Madonna calls out 'ageism and misogyny' and we look at why that's vital

People in this article

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
Madonna takes a theme of our time and asks why it is allowed to be prevalent, as Grammy Awards appearance sparks comments on her appearance.

Women can barely take their bins out without a comment on their appearance. The obsessional focus on the look of women is the subject of many a book, film, song, TV series and talk show debate as feminists lament 'why oh why' are we all still valuing the female of the species based solely on her appearance.

Madonna, a person who has forged a huge cultural movement over several decades with her music and style, who will be remembered for her huge contribution to trailblazing and making life easier for more ground breaking artists nowadays, is of course not immune to the male gaze - or indeed the female gaze, which is in a way worse.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

You see, we're all guilty of having a pop at Madonna's looks. We're all conditioned to judge and pass comment. "She's clearly had work done", was my contribution to the morning meeting when we discussed Madonna's Grammy Awards appearance.

Did I mean work on a new album or work on her social media posts, which have ranged in levels of bizarre. No, I was surmising she has had Botox. Whether she has had Botox or surgery or any other cosmetic procedure is the shallow level of detail we get consumed by.

As Madonna pointed out in her Instagram post: "Instead of focusing on what I said in my speech which was about giving thanks for the fearlessness of artists like Sam and Kim - many people chose to only talk about close-up photos of me taken with a long lens camera by a press photographer that would distort anyone’s face!!"

I guess we get waylaid by whether Madonna has changed her looks for precisely the reason that we would expect her to be the last person to go off and have cosmetic surgery. We want to see a trailblazing Madonna with wrinkles. A person who doesn't feel the pressure to be line-free.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

If Madonna is annoyed that people focus on her looks then she is correct, it is frustrating and challenging when she has other things to say. However, we have always focused on her looks. She is iconic. Her imagery has been made into various artworks and she has inspired spawning styles and music ever since the 80s and 90s.

She continues in her post: "Once again I am caught in the glare of ageism and misogyny, that permeates the world we live in. A world that refuses to celebrate women past the age of 45 and feels the need to punish her if she continues to be strong willed, hard-working and adventurous." I mean, she's not wrong.

Despite a resurgence in the appreciation of older women, look at Jennifer Coolidge and Michelle Yeoh's Golden Globe awards in their 60s, we still see plenty of emphasis being placed on youth. The value of youth has, in modern times, been seen as the most coveted. Ask Leonardo DiCaprio on his views of women over 25. He is an extreme example and he plays out behaviour that some consider 'uncomfortable' but he does live a life and dating habit that a chunk of men would say is aspirational.

"I have never apologised for any of the creative choices I have made nor the way that I look or dress and I’m not going to start," continued Madonna's Instagram post, "I have been degraded by the media since the beginning of my career but I understand that this is all a test and I am happy to do the trailblazing so that all the women behind me can have an easier time in the years to come. In the words of Beyoncé 'You-won’t break my soul'."

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

I don't think anyone actually wants to break Madonna's soul, nor would it be achievable even if it were your life's mission. What is clear is that even for a ground-breaking artist like Madonna, the world is not on a level playing field.

The patriarchy that Madonna uses as fuel for her artistic rage is clearly everywhere. It's in every office, every business decision, every staffing crisis and sick leave, education, politics, music industry and film. It's in your home, whether consciously or not, and any moment in time when you wonder whether you should wear that dress that makes you feel good about yourself or whether it's too flirty, too revealing, too 'something'.

If you can undermine and try to reduce Madonna to a series of her looks, then what hope is there for other women.

'I look forward to many more years of subversive behaviour - pushing boundaries - standing up to the patriarchy -and most of all enjoying my life,' concluded Madonna. We look forward to it, as well.

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.