Last week, Madonna accepted the Billboard award for ‘Woman of the Year’. Upon acceptance, Madonna gave a speech addressing issues such as ageism, sexism and misogyny and how she has been subject to such issues throughout her career. As someone who proudly supports Madonna and has done so for more than a decade, it comes as a surprise to see a strong figure in the music industry subject to this degree of oppression. Why do we find ourselves hating towards a someone like Madonna, an artist who still breaks records over three decades into her career? Is it easy to hate on an ageing woman in a male dominated industry?
1993 saw the release of Madonna’s album Erotica. If you aren’t familiar with her work beyond ‘Like a Prayer’ or ‘Hung Up’, then you’ll probably assume that the album was just an excuse for her to gyrate everywhere and make everyone feel uncomfortable. Wrong. To this day, the record is one of Madonna’s strongest and most powerful albums. Using an alter ego named Dita, Madonna sang about her relationships of the past; about how she lost so many of her friends to the Aids epidemic and through her guise of expressing her sexual fantasies.
This era helped her to become the most talked about woman in the media (as she refers to in her speech). The album was accompanied by a coffee table book called Sex, helping her battle sexist stereotypes regarding female sexuality. Prior to that moment of the speech, she frankly spoke of her encounter with rape with a knife ‘held to her throat’. This powerful moment of the speech evoked sympathy from Lady Gaga who tweeted to 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’.
@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.
— Lady Gaga (@ladygaga) December 12, 2016
For too long I have experienced comments from my peers about how Madonna is ‘so old’ and needs to ‘put it away’. How would you feel if you were an artist for over 30 years having paved and contributed to the ways of forward thinking to then be told to be oppressed from what you do? Some of you may not like what Madonna does, but we must all acknowledge that her contribution to music and beyond is very prominent at the very least.
This week saw Mick Jagger – aged 73 – reveal pictures of himself and his new born child. The Rolling Stone’s latest album, Blue and Lonesome, also made it to the top of the UK album chart this week. For Mick Jagger and The Rolling Stones, ages has been no barrier. Jagger has not been criticised for being ‘too old’ for expressing his sexuality, and the Stones haven’t been told to ‘put it away’ just because of their age. There is a clear discrepancy in the treatment of ageing female and male artists, and one that needs to change.
Madonna is at an interesting point in her career. After spending decades being a feminist figure and inspiring women to stand up to oppression or – in my case – giving people the confidence in being able to express their true identity, the point of her controversy is now more about her age than her controversial portrayals of sexuality and religion. Even when the world saw her fall at the Brit Awards back in 2015, she still managed to get back up to sing the words “I’m gonna carry on”. The fall might have been funny for some, but it marked an almost symbolic point in her career. You don’t see Madonna getting overly emotional in public, but her speech last week showed that she is as much human as anyone else is.
Indeed, 2016 saw us say goodbye to the likes of Prince and Bowie but, as Madonna said in her own words, “I’m still standing”. I say we give Madonna a chance to continue her work and to help celebrate the creativity of an individual regardless of their age or gender. While Radio One will continue to ignore her and not put her on the playlists, except for Annie Mac who once opened her show with ‘Living for Love’ back when it was reported that the radio wouldn’t play her latest single due to being too old, we should push for more variety.
I find myself each day delving into music of the past and thinking how ahead of its time it must have been, and this goes for albums such as Erotica. That being said, the love for Madonna seems to be more visible now, with many celebrating her work on social media during her birthday back in August.
Let’s be grateful for the power which music has and will continue to have in the future, whether its with someone who’s 23 or 73, male or female.
(Image: Popology Now)
Check out Mark’s radio podcast for LSR about Madonna for a greater celebration of the legend herself, here: https://www.mixcloud.com/thisislsr/mark-mcdiva-episode-1-madonnarama/