexism and misogyny ring somewhat hollow, particularly when one considers how she went about building her career by shocking people and continually courting controversy. The violence she experienced in New York notwithstanding, downtrodden and oppressed she is not: sure she’s faced obstacles and criticism, but haven’t we all? She’s good at what she does but the brand of feminism she is pushing is poisonous rot, and young women would do well to listen to her music rather than her speeches.