Madonna - an international icon who extended her record as the highest-grossing female touring artist of all time in 2016, was honoured as Woman of the Year at Billboard's Women In Music 2016 event last Friday (December 9th). During her acceptance speech, she was...well...she was Madonna.
The icon started her speech with a joke: "I always feel better with something hard between my legs," Madonna said, straddling the microphone stand.
"I stand before you as a doormat. Oh, I mean, as a female entertainer," she continued. "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."
She then went on to detail some of the more shocking life experiences that shaped who she is today. "People were dying of AIDS everywhere. It wasn’t safe to be gay, it wasn’t cool to be associated with the gay community. It was 1979 and New York was a very scary place. In the first year I was held at gunpoint, raped on a rooftop with a knife digging into my throat and I had my apartment broken into and robbed so many times I stopped locking the door. In the years that followed, I lost almost every friend I had to AIDS or drugs or gunshots."
After that she praised one of her biggest inspirations who happened to be David Bowie: "I was of course inspired by Debbie Harry and Chrissie Hynde and Aretha Franklin, but my real muse was David Bowie. He 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," Madonna said.
She went on to spill more brewing tea: "If you're a girl, you have to play the game. 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. 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 definitely not played on the radio."
Madonna, teary-eyed, also opened up about the time when she felt "like the most hated person on the planet."
"Eventually I was left alone because I married Sean Penn, and not only would he would bust a cap in your ass, but I was off the market. For a while I was not considered a threat. 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. 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."
Then she stated that that was the first time she had realised how unequal women are to men.
Madonna also recalled that at one point in her life, during all the public vitriol, "I remember wishing I had a female peer I could look to for support. Camille Paglia, the famous feminist writer, said I set women back by objectifying myself sexually. So I thought, 'Oh, if you're a feminist, you don't have sexuality, you deny it.' So I said 'fuck it. I'm a different kind of feminist. I'm a bad feminist.'"
Madonna also recalled all the legends which were gone too soon: "I think the most controversial thing I have ever done is to stick around. Michael is gone. Tupac is gone. Prince is gone. Whitney is gone. Amy Winehouse is gone. David Bowie is gone. But I'm still standing. I'm one of the lucky ones and every day I count my blessings."
Closing out her speech, Madonna offered thanks to her haters and advice to other women in music: "What I would like to say to all women here today is this: Women have been so oppressed for so long they believe what men have to say about them. They believe they have to back a man to get the job done. And there are some very good men worth backing, but not because they're men -- because they're worthy. As women, we have to start appreciating our own worth and each other's worth. Seek out strong women to befriend, to align yourself with, to learn from, to collaborate with, to be inspired by, to support, and enlightened by. It's not so much about receiving this award as it is having this opportunity to stand before you and say thank you," Madonna said, closing out her speech. "Not only to the people who have loved and supported me along the way, you have no idea... you have no idea how much your support means," she said, tearing up for the second time. "But 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."
Now we only wait for the queen to deliver more bops!